Americans who rise to a high office like Governor or General, are often still addressed by those titles for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t usually happen in Canada. One of the few who was often called Mr. Premier long after he left politics in 1985 was Peter Lougheed, who died this month at the age of 84.
Brad Wall called him “Premier” when he met with him in Regina in 2007, a few months after he became Premier of Saskatchewan. Wall wanted advice on how to deal with an economic boom in the resource sector, and Lougheed was certainly a groundbreaker on that front.
In 1973, the world price of oil took its first dramatic jumps as OPEC flexed its muscles, and it helped to kick start the industry in Alberta. Lougheed became known as the blue-eyed sheik, as he seized the opportunity and the national spotlight.
He started the Heritage Trust Fund in Alberta, and he bought a regional airline, then known as Pacific Western.
He held his own with Pierre Trudeau in the showdown over Ottawa’s National Energy Program. Trudeau blinked, and Alberta’s economy grew even faster as development of the oil sands began.
Peter Lougheed was a proud Albertan, but Canadians of all political stripes are remembering him as a great Canadian and a capable statesman. After leaving office, he did much valuable work as an unofficial ambassador, particularly in Canada’s dealings with the Americans.
A little known mark of his ability to keep things in their proper perspective involved the pronunciation of his last name. We all say LAW-heed but Peter’s family pronounced it law-HEED. If it ever bothered him, he never said so publicly. It just didn’t seem that important.
I’m Roger Currie
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