Recently, after visiting Deputy Premier Lukaszuk in the Alberta legislature, I paused at Peter Lougheed’s official portrait. Like many citizens, I’d heard that this statesman — considered to be the best Canadian premier in decades — was ailing. Soon, reports announced his passing and people across our country began offering their sympathies for, and reflections about, this remarkable man.
In studying his portrait, my thoughts turned to an earlier time and this vital premier and his ideas, energy and actions — traits that shaped what author Ron Graham calls Alberta’s coming of age — when “wealth, employment, and head offices shifted from Toronto and Montreal to Calgary.”
Having been raised in Red Deer during the Lougheed era, it was evident — even among us kids — that Peter Lougheed was a political giant; he was a powerful team player with a clear vision, iron will and sharp mind, as well as a generous spirit, quick wit and gracious manner.
Later, as a political science student on the Prairies, I further understood the significance of Lougheed’s national vision and exceptional leadership capabilities. He was an articulate Albertan who helped navigate and negotiate the place and prominence of provinces within contemporary Canada. Yet he remained a conscientious Canadian — understanding and explaining the significance of a vibrant West to, and for, the rest of Canada. As he once highlighted: “We got Albertans to think as Canadians … we thought of ourselves nationally and we contributed nationally.”
Upon entering public life in Saskatchewan, I had a few chances to meet and listen to Lougheed. Years ago, I emceed a joint provincial event featuring past premiers Lougheed and Blakeney. Despite their partisan differences, they were obvious friends and allies who happily recounted clashes and compromises with Prime Minister Trudeau. More recently, Premier Brad Wall generously invited me into his legislative office to see a special guest: Peter Lougheed. During our subsequent conversation, Lougheed spoke about the continuing significance of responsible, provincial stewardship regarding our natural resources.
As Canadians reflect upon the significance of Lougheed, it’s clear that he helped inspire a generation of Canadians — in and beyond Alberta — to: seek, and serve in, public office; bolster the prosperity and position of our provinces; while strengthening the unity and character of Confederation.
Before turning from Premier Lougheed’s legislative portrait in Edmonton, I offered two simple, quiet words: thank you.
MLA for Saskatoon Greystone