The Lougheed Legacy: ‘He reminded Ottawa that Canada was more than just Ontario and Quebec’

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Condolences and tributes are pouring in for former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, who passed away Thursday night after battling undisclosed health problems.

By most accounts, Lougheed, who served as premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985, made an indomitable political contribution to both his native province and to the rest of Canada.

As chronicled by The Canadian Press, "he became a provincial folk hero and a nationally recognized figure for his epic battles with Ottawa" over Alberta's oil revenues.

He nurtured oilsands development and created a multi-billion-dollar savings fund for Alberta while at the same time investing in medicine, arts, culture, and tourism.

He was also a key figure in the patriation of the Constitution.

Earlier this year,  Lougheed attended a ceremony where he was named Canada's best premier of the last 40 years by a panel of 30 historians, political scientists, economists, journalists and policy advisers convened by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

"Peter Lougheed [won] by a landslide," the IRPP noted on its website.

As is often case when politicians pass, pundits and analysts are left asking the question: what was his legacy; what will he be remembered for?

We went to our 'expert panel' to get their opinion:

Gerry Nicholls, political analyst, former Vice President of the National Citizens Coalition:

"In Alberta, Peter Lougheed will be remembered as the man who started one of the most enduring and longest lasting political dynasties in the history of the free world.

The rest of the country will remember him as the Alberta Premier who reminded Ottawa that Canada was more than just Ontario and Quebec."

Duane Bratt, Chair & Associate Professor of the Department of Policy Studies at Mount Royal University:

"He will be remembered in Alberta most for his National Energy Program (NEP) fight (which also benefited other provinces' control of natural resources). This is, in a sense, unfortunate, because it overshadows many other things he did: creating provincial crown corporations that would eventually become ENCANA and Syncrude; creating Heritage Trust Fund [and] starting a political dynasty.

In Canada he will be remembered for his NEP fight, but also his role in patriating the constitution. He was a  key leader among the premiers, helped enshrine provincial control of natural resources and eliminated the idea that any single province had a veto. He must be considered (like Trudeau, Davis, Blakeney) a 20th Century Father of Confederation."

Warren Kinsella, political analyst for the Toronto Sun:

"My Dad moved our family to Alberta in the 1970s because Peter Lougheed had decided to get behind medicine, and medical research.

We may have belonged to different political parties, but we admired and respected Peter Lougheed very much. He was a true Progressive Conservative, and it was his progressive policies that helped to transform Alberta.

He was a great man, with many great achievements. I am very, very sad that he is gone."

And here is a very poignant Facebook post from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

I, like every Albertan of my generation, am a Lougheed baby. I was born the year after he was first elected, and I have never known an Alberta or a Canada that did not benefit from his legacy. We owe him so much: our strong industries; our magnetic cities; our sense of identity within Canada.

He represented the Alberta that drew so many (my parents included) to live and work and thrive here. With him, we became greater as Albertans and as Canadians.

Remember the line from Christopher Wren's epitaph: "If you seek his monument - look around you."