Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content


The Second Coming of Peter Lougheed Add to ...

By contrast, he says, "If we went out and did a poll tomorrow, asking, name me one Alberta politician that you're particularly proud of, I'll bet you Lougheed's name would figure pretty prominently."

McCormick is obviously sympathetic to Lougheed but sees limits to his influence: "It's a long time since he's been premier. There are people like me that you can talk to about Lougheed, but most of my students don't know who he is. There's a very short political memory in this province, and Lougheed is starting to get on the wrong side of it."

If there is any association in the public mind, says Calgary pollster Janet Brown, the former premier is remembered for fighting for Alberta and standing up to Pierre Trudeau. Also, people remember him for setting up the Heritage Fund. Above all, Lougheed is revered in the business community, and that is a community that has clout.

Perhaps the constituency Lougheed cares most about is the Conservative party. He is trying to reclaim it for what he would regard as its better side, and convert Ed Stelmach into the bargain. "He's entirely different from Ralph Klein," Lougheed says. "So I've been very pleased about that. And I also sense that he recognizes the challenges that he has. I feel pretty good that over time he will come to grips with it all, but these are early days."

Right after last March's election, Stelmach was careful to make time for a long meeting with Lougheed. Last December, for the first time since Ralph Klein became premier, Lougheed attended the Premier's Christmas party at Calgary's McDougall Centre. The two men meet frequently and discuss things Conservative. And that, says Lougheed, "wasn't occurring for 13 years under Klein."

Why? Lougheed shrugs with what seems to be pretty lofty disdain: "It had no appeal. Klein didn't understand the party and he didn't have any interest in it, and he let the party basically fall apart. But Stelmach knows this and he's changing it."

Asked whether he and Stelmach talk about the oil sands and energy policies, Lougheed evades a direct answer and says he tries not to get involved in policy issues with the Premier: "He's got enough on his plate, so I'm not really pushing that"--which is not exactly a denial.

"I think the jury's out with regard to Mr. Stelmach. I think he's got so many headaches that he's inherited--the health and education side and other places--that only time will tell whether or not he takes a more orderly view of the development of resources," says Lougheed.

Orderly development? A nice idea, but for Alberta and for the oil industry that made the province the wealthiest in Canada, that would be turning back the clock--back to the days when Peter Lougheed was premier.


Lougheed was born in Calgary on July 26, 1928. Grandfather Sir James Alexander Lougheed (above), the first Albertan to serve in a Tory federal cabinet, was instrumental in creating the province and pushed for control of resources.

Between 1951 and 1954, Lougheed received a BA and a law degree from the University of Alberta, and an MBA from Harvard.

During school, he also played two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos.

Called to the Alberta bar in 1955, Lougheed joined Mannix Corp. in 1956 and became its secretary and general counsel in 1958.

In 1965, Lougheed was elected leader of Alberta's seatless Progressive Conservatives. The party gained a beachhead of six seats in the 1967 election.

In 1971, Lougheed's Conservatives won a majority, ending Social Credit's 36-year reign. Lougheed was resoundingly re-elected in 1975, '79 and '82.

As premier, Lougheed is remembered nationally as the "blue-eyed sheik" who stood up for provincial control of natural resources. He established the Heritage Fund and was a key actor in developing the constitutional amending formula in 1982.

Lougheed retired as premier in 1985 and entered business as a board member: "I made one mistake: I said yes too many times," he says. "So, at one time--you couldn't do this today--I was on 17 corporate boards." With Donald Macdonald (right), Lougheed also headed a key lobby group for free trade with the U.S.

Around age 70, Lougheed scaled down his membership on corporate boards in favour of non-profits; he was chancellor of Queen's University from 1990 to 2002. But he still sits on several advisory boards, and on the boards of Keyera Energy, Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline and MEG Energy.

Still working at age 80, the onetime star athlete regrets that, post-knee replacements, his doctors won't let him ski. But he still enjoys a game of golf.

Report Typo/Error
Single page

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeBusiness


Next story




Most popular videos »


More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular