Lougheed Helped Save Canada's Democracy

Article excerpt

I knew the late Peter Lougheed. As a matter of fact I can truthfully name-drop and say I had something more than a remote relationship with the late distinguished former premier of Alberta.

The last time I saw Lougheed was in the early 2000s at the Butchart Gardens Restaurant on Vancouver Island. I was being hosted at a birthday dinner by my daughter and son-in-law. By sheer coincidence, Lougheed and his party were at an adjacent table and my hosts were visibly impressed when he recognized me and gave me a warm greeting.

We spent more than a few minutes recalling old times. I had attended several federal-provincial conferences where he had been present, and we did get to know each other. In particular, I filled in for Ed Schreyer at a premiers' meeting, and it was this particular meeting that was the basis of most of our chit-chat at the dinner party.

Lougheed jokingly remarked that he and I monopolized the discussion at the meeting. This was his polite and subtle way of reminding me that I talked too much. Knowing myself, this was probably true.

Peter Lougheed was elected leader of the Alberta Conservatives and to the Alberta legislature in 1967. I was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1966 and became a cabinet minister in 1969. Lougheed became Alberta's premier in 1971. Chronologically, we were contemporaries in Canadian politics until 1981 when the electorate ousted me.

Although Lougheed's accomplishments make mine appear rather picayune, there are some historical parallels and anecdotes that are worth mentioning. When I ran for the leadership of the New Democratic Party in 1968, my slogan was one word: NOW. My posters did not even contain my name -- simply the word NOW on a bright green background.

When Lougheed contended for power in 1971, his message to the people of Alberta was one word: NOW. Lougheed was successful and political commentators praised his slogan as a work of genius. I lost my battle by 28 votes and nobody remembers what my slogan was. The measure of genius is success.

An important issue in which Lougheed and I found ourselves at odds was the National Energy Policy. Lougheed defended the right of Alberta to get a world price for oil that was being sold to the eastern provinces. The world price at the time was being inflated by the oil-producing companies in the Middle East. Oil that had been sold for $2.75 a barrel suddenly skyrocketed to over $8 per barrel. …