Friday, September 14, 2012

Peter Lougheed

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.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

He was one of the good ones.

It is ironic that it is Alberta that is seeking to develop a modern version of the National Energy Program.

I am much annoyed by the industry ads that claim that the oil sands are good for all Canadians and not just Albertans. Needless to say there is no mention of ecological destruction and climate warming.

I do think Canada will end up procession the tar sands either at the source or in Eastern Canada. It is time Canada stopped exporting raw materials such as whole logs and most of the Chromite ore being ore being mined in Northern Ontario. So far only 1/4 of it will be smelted in Canada while the rest will be shipped to China for processing.

Owen Gray said...

The present bunch of conservatives -- not Lougheed's conservatives -- in so many ways want to turn back the clock, Philip.

The would once again make us hewers of wood and drawers of water.

In the true sense of the term, Lougheed was a Progressive Conservative.

Lorne said...

Owen, your post is a poignant reminder of how much we have lost in the way of reasoned political discourse over the years. I wish we could return to a time when absolutist pronouncements were the exception rather than the rule.

Anonymous said...

yes a progressive conservative
from back in the day when when the argument was over what is better or best for Canadians.
my riding still votes for his values at 77.4% little realizing macay sold the brand and harper axed the progressive, hollowed out the conservative and stuffed it with alliance reform.
i can't help thinking he has watched with disappointment.
maybe his death will inspire some to consider then and now.
a fitting final gift
thank you peter

Owen Gray said...

Lougheed believed that you could hold strong opinions and not be an absolutist, Lorne. And, Simpson writes, facts mattered to him.

His opinions were always grounded on facts.

Owen Gray said...

Simpson writes that, privately, Lougheed expressed his distaste for the Reform Party, Mike.

He recognized that it was merely the Social Credit Party with a new name.

And he recognized that the Wildrose Party was just another name for the Reform Party.

Anonymous said...

ya right lougheed a hero?

I remember living in rural Alberta when we had gravel roads that were not maintained accept once a year.

We were basically on our own, there was no help from the Lougheed government. No snow plows available? How that be? Once a year a grader would come through, in the summer when you really did not need it any more.

Yet were he had his wealthy ranch in the municipal district of rocky view, wow his county road magically got paved overnight after he became premier with taxpayers dollars, ya some hero a member of the 1% club riding on the tax payers backs...

His road got plowed every day in the winter, oh and I forgot because he was premier he had the divine right, just in case he needed to fly to Ottwatory...

Cause his helicopter was broken he needed the RCMP to drive him to the Calgary International Airport, go figure...

We never in rural Alberta back in the old days ever even saw an RCMP except at the musical delusional ride at the Calgary Stampede...

Owen Gray said...

You were closer to the Lougheed government than I was, Mogs. I have been on some of those rural Alberta roads, though.

That said, Lougheed was certainly more progressive than Mr. Harper.