On this day in 1971, Alberta woke up to an unexpected PC government that turned out to be a dynasty

Posted on August 31, 2015, 3:28 pm
5 mins

PHOTOS: Peter Lougheed addresses his supporters immediately after winning the 1971 Alberta election. Below: The front page of the Calgary Herald, 44 years ago today. Readers with eagle eyes will notice that the lead story carries the byline of Kevin Peterson. Mr. Peterson went on to be managing editor, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Calgary Herald. Journalists don’t get to be publishers any more, although everyone in the business blames the Internet for the decline of newspapers. Hmmmmm…

In 1971, today was the day that turned out to be the first day of most of the rest of our lives. After a spell, some of us may have come to the conclusion it would be the rest of our lives.

Lougheed-Calgary-HeraldSo give a thought, dear readers, to the Progressive Conservative Dynasty “founded” by Peter Lougheed on the evening of Monday, Aug. 30, 1971, leaving tout le monde political Alberta to wake up on the 31st to the revelation that 36 years of Social Credit rule had unexpectedly come to a screeching halt, the victim of voter fatigue and an imprudently called snap election.

Sic transit gloria mundi, the PC mighty dynasty too has now passed, not only from political power, but apparently from our collective memory as well!

Leastways, focused as they are on lambasting the NDP government elected on May 5 of this year for its many sins, a few real but most imagined, no one in the mainstream media seems to have remembered that this weekend marked the first anniversary of that momentous 1971 election since the PCs themselves passed from power.

One imagines that if the Tories had been re-elected on May 5 – as apparently everyone expected, especially the former insiders now whining in the Edmonton Sun that the NDP hasn’t hired enough political staffers to cater to their every whim – the media wouldn’t have failed to mark the occasion.

“IT IS ‘NOW’ FOR LOUGHEED,” headlined the Calgary Herald, the new premier-elect’s hometown newspaper, on this day in 1971. “36-year Socred reign is over … Stunning Alberta upset puts PCs in power.”

And it was a stunning upset. Mr. Lougheed’s inexperienced and fresh-faced caucus captured 49 of the 75 seats in the Legislature. They took every seat in Edmonton, and all but five in Calgary, leaving the Social Credit Party led by Harry Strom as a diminishing rural rump. Mr. Lougheed was sworn in as premier on Sept. 10.

Alert readers with sharp eyes will note that that the lead story on the Herald, pictured above, carried the byline of Kevin Peterson. Mr. Peterson went on to be managing editor, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Calgary Herald. Journalists don’t often get to be publishers any more, as nowadays that’s usually someone from the advertising department or a bright spark with an MBA. The conventional wisdom in the news business is that the Internet is the proximate cause of the decline of newspapers. I’m not so sure. See “forgotten anniversaries,” above.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Political dynasties come and go, and some are more dynastic than others. This is the way of the world. We are fortunate in Canada to have a political system where these necessary cycles of renewal can be accomplished without blood being shed.

Notwithstanding what happened on May 5 this year, no one can deny that Mr. Lougheed’s political victory in 1971 resulted in a long and successful run for his PCs that, for the first 14 years at least, delivered pretty good government to Albertans. After that, the party succumbed to the same flaws that led to the demise of Social Credit.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

8 Comments to: On this day in 1971, Alberta woke up to an unexpected PC government that turned out to be a dynasty

  1. ronmac

    August 31st, 2015

    Maybe those 1971 PC’s are still with us, except under a different brand name.

    What do I mean? Just this.

    The 1971 Peter Lougheed, you could say, was almost NDP-ish, in his outlook, compared to the PC brand on sale today. And the NDP aren’t the same firebrands of yesteryear, moving to the mushy middle.

    So the electoral victory of Rachely Notely last May in reality was the remergence of a vintage PC brand, circa 1971. IMHO.

    Reply
  2. Elke Babiuk

    August 31st, 2015

    I loved Peter Lougheed. He was the very first Provincial Premier whom I voted for after just graduating high school the year before. I stuck with the PCs through thick and thin until I couldn’t any more because they had moved way too far right. I finally shifted left just last year and am now a progressive. I love it and haven’t looked back.

    After living in Alberta for 58 years, I moved away just before the vote but my heart was with Rachel Notley. I do hope that Albertans will give her a chance and stop the blame game. She is a breath of fresh air compared to the PCs which had not been Progressive since before Klein.

    Reply
  3. Jim Clarke

    August 31st, 2015

    Now, I’m an Ontarian (though with Albertan grandparents), and in 1971 I was out of the country and only 23 anyway, so not exactly a political whiz; but it seemed to me by 1968 or 1969 that the Socreds were pretty clearly In decline and that the PCs were on the way in. Am I misremembering?

