The 65-year old physician from the Calgary-Mountain View constituency is on his second go-round as leader, but it's his first foray heading the party on the hustings.
Swann was voted leader late in 2008, but dropped out early in 2011 before an election was called. His replacement, former Progressive Conservative Raj Sherman, quit earlier this year.
Fellow Liberal Laurie Blakeman was touted for the interim job, but tied her participation to forging an alliance with fellow progressives in the fledgling Alberta and Green parties.
The party executive rejected that and Swann agreed to step in. He said it was too late in the game for any kind of "meaningful electoral co-operation."
It seems late in the game in many ways for the Liberals.
Numbers suggest the party that held power in Alberta almost a century ago is now on a toboggan slide to oblivion.
Five members won seats in the 2012 election, down from nine in 2008 and 16 in 2004. The popular vote totals shrunk from 29 per cent to 26 per cent to just under 10 per cent in those campaigns.
They have candidates in place this time in only a fraction of the 87 ridings.
Three of five incumbents are not running: Darshan Kang and Kent Hehr plan to run federally, while former leader Sherman is leaving politics altogether.
Rebuffed by the party executive on a merger, Blakeman has engineered an alliance of her own in her Edmonton-Centre riding.
She will run under the Liberal, Alberta Party and Green party banners. She will appear as a Liberal on the ballot, but the move effectively puts her at odds with other Liberals running against those parties in other ridings.
When asked why he was allowing the Blakeman gambit, and whether it weakened the party overall, Swann said: "It's an experiment."
Swann is running in his fourth election and is no stranger to social activism.
He has fought coal-bed methane drilling and once went on a two-week hunger strike to protest lack of Canadian action to help the people of war-ravaged Darfur.
Like Liberal leaders before him — Nancy MacBeth, Kevin Taft and Sherman — he picked up the sword to combat unfair treatment by the government.
In 2002, Swann was fired as chief medical health officer for the Palliser Health Authority after he spoke out in favour of the Kyoto accord on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
There were suggestions of Tory government backroom string-pulling in the decision to fire him. In the national uproar that followed, Swann was offered his job back.
He said no, and decided to pursue politics instead.