While tributes to former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed pour in, where is this era’s ‘Canadian treasure’?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Peter Lougheed's reign as Alberta's premier was before my time — I was too young to even remember his exit from office in 1985.

But as tributes and affection for Lougheed — who is reportedly gravely ill  — continue to pour in,  it's evident that he was a very impressive politician and is a special person.

Conservative MP Rona Ambrose Tweeted: "Peter Lougheed is a Canadian treasure.  He has our love and our prayers.

Veteran Calgary Herald reporter Don Braid wrote that, in all the years writing about the man, he never heard him utter a bad word about an opposition politician.

"Lougheed always felt that people didn't want to hear something bad about the other guys," he wrote.

Lougheed has received similar adulation in every major newspaper across the country this week.

[ Related: Lougheed successor praying for former Alberta premier ]

And the tributes aren't just a response to his current condition — he also received praise prior to his illness.

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.

"The sheer magnitude of support for Lougheed spanned the country, with first-place votes in all regions.  Not only did he receive 21 of 30 possible first-place votes, he also ran the table on nine questions related to leadership, fiscal and economic management and intergovernmental relations."

As a politician, he was intelligent, a statesman, and an all around nice guy.

Are there any politicians that Canadians revere today?  Can you name one current or recent politician who is widely respected across the country?

Don't worry if you can't.

According to a recent survey done by The Manning Centre for Building Democracy, respect for politicians is at all time low.

Only one per cent of Canadians said they had a "very favourable' view of politicians while 52 per cent said politicians are lazy, 58 per cent said they are unprincipled, 59 per cent said they are incompetent, 69 per cent said they are dishonest and 76 per cent said that politicians were "out of touch" with the "daily reality of Canadians."

In a post-survey column in the Globe and Mail, Preston Manning wrote about why Canadians don't respect their politicians anymore:

In my view, government performance ratings are so low at least in part because it is politicians who are the "public face" of government. If your opinion of politicians is generally low, your evaluation of institutions run by them is likely to be low as well.

In the public's mind, this negative perception is reinforced every time unethical political conduct makes the headlines, such as during the sponsorship scandal or the more recent robo-call affair.

Any political strategy, tactic or technology that deliberately employs a lie to misdirect or mislead voters is deplorable in itself, but it also damages the democratic process and public confidence in all parties and politicians.

Codes of ethics, ethics commissioners, regulatory and watchdog legislation, such as the federal government's Public Accountability Act — all these measures have a place in raising the ethical tone. But politicians and political parties must themselves take pro-active steps to counter the perception that we are all ethically challenged."

It's not often that an illness of a provincial politician becomes headline news across the country. The fact that Lougheed's illness has, shows how much he is respected.

Maybe today's politicos can learn a thing or two from Lougheed.

[ Related: Saskatchewan's Brad Wall continues to rank as Canada's most popular premier ]