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.
<strong>On being named Canada's best premier by Policy Options magazine poll: </strong> "The attribute that really pays off is listening ability. Both listen to the people that are involved with you working in the Office of the Premier, listening to the media...listening to your party and the general public."
"My whole life, 365 days a year, was team sports and I found anything in my public life we really accomplished that was worthwhile we accomplished as a team."
"I chose provincial politics because I though that's where the action was and you could get a lot more done"
"Our whole approach as a political party was to talk not-so-much negatively, but we wanted to talk about the future of the province and we wanted to talk postively."
"We got Albertans to think as Canadians. We didn't think of ourselves as just provincial, we thought of ourselves nationally and we contributed nationally - not just in public life and in government but we contributed in a multitude of other ways - the arts and culture and sports, in writing and business and science. All of those were contributions by Albertans into Canada."
"Because we had the resource revenues (we were able to) save those resource revenues for the future and create the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund."
"I'm a community person, I think in terms of community before individual. That's the essence of Albertans and to a large extent that's the essence of Canadians as well."
"I think it's important Albertans know the battles that we had in terms of the jurisdictional battles over the control of energy resources and secondly that we have a government that reflects the various provinces and differences and strengths of the provinces."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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