    No, really, that’s a serious question. Were Albertans surprised Lougheed won?

    Reply
  4. Sam Gunsch

    September 1st, 2015

    Lougheed’s politics would be attacked by WRP today.

    http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/13/alberta-lucky-to-have-lougheed

    A year after taking office, Lougheed set his sights on the taxpayers’ share of Alberta’s energy revenues, picking a fight with the industry many insiders now consider unthinkable today.

    Public hearings were held, where industry officials railed at the notion of granting owners of the resource — Albertans — higher energy royalties.

    “I think of all the flak and abuse from all of the corporate suits — they were as totally wrong as they could possibly be,” says Warrack, adding Albertans soon received far more of the corporate profits than they’d been accustomed.

    “We essentially doubled it from 17% — when you achieve economic justice for the owners, they you have the capacity to do other things that cry out like the medical and mental health fields,” said Warrack.

    Those tumultuous energy royalty hearings, recalls Ghitter, were also something that’s since become alien to Albertans.

    “I don’t think there’s been a public hearing since … the oil industry continues to do very well,” he says.

    He, too, recalls the industry push-back.

    “They called him sheikh and red Tory, the last one I’d wear proudly as a badge,” says Ghitter.

    Reply
  5. Sam Gunsch

    September 1st, 2015

    re: what might be the WRP/B. Jean/D. Fildebrandt target share of non-renewable resource revenue?

    What do they think is the owner’s fair share?
    What are the citizens permitted to ask for?

    Does WRP want Lougheed average share of revenue from Albertan’s non-renewable resources?
    27%
    Or Redford level? 9.1%
    Or Klein level? 15.2 %
    Or Socred? 17.8%

    http://www.anielski.com/alberta-continues-to-have-a-revenue-problem/

    excerpt: ‘During Lougheed’s tenure (1971-1985) an average of 27.0% of the value of oil and gas was collected in royalties when oil averaged US$20.52 per barrel. The year 1977 was the peak in royalty collections reaching 37.7% of the value of oil and gas production at a time when oil was trading at US$14 per barrel. During Ralph Klein’s tenure (1992-2006) an average 15.2% of the value of production was collected in net royalties when oil prices averaged US$25.52 per barrel.

    excerpt: This week’s budget was disappointing because Prentice missed an important opportunity to open a new chapter in Alberta’s economic future by being as bold as Peter Lougheed was in the 1970s when he brought in a oil and gas royalty regime that collected a fair share of industry revenues while at the same time saving 30% of more of those revenues in Alberta’s Heritage Savings Fund.

    excerpt: During the Socred era (1962-1971) Alberta collected an average of 17.8% of the value of oil and gas produced when oil prices averaged $3.15 per barrel. During Lougheed’s tenure (1971-1985) an average of 27.0% of the value of oil and gas was collected in royalties when oil averaged US$20.52 per barrel. The year 1977 was the peak in royalty collections reaching 37.7% of the value of oil and gas production at a time when oil was trading at US$14 per barrel.

    During Ralph Klein’s tenure (1992-2006) an average 15.2% of the value of production was collected in net royalties when oil prices averaged US$25.52 per barrel.

    Under Premier Alison Redford the lowest royalty return on oil and gas produced in Alberta’s history was reached in 2012 with a mere 9.1% of the value of Alberta’s oil and gas sales collected. This was at a time when oil was trading at record highs of US$92 per barrel and the total value of oil and gas production was $83.6 billion. The numbers aren’t available yet for 2014 but they are likely to be at or below a 10% capture rate. Estimated net royalties collected by the Alberta Government for 2014 are forecast to be $9.6 billion collected with an estimated 2.6 million barrels per day (972.7 million barrels) of conventional and bitumen (oilsands) production.

    By contrast Norway in 2012 collected US$68 billion in royalties and other taxes or 72.4% of the total of Norway’s oil and gas sales of US$94.2 billion. The majority of these revenues were in turn invested in Norway’s Government Pension Fund that in 2014 was estimated at US$857 billion). In contrast Alberta’s Heritage Fund, which was founded by Lougheed in the late 1970s, many years before Norway’s fund, was worth only $17.4 billion in 2014.

    Reply
  6. bob

    September 1st, 2015

    Shame on us for voting out such great leadership who are responsible for the prosperity in this province. The NDP ruin it every day.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      September 1st, 2015

      No. Shame on you for not noticing the last great PC leader was Lougheed 1971-1985. After his tenure it was one PC loser after another. BTW who is the current PC loser leader?

      Reply

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