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© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
18 Jul 2002

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Peter Lougheed

Premier of Alberta 1971-1985

Many thanks to AFHS member and volunteer, Heather Jaremko, who provided the typescript of this page and obtained the permission of the Calgary Herald to reprint this work in the AFHS website. This work is based on reports in the Calgary Herald between 1929 and 1939.

We will be pleased to hear from anyone who descends from Peter Lougheed and can fill us in on the family history of this Alberta leader. Please contact the AFHS to start this dialogue

On Saturday March 20, 1965 Peter Lougheed started what will probably be Alberta's longest election campaign.

It began immediately following his election as leader of the conservative party, and "it's not going to stop", says the determined 36 year-old grandson of the late Sir James Lougheed, Alberta's first conservative federal cabinet minister.

Mr. Lougheed, a Calgary lawyer, won the leadership in a two-way battle with another Calgary lawyer, Duncan McKillop, at the leadership convention in Edmonton March 20. Mr. Lougheed has his eye on at least the opposition leader's spot in the Legislature after the 1967 provincial election, but knows there is a lot of work ahead of him if the conservatives are to be successful. As reported in the Calgary Herald March 22, 1965.

"I have no illusions. It's a long tough road." "Things are beginning to stir, to happen in this province", says Lougheed. "The voters are ready to make a move."

In 1971 came one of the political upheavals that Alberta voters produce once every 5 decades. The conservatives, under Peter Lougheed, won the provincial election after 36 years, in power, always with safe majorities. Social Credit had finally been defeated.

The conservatives left the socreds with only 25 seats as their upset paved the way for Alberta's first Tory government.

Edmonton and Calgary voters swept Lougheed to victory. The Tories captured all 16 seats in Edmonton and 9 of 13 in Calgary.

In their wake they left 8 defeated cabinet ministers so they gained 24 seated for Social Credit and 8 of 10 new seats created by redistribution. While the Tories were most impressive in the 2 big cities, they grabbed the majority in Alberta's small cities and defeated the Socreds in central and northern Alberta.

The only area which stayed Socred was southern Alberta below Calgary, where the new government failed to win a seat.

The conservatives leaned on 3 catchy themes to pull off the upset: "Time for a change," "People before party", and simply "Now!"

Mr. Lougheed's victory immediately caused speculation that the premier-elect may have to resist a draft from the national conservative party when it chooses a successor to Robert Stanfield.

Despite a heavy emphasis on the leader's face and personality in province-wide advertising, Mr. Lougheed contended it was the "door-to-door" and farmyard-to-farmyard" work of his candidates that made the difference in the election.

However, just as radio carried William Aberhart to the first Social Credit victory in 1935, television was probably the biggest factor in Mr. Lougheed's ending the Socred skein of victories at nine. As reported in the Calgary Herald August 31, 1971.

At that time, the province was comfortably prosperous, but not spectacularly so. Oil was selling at about $4.00 a barrel, a figure that didn't produce huge royalties for the provincial government. Then the world price of oil began to rise, under pressure from OPEC, the cartel of major producing countries. After 8 years of bitter wrangling between Alberta and Ottawa, a long-term agreement was finally reached in 1981. During that time, the price of Alberta oil increased about 5-fold, but it still lagged far behind the world figure set by OPEC. The Alberta Heritage Trust Fund was started. This fund is one aspect of Lougheed's strategy: get as much money as possible to help build a more diversified economy. The 80s will be the testing time for this campaign.