EDMONTON - Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, whose epic battles with Ottawa shaped the province on the national stage, is in a Calgary hospital with what sources say is a serious illness.
Lougheed's family, in a prepared statement Tuesday, asked for privacy and promised updates as warranted.
"Peter Lougheed and his family are very thankful for all of your kindness and prayers at this time,” read the release.
Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives turfed the long-governing Social Credit in 1971 and are still in power more than 40 years later. Lougheed, who is 84, led the party until 1985.
The Calgary lawyer is credited with transforming the province into an economic powerhouse. Along the way he became famous for his fights with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau over control of Alberta's oil wealth.
Many politicians, including current Premier Alison Redford, cite him as a profoundly influential role model.
"Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the Lougheed family today," said Kim Misik, a spokeswoman for Redford.
"The former premier is someone that our current premier is very fond of and someone she looks to as a mentor."
Redford is in Asia on a trade mission and doesn't return to Canada until Monday.
She has known Lougheed dating back to her earliest years in politics. His public endorsement of her leadership in last spring's provincial election was seen as a important boost that helped the Tories return to power.
Many well-wishers, including opposition politicians, took to Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday to reach out to the former premier and his relatives.
"Our prayers are with premier Lougheed and his family," Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman wrote on Twitter.
Despite being out of power for a generation, Lougheed has continued to wield considerable influence on public policy. He has spoken out in support of bilingualism, criticized the Kyoto accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions and cautioned against unbridled growth in the oilsands.
As premier he transformed Alberta from a largely agrarian region to a petro-powered player both nationally and internationally.
He helped patriate the Constitution, created a multibillion-dollar provincial trust fund and oversaw a broad expansion in funding for culture and the arts.
Most importantly, he diversified Alberta's economy by championing the oilsands, which today are responsible for delivering billions of dollars in annual revenue and are one of the key industrial drivers for the entire country.
This summer, Lougheed was named the best Canadian premier of the last 40 years by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
In accepting the reward, Lougheed said he was gratified by the emergence of the Prairies, but told the audience: "Let's keep building."
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Peter Lougheed graduated from the University of Alberta and played for the Edmonton Eskimos during the 1949 and 1950 season.
After the U of A, Lougheed received a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University.
Defeat of the Social Credit
In 1971, Lougheed leads the Alberta Progressive Conservatives to power, dethroning the Social Credit, which had held power in the Alberta legislature since 1935. Until that point, the Social Credit had held the longest, uninterrupted government tenure in Canadian history.
Ottawa vs. Alberta
Lougheed may in some corners be most remembered for his fight against Ottawa during the institution of the 1980's National Energy Plan. The feisty premier took on Canada's flamboyant Prime Minister of the day, Pierrre Trudeau, fighting for Alberta's right to chart its own course, as it kicked its oil and gas industry into overdrive. Much of what these two leaders accomplished and agreed to in this battle, still governs how provinces interact with the federal government today.
It was under Lougheed's tenure that Albertans became fully aware of the economic potential of their province. It was under his direction that Alberta experienced its first economic paradigm shift and came face to face with its first of many booms.
With Alberta's industry and economy in full boom mode, Lougheed helmed the expansion of the province's infrastructure by building, among other things, roads, schools and hospitals - a somewhat different approach than the one taken by a later, and arguably more popular, successor, Ralph Klein. One of Alberta's premiere hospitals today bears his name - The Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary.
Many of those who worship mountain culture and adventure have much to thank Lougheed, who in 1976 established Kananaskis Country. For many, it's hard to believe that massive swath of alpine majesty was not a park, or even protected, until Lougheed came along.
Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund
Thinking of the future, Lougheed introduced the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976. The fund would see 30% of royalty revenues in the province going into it, as way of ensuring the wealth Alberta had then didn't run out when the oil did.
By sweeping the Alberta Social Credit from power, Lougheed launched Canada's - and some would argue the world and second only to China - longest, continuous political legacy. The Tories have now officially been Alberta's governing party for the last 41 years.
Lougheed's last public appearance was June 16, 2012, where he was honoured as Canada's greatest premier of the last 40 years. But although he was well known for his scuffles with Ottawa during his tenure, Lougheed, during his acceptance speech told the audience to remember, and work hard knowing, that we are all Canadians first.
Bob Delaney, MPP
Alison Redford on insisting Alberta wont's see a PST
“Gosh, my goodness. Today is Thursday. Did I say it yesterday? Did I say it on Tuesday? Did I say it on Friday?” “We are not introducing a provincial sales tax, period. I’ll say it again tomorrow if you like." February 2013.
Alison Redford's Christmas Greeting
In a tongue-in-cheek greeting on This Hour Has 22 Minutes 2012 holiday special, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/07/alison-redford-funny-christmas-greeting_n_2258800.html?1354906380">Redford shared the following message to Canada</a> - "Christmas is my favourite time of year in Alberta. Most people spend their time with family and friends. I choose to spend the bulk of my time the way I do the rest of the year - having a scotch with my friends from the oil and gas industry; talking about how to relax environmental regulations." Looks like another mild winter. You're welcome, Canada."
Ed Stelmach On U.S.
"A good neighbour lends you a cup of sugar. A great neighbour supplies you with 1.4 million barrels of oil per day." -- <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/831381--don-t-tread-on-ed-premier-stelmach-defends-alberta-oilsands-in-washington-post" target="_hplink">In an ad in <em>The Washington Post.</em></a> (CP)
Redford On B.C. Premier Clark
"We have every other premier across the country understanding the importance of the energy economy and understanding that it's important for all Canadians that we do work together." -- <a href="http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Debate+over+Northern+Gateway+pipeline+entirely+appropriate/7088360/story.html" target="_hplink">Taking a jab at B.C. Premier Christy Clark.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein on Evolution
"Dinosaur farts." -- On what may have brought about the <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Ice Age.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein On Belinda Stronach
"I wasn't surprised that she crossed over to the Liberals. I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body. Well, maybe one." -- Speaking at a charity roast in 2006, <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Klein comments on MP Belinda Stronach</a>, who used to date fellow Tory MP Peter McKay, crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party. (CP)
Ralph Klein takes on Dalton McGuinty
"I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation," said Klein, reacting to comments made in March 2006 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opposing any two-tiered health care system in Ontario that Klein has proposed in Alberta, which was believed would allow quicker access to surgery for those who pay.
Peter Lougheed On Oilsands Development
"Would somebody please outline to me the advantages of our doing it this way? For me, an Albertan? What are they? Can you give me a couple of them? What do I as an Albertan gain by this mad rush up there?" -- <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/the-second-coming-of-peter-lougheed/article659021/?page=all" target="_hplink">He asks in <em>The Globe And Mail</em></a>. (CP)
Ralph Klein On Mad Cow Disease
"I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that. Instead he took it to an abattoir." -- At the discovery of mad cow disease <a href="http://ca.m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/news/blogs/former-alberta-premier-ralph-klein-finally-getting-order-223011036.html?.b=entertainment&.ts=1340325348&.intl=ca&.lang=en-ca&.ysid=yXfXSNumJYMPRMtsjsr3kcZ6" target="_hplink">on an Alberta ranch.</a> (CP)
Ralph Klein On Edmonton
A fine city with too many socialists and mosquitoes. At least you can spray the mosquitoes." -- In 1990 as a <a href="http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/12/14/16554851.html" target="_hplink">Tory MLA from Calgary.</a> (CP)
Peter Lougheed On NEP
"Let them freeze in the dark." -- Lougheed takes on Trudeau regarding the NEP in the 70s. The quote is also cited as the more contentious bumper sticker fodder, 'Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.'