Peter Lougheed, defender of Alberta's interests, dies

Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:08am EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Peter Lougheed, the Alberta leader who battled the Canadian federal government's encroachment into the energy industry in the 1970s and 1980s and later became a cautionary voice against unchecked oil sands development, died late Thursday. He was 84.

Lougheed, Progressive Conservative premier of Canada's biggest oil-producing province from 1971 to 1985, was hailed as both a staunch defender of Alberta's interests and patriotic Canadian, best known for butting heads with former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau over energy policy during the era's energy crises.

In a statement, Lougheed's family said he died of natural causes in the Calgary hospital that was named after him. Tributes poured in from across the country.

"He was a driving force behind the province's economic diversification, of it having more control of its natural resources and their development, of Alberta playing a greater role in the federation and of improving the province's health, research and recreational facilities," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

One of his most notable creations was the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, a rainy-day kitty of money extracted from energy revenues that is now valued at C$15.9 billion ($16.4 billion).

Lougheed, a lawyer and MBA who played professional football as a young man, led his Progressive Conservatives to victory in 1971, presenting his team as a young and modern alternative to the long-governing Social Credit Party. His party has been in power ever since in the province of 3.5 million people.

He gained national stature as Trudeau's Liberals sought greater benefits across the country from Alberta's booming energy industry as oil prices surged, marking the start of an East-West political divide that still simmers.

Controversy crescendoed in 1980 following the second global oil shock, when Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program, which regulated oil prices, imposed greater revenue sharing between Alberta and the rest of the country, levied new taxes and promoted more Canadian ownership of the energy industry.   Continued...