Day 7: State Memorial for Peter Lougheed

I love this picture.

I flew back to Calgary for Friday’s state memorial for former Premier Peter Lougheed. It was a terrific celebration of his life and impact on Alberta and Canadian politics. Afterward I thanked his son Stephen, who gave a tremendous tribute, for allowing us all to share in saying goodbye to a great man and much-admired politician.

I have one personal story about Mr. Lougheed from my days on campus at the University of Calgary. I enrolled in Poli 521: Canadian Federalism in the 1992-93 student calendar year. This is a course that culminates in a model first ministers’ conference. It was an unforgettable program taught that year by professor Keith Archer. It also included a number of unforgettable classmates including Calgary West MP Rob Anders and my former Communications Director Shawn Howard on the Alberta team, Maria Rajic (former Conservative party regional spokesperson) on the Media Team, Naheed Nenshi (Calgary Mayor) and Chima Nkemdirim (mayor’s Chief of Staff) on Team Quebec. I was on the federal team as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The most thrilling part of the class, however, was that Mr Lougheed moderated the conference and as a member of the federal team I got to sit right next to him during the round on aboriginal issues. I remember he even complimented me on securing some small agreement in the talks.

Though I did not agree with all the decisions Mr Lougheed made over his entire tenure as Premier, to this day I admire his strength in standing up for Alberta’s interests during the NEP, his foresight in setting up the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and his belief that government should not be above the people, that the people should be above the government. I think it is fair to say  these are things that Wildrosers, at least, still feel very strongly about.

You may also know if you ever attended one of my town halls over the past three years, not only do I talk a lot about Margaret Thatcher :), but I have also often credited Mr Lougheed for creating a roadmap to follow for building a new party into a force to be reckoned with, as he did with the Progressive Conservatives when he won the leadership in 1965. 1) Establish all your constituencies. 2) Build a team. 3) Don’t just oppose – propose your own solutions to solving the problems of the day. Lougheed’s first election in 1967 brought him 26% of the vote and 6 seats; the most recent election brought the Wildrose 34% of the vote and 17 seats. He may not have intended it, and I’m sure he did not, but he ended up providing the spark for two conservative parties in Alberta.

May he rest in peace.

Expenses: None to report.