A great Canadian patriot died yesterday. Born in Calgary in 1928, Peter Lougheed served as Premier of Alberta between 1971 and 1985. In many ways, he was the father of modern Alberta and ushered in the political and regulatory regime that drove massive investment in the energy resource.
Alberta became a magnet for people from across Canada who sought economic opportunity. Alberta was and is open to everyone. It doesn't matter what your colour, race, language, sexual or religious preference is; Alberta enthusiastically greets everyone who wants to work hard, be entrepreneurial, and wants to be a positive part of society.
It's politically correct to call Canada a cultural mosaic, and in many ways it is. But in Alberta, they're all Canadians and all Albertans. It doesn't matter if you are third generation or arrived three weeks ago.
Lougheed was a broad thinker, and never cared for parochial provincialism. Yet he never hesitated to defend Alberta when he needed to. His most famous battle was against Pierre Trudeau on the National Energy Program. Lougheed believed the NEP was the unacceptable cash grab of a resource that was provincial jurisdiction, and vowed to fight it. He won, but not without first doing what statesman do -- compromising.
He came to view this battle with Trudeau as one that was in the national interest, believing that unilateral incursions in areas of provincial jurisdiction ultimately weakened, not strengthened, the federation.
A few years later, Lougheed played a role in the 1982 repatriation of the constitution. His support for the deal hammered out between Pierre Trudeau and fellow premiers gave us our own Constitution and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was also a leading proponent of the "notwithstanding clause," which forced Trudeau to compromise and set another important marker for Canada. That clause enshrines the principle of the supremacy of Canada's democratically elected legislatures.
A lifelong Progressive Conservative, Lougheed was a moderate and pragmatist. He wasn't an ideologue and would never kowtow or pander to an interest group for political advantage. He wasn't a cynical politician. He was a positive and hopeful leader. Partisanship for its own sake never trumped facts, evidence, and doing the right thing. He was a principled political leader who believed that public service is among the noblest of callings and who believed that Canada's best days are still ahead of us.
Peter Lougheed's grace, class, and dignity should be an example to current and future political leaders in Canada. His life and service to his country showed that great things could be accomplished for the common good with a mixture of intelligence, daring, principle, integrity, humility, and an understanding of the power of compromise.
Canada owes much to the statesmanship of giants like Lougheed. He was a nation-builder. His passing is a reminder to me of how much we so desperately need people like Peter Lougheed in our public life today.