Ottawa's National Energy Program

Alberta History, Autumn 2005 | Go to article overview

Ottawa's National Energy Program


an address by Peter Lougheed

Editor's Introduction--Late in 1980, the federal government introduced the controversial National Energy Program in a move to gain control over revenues from Alberta's oil and gas resources through federal taxes and pricing structures. In this address to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on February 13, 1981, Premier Lougheed explains the implications of the federal move and the disastrous effects it could have on Canada's economy. On the following day, the Calgary Herald described the speech as "a hardhitting analysis of the impact of the federal energy policy" while the Globe and Mail called it "an emotional call for Albertans to increase their opposition to Ottawa's unilateral energy price-setting and federal taxation program."

Peter Lougheed was born in Calgary in 1928 and received a law degree from the University of Alberta in 1952. During his university years he was a noted athlete and also was halfback for the Edmonton Eskimos. After his graduation he went to Harvard where he received an MBA and on his return to Alberta he was called to the bar and joined the construction firm of Mannix Corporation.

In 1965 he was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and was Leader of the Opposition from 1967 to 1971. He then led his party to victory at the polls and served as premier for the next fourteen years. During his tenure he established the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, introduced the Alberta Bill of Rights, affirmed provincial rights during the patriation of Canada's Constitution, and encouraged economic diversification.

The following speech is contained in the Lougheed Papers at the Lougheed House in Calgary.

Mr. Chairman, head table guests, fellow Calgarians and Albertans--first of all I would like to say how much I appreciate this opportunity to communicate with you on some extremely important provincial and national issues.

I would like to say to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce how pleased I am with the progress of your organization, congratulate your current Executive and wish your new Executive to be elected at your upcoming annual meeting, the very best in their year. Obviously, this Chamber has become even more significant as a focal point, both for this exciting and dynamic community and as a form for business opinion throughout Canada. It is clear that the increased involvement and participation by the business community in the Chamber, working with the Alberta Chamber, is continuing to have an ever larger degree of influence on business issues throughout the country. That was evident by the efforts of the Chamber on the crucial energy questions at the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber in Quebec last fall.

My purpose today is to primarily review the energy scene. I have not spoken in Calgary on this crucial issue since October 30th, 1980, some three and a half months ago. I think it is important for me to outline the consequences of the Ottawa energy program and update you and the citizens of Alberta on developments as seen from our perspective. It is important to continue communication with Albertans on this issue. I hope that you will respond to my remarks so that we can in fact have a dialogue.

Before moving to the energy issue, I want to refer to the important question of the Canadian Constitution. I believe most of you are well aware that the constitutional proposals of the Ottawa government are interrelated to the energy resource matters. I believe that you are also well aware that the amending formula proposed in the Ottawa position would allow a further dilution of the resource rights of Alberta and other provinces. Also, you will be aware that the proposals from the Parliamentary Committee in Ottawa to the Federal House of Commons and Senate with regard to resources are insignificant for Alberta, particularly with regard to indirect taxation because of the small freehold position of our resources. …

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