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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Swann Runs for the Alberta Liberal Leadership

David Swann is in the race for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal leadership race. It is as I suspected and I am not surprised he did not pursue a new party approach. A new party demands you gather a swack of signatures from a bunch of diverse, disgruntled and disengaged Albertans and then try and mould them into a unified political force, all within four years. That would a quixotic adventure at best.

He is by far the best candidate in the Liberal Leadership running so far based on insight, intelligence and ability to listen and learn. He is also a reluctant politician. He got into the political arena to respond to the injustice and unfairness of being fired for speaking out as a medical health officer. That all appeared to be about pure politics. I kind of like reluctant politicians. Ambitious politicos like Stephen Harper make me nervous. I like the pure laine servant leader types who are in it for the opportunity to be of service to the public and not about wielding power. My reading of Swann is he fits the servant leader mould well.

I got to know a bit about David Swann this past week end because we were both at the Keepers of the Water Conference in Fort Chipewyan. We coincidentally flew up together on Friday and he was scheduled to fly out later that day. The conference was so significant that he stayed over and we had some time to sit and chat about issues facing the province and the state of democracy in Alberta.

We share a concern over the decline of citizen participation in the political and public life of the province. He said many Albertans were “allergic to politics.” When he said that, I remember thinking two things, first, he is right. My second reaction was wow a medical doctor who can use a metaphor in a meaningful way. There may be hope for this guy in political leadership. He is clearly a social progressive and ecologically conservationist Albertan and wants a responsible and sustainable economic regime.

Regardless of policy and issues, Job 1 for the next Alberta Liberal leader will be to pay off the party debts of about $700,000.00. They simply can’t be a viable alternative if they are fiscally vulnerable and can’t afford to campaign effectively. Swann showed he can raise money and did pretty well comparatively speaking in the fund raising for his constituency run last election.

If he wins, he has to show he can push a bigger rock up a steeper and longer hill and get some serious dollars donated to kill the deficit in the Liberal coffers. Given the political culture of Alberta, Swann is not likely to find 70 donors with $10K each. In fact what he needs to do is find 7000 Albertans with $100 each to come to the aid of the Alberta Liberal party. That would be more effective politically too. The good news is there are at least a couple of years to get it done given that the next Alberta election is about four years hence.

Stelmach was profound in his victory speech when he won the PC leadership saying “Nice guys can finish first.” Same could be - and should be - true for David Swann in this campaign. Glad to see quality people, regardless of party affiliations, still prepared to put their private lives on the line, their careers on hold, and stand for public office in hopes of serving the greater good…