Long before Reform party founder Preston Manning made his rallying cry of “The West Wants In” during the late ’80s, Peter Lougheed was fighting to ensure Alberta, and other provinces, had an equal share in Confederation.
The former Alberta premier, who died last Thursday night, will be remembered for many things, but none more so than his fights with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Indeed, Lougheed’s battles with Trudeau over the National Energy Program — a package of taxes and rules designed to funnel more resource revenues to Ottawa while keeping the domestic price of oil below world levels — is undoubtedly why Albertans love Lougheed and despise Trudeau to this day. And the hated NEP? Well, it’s still anathema to say those three letters in Alberta.
For British Columbians especially, it’s difficult to imagine a premier hanging on for more than one term, never mind four in a row spanning 14 years from 1971 to 1985. His legacy of creating a political dynasty with the Progressive Conservatives is still in good standing today as the party in power. Any praise that Premier Alison Redford, and former premiers Ed Stelmach, Ralph Klein and Don Getty have received for their time in the provincial hot seat can be attributed to the groundwork laid by Lougheed.
It was Lougheed, after all, who put Alberta on the path to oilsands development, who set up the province’s vaunted Alberta Heritage Fund and who made Alberta more than just a political afterthought in Canada.
Not unlike Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan, Peter Lougheed will always hold a special place in the hearts of Albertans who many credit for helping shape the province to what it is today. Of course, there will be reminders of his greatness, such as the provincial park and the acute-care centre that bears his name.
Reading obituaries on the former premier is like wading through a very long resume of accolades and accomplishments. His contribution to Alberta will never be forgotten. And every successive premier, regardless if they’re part of the party he brought to power, will owe something to Lougheed.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.