His tenure was punctuated with protracted constitutional battles and acrimonious clashes with Trudeau over Alberta’sa gushing gas and oil resources. The introduction of the National Energy Policy in 1980 placed stringent controls on domestic oil prices, and provoked animosity against Ottawa – especially toward the Liberal Party – that is still raw in some segments of the province today.
The Alberta premier who had made his mark by encouraging Albertans to think and act outside of their own backwater became such a defiant and articulate defender of provincial rights that critics, especially in the East, dubbed him “the blue-eyed sheik.” Eventually, Ottawa and Alberta wrestled down a new energy deal that substantially increased the value of Alberta’s crude oil. But then the oil boom went bust in the 1981-82 recession, with many Albertans blaming Ottawa.
Lougheed retired in 1985 and was succeeded as leader by Don Getty, a former football player and one of the original cadre that Lougheed had recruited back in 1967. He was 57 and had been premier for 14 years.
The workaholic habits of a lifetime continued. He went back to practising law, joining Bennett Jones LLP in Calgary in 1986, and began accepting appointments to corporate boards. At one time, he was a director of nearly 20 companies, including such blue-chip firms as Royal Bank of Canada, Bombardier, Canadian Pacific, Atco and Noranda. He was also chancellor of Queen’s University from 1996-2002.
Like a modern prophet, Lougheed strode back into the public arena whenever he felt the province he had nurtured into modernity was going astray, whether he feared it was being seduced by the development schemes of greedy multinationals, suckered into shipping unprocessed oil-sands crude south for processing in American refineries, or recklessly developing the oil sands at the expense of prudence and the environment. Earlier this year he emerged again from private life to endorse Redford in her tightly contested but successful provincial election campaign against Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Party.
Peter Lougheed leaves his wife, Jeanne, sons Stephen and Joseph, daughters Andrea and Pamela and his extended family.
With reports from Dawn Walton, Brent Jang and Nathan VanderKlippe