Peter Lougheed had a political pedigree. His grandfather was a senator and a partner in R.B. Bennett's law firm. But, during the Depression, the family lost its fortune and -- as a child -- Lougheed moved from one rental accommodation to the next. He, therefore, understood both wealth and poverty. It was that understanding which led him to establish the Alberta Heritage Fund -- for a provincial rainy day.
He fought doggedly with Pierre Trudeau over Alberta's natural resources; but he was, Jeffrey Simpson writes, also Trudeau's friend. He fiercely believed in Canada; and he believed -- unlike the conservatives who replaced him -- that the state was a force for good. Simpson writes:
Mr. Lougheed governed not as an ideological opponent of the state – the red meat of modern-day conservative thinking – but as its ally. The state, he believed, was the people’s friend, which is what Tories tend to believe. And he used the state aggressively, perhaps in a few cases too aggressively, to buy an airline and make public investments, help the early oil-sands industry get its legs, create the Heritage Fund, build new social programs – all the while believing in the free-enterprise system as the best wealth-creation generator. He used the state aggressively, when necessary, against what he saw could be invidious practices of the oil and gas industry, for which he was banned from the Petroleum Club.
He believed that the oil sands should be developed carefully and sustainably. Most of all, he believed that Alberta's oil wealth should be used to develop a manufacturing economy. He defeated Ernest Manning; and he lived to see Manning's son storm Ottawa and ensconce a transplanted Torontonian -- who claimed to be an Albertan -- in power.
His death is a reminder of what we have lost. But one hopes that it is also a reminder of what we may yet recover.