Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Edgar Peter Lougheed was born in Calgary on July 26, 1928, he was the grandson of Sir James Lougheed, one of the dominant legal, political, and business figures in early Alberta history. Lougheed earned a bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws from the University of Alberta and master of business administration from Harvard University. Returning to Calgary in 1954, he spent the next eleven years in a successful combination of corporate and private legal practice. In 1965 he turned to politics, assuming the leadership of the moribund Progressive Conservative Party. Lougheed served as premier of Alberta from 1971 until his retirement in 1985.

By the late 1960s postwar oil and gas wealth had created a "new" Alberta. Appealing to this Alberta with the simple slogan "Now," Lougheed and the Progressive Conservatives swept into power in 1971, ending Social Credit's dynasty. While expenditures on traditional responsibilities soared, his government focused much of its attention on joint public–private sector "megaprojects" such as the Athabaska tar sands development. Another landmark initiative, the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund, targeted its oil-derived revenues for both the enrichment of the province's social and cultural fabric and the diversification of its boom-andbust resource economy.

Disagreements with the federal government over energy resource pricing and taxation simmered throughout the 1970s as Alberta boomed, finally boiling over in 1980 with the National Energy Program (NEP). Lougheed denounced the nep as an economic and constitutional declaration of war on Alberta. Two years later Alberta's economy and provincial revenues had crashed, but Lougheed won a third landslide reelection by blaming Ottawa while deftly downplaying the role of sliding world oil prices and his own administration's excessively ambitious spending. Although initially dismissed by most non-Albertans as a "blue-eyed sheik" selfishly hoarding the province's windfall resource wealth, his steadfast opposition to both Quebec separatism and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's centralizing constitutional vision gradually won him respect.

Lougheed's legacy was a period of remarkable social and economic development that gave Albertans an unprecedented sense of self-confidence and in the process compelled other Canadians to acknowledge Alberta's growing importance in national affairs.

See also INDUSTRY: Petroleum, Canada / LAW: Lougheed, James.

Patrick H. Brennan University of Calgary

Hustak, Alan. Peter Lougheed: A Biography. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1979.

Wood, David. The Lougheed Legacy. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1985.

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