On May 23, 1967, the skirl of the bagpipes went on until dawn in celebration of Lou Hyndman’s narrow victory over his rival in Edmonton West, in what would prove a pivotal provincial election.
As one of the so-called original six, Mr. Hyndman, then 32, marched into the Alberta legislature that year under the Progressive Conservative banner with a determined sense of purpose. Forty-six years later, that same wail sounded in mourning for the loss of a true statesman who helped shape the course of Alberta history, as well as a bygone era of political discourse driven by policy instead of personal attacks.
Mr. Hyndman died in Edmonton on Nov. 24 following a lengthy illness. He was 78.
“When I think of Lou, I think of a gentleman. High integrity. A man of honour, truth and principle,” said Calgary businessman Jim Dinning, a longtime friend and former Alberta treasurer, like his mentor. “Those of us who remember those days, we long for that kind of more statesman-like and less mean-spirited politics and less mean-spirited partisanship. Lou was a builder.”
Louis Davies Hyndman Jr. was born in Edmonton on Canada Day in 1935 during the Great Depression, four years before Canada joined Britain and France in declaring war on Germany. Later that summer, the Alberta Social Credit Party was vaulted into the legislature after a surprise landslide election victory only months after its formation. The Socreds would dominate in power for the next three decades, until a group of young visionaries began charting a new course that would forever alter Alberta’s political landscape.
Mr. Hyndman was the eldest son of Muriel and Louis Davies Hyndman Sr., a prominent lawyer who moved his family to the Old Glenora neighbourhood, just west of downtown Edmonton, in 1947. Back then, the neighbourhood was new and the Hyndman home was the last one on the block, marked with bushes and trees going farther west. It was two blocks away from what would years later become the home of future premier Peter Lougheed and his family.
The Hyndman name was already well-known in political circles; the family bloodlines ran thick with law and public service. Mr. Hyndman’s grandfather, James Hyndman, was a municipal politician, lawyer and the youngest person ever appointed to what was then the Supreme Court of Alberta. His great-grandfather was Sir Louis Henry Davies, also a lawyer, and the sixth chief justice of Canada. Mr. Davies also served as the third premier of Prince Edward Island from 1876 to 1879.
“Public service was in his blood,” Mr. Dinning said.
As a grade-schooler at Glenora Elementary School, a young Mr. Hyndman took a particular interest in social studies, though there was hardly a youngster who didn’t have an interest in current affairs at that time. Dinner tables across the country were dominated by conversation about global problems as the Second World War raged.
“There was so much going on that you’d have to deliberately be disengaged not to follow the course of the battles in Europe and the Pacific and the implications for life at home,” recalled Jim Edwards, 77, a school chum, lifelong friend and supporter of Mr. Hyndman. “While war was not visited on our territory, we were reminded of it because everyone had a family member or a friend who was serving in the armed services. It was a time when basic values got tested. What you were made of got tested.”
Mr. Hyndman proved a formidable young student. He and Mr. Edwards were always the last standing in spelling bees and together earned almost every badge in Cub Scouts.
Although their paths diverged in high school, the friends were reunited at the University of Alberta, where Mr. Hyndman studied law. It was on campus where he first dipped his foot into the political waters, participating in Model Parliament and serving as president of the student union. Within the next decade, he and Mr. Edwards, among others, would plunge headfirst and swim against the tide of a fledging new conservative movement.
The Alberta Conservative Party had been lost in the wilderness for more than 20 years after the rise of the Socreds.
However, 1959 marked a turning point for both Mr. Hyndman and Conservatives. Mr. Hyndman graduated from law school that year as optimism grew for the newly named Alberta Progressive Conservatives. Described as a party of youth, vitality and vigour, the party’s federal arm swept the country under John Diefenbaker.
Mr. Hyndman could have easily ended up in federal politics were it not for a twist of fate that year. A member of the young Progressive Conservatives of Edmonton (a federal and provincial organization), Mr. Hyndman was chosen as a delegate at the meeting of the party that December. Mr. Edwards was the alternate.
“Lou got busy at the law firm and was not able to go, so I went,” Mr. Edwards said. “Lou and I often discussed how different our lives might have been if he had gone and got enamoured of the federal scene and chose that route,” added Mr. Edwards, who went on to serve nearly a decade in Ottawa as a federal MP for the Progressive Conservatives.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Hyndman – by then married to Mary, whom he met at church, and a devoted father of two with a third yet to be conceived – was recruited into a quiet revolution being led by an ambitious Conservative from Calgary and fellow U of A law-school graduate.
Mr. Edwards remembers being summoned to his friend’s nearby home one evening in 1965, where he first met Peter Lougheed, who had captured the PC party leadership after being nominated from the floor by Mr. Hyndman. The trio talked politics in the Hyndman family kitchen until 2 a.m.
“[We talked about] what Peter Lougheed thought could be done with Alberta and that convinced me and certainly Lou was convinced,” Mr. Edwards recalled.
Two years later, led by Mr. Lougheed, the so-called original six formed the official Opposition.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm. A yearning for something different in government … and recognition of opportunity,” Mr. Edwards said. “It was to Lou’s credit and that of [future premier] Don Getty, they being the first elected in Edmonton, that when the 1971 election came along, there was a clean sweep of Conservatives.”
A loyal and trusted adviser to Mr. Lougheed, Mr. Hyndman was first appointed education minister and later took on the intergovernmental affairs portfolio. He held the position of Alberta treasurer until his retirement from the legislature.
“It was a fascinating time to be there,” recalled Mr. Dinning, executive assistant to Mr. Hyndman in 1979, when Mr. Hyndman was provincial treasurer.
Early on, when Alberta was steeped in oil riches, Mr. Hyndman helped engineer the much-envied Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund. And when the economy later went bust, he was alongside Mr. Lougheed as the premier took on Ottawa in the famous battle over the National Energy Program.
“Lou was right in the middle of those very serious deliberations in the aftermath of the [NEP],” Mr. Dinning said.
“Lou was a constant, solid adviser. His would have been the voice of moderation – toughness but moderation – that would have influenced how Peter [Lougheed] tackled the federal government,” Mr. Edwards added.
It was during these years that Alberta’s role in Confederation changed; the province evolved from being somewhat of a political and economic backwater to a force to be reckoned with.
Following his retirement from politics in 1986 after nearly two decades, Mr. Hyndman continued in public service, heading up special provincial and federal commissions in health care and transportation, while continuing in law and business, serving on a number of boards. He also never strayed far from his beloved University of Alberta, where he was named 15th chancellor and two bursaries were created in his name.
Fair-minded with a broad vision, Mr. Hyndman was described by supporters and opponents alike as that ideal, yet increasingly rare, breed of politician who looked for the right decision instead of the one most politically expedient. It is perhaps this legacy for which he will be most remembered, his daughter Jennifer said.
“He was an example of public service and policy-making that people on all sides of the political spectrum could aspire to, one that is bipartisan and concerned with the common good,” she said.
Mr. Hyndman leaves his wife, Mary, and their children, Jennifer, Bruce and Peter.