Former Alberta Liberal leader Dr. David Swann was met with hugs, cheers and well wishes from supporters on Saturday to celebrate his coming retirement after 15 years in provincial politics.
Swann, the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View — a riding he’s lived in for the last 35 years — announced last spring that he won’t be running in the next provincial election.
“Tremendous appreciation for this whole process, for the people and for the importance of politics in our lives,” he said, reflecting on his time in office.
“When I said, as I have in the past, that politics is medicine on a large scale, that if we don’t put in place public policies that protect people, protect the environment, enhance life, then we’re not doing our job.”
Swann became an MLA in the 2004 provincial election, entering politics after he was fired in 2002 from his role as medical officer of health with the then-Palliser Health Authority in southeastern Alberta.
He was terminated after speaking publicly in favour of the Kyoto Protocol, a position that was at odds with the government of the day.
He was offered his job back days later, but declined.
He first became Alberta Liberal party leader in 2008 until 2011. He stepped back into the role of interim leader in 2015, until current leader David Khan was elected by party members in 2017.
Alberta Liberal party president Graeme Maitland called Swann a “fantastic” MLA and a “Liberal lion.”
“He has been a cornerstone in this party,” he said. “His loss is going to be something we’re going to have to deal with, but he’s not dying and has made it very clear that when [new leader] Dave Khan is MLA he can pick up the phone and he’ll help in any way he can.”
Maitland said Swann’s personable style is what endeared him to supporters.
“Out of all the elected politicians I’ve worked with and gone door knocking with, and there’s been a lot of them, he is one of the most down to earth, one of the most honest,” he said.
“He speaks honestly and it’s very clearly not fake. It’s something he’s instilled in the party as a whole.”
Swann said it’s important Liberal party members are elected in the next election.
“We’ve got two polar parties, one tied to the unions, the other tied to the corporations and we like to say that we are tied to the people of Alberta,” he said.
“We want to see policies and progress on the economy, the environment, the social programs that balance the private and the public interests.”
Khan said Swann has left him with valuable lessons.
“How passionate he is about helping others, how concerned he is with other people’s wellbeing,” he said.
“He’ll meet with anyone, anywhere, and go to bat for you if you’ve got an issue he can help with.”
And Swann said he isn’t leaving those issues behind as he plans to continue advocating and lobbying for causes he’s passionate about.
“I will stay engaged. This is about my kids and my grandkids and my future here in the place I’ve chosen to live my life out,” he said.
“There’s so much at risk, especially with this UCP, I think they are a threat to many of the things we’ve tried to develop in this province and I think more and more people are recognizing that.”