How Peter Lougheed Became a Political “Giant”: In his own words

The internet was flooded with expressions of sympathy upon the passing of Peter Lougheed.   One of the most eloquent was a Twitter post by Justin Trudeau.  In 25 simple words he captured how we all felt:  “It is with tremendous sadness that we bid adieu to a giant of Canadian politics.  Peter Lougheed was a man of vision, integrity, and heart”.

How does a man (or a woman for that matter) become a “giant” in the political arena?

Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda, discovered the answer in a recent interview with Mr Lougheed.  The former premier had just been named the best premier in 40 years.* The list of top 5 premiers included:  Robert Bourassa (Lib) Quebec, Frank McKenna (Lib) New Brunswick, Allan Blakeney (NDP) Saskatchewan, Bill Davis (PC) Ont and, in the #1 spot, our very own Mr Lougheed.  Mr Paikin asked Mr Lougheed to name the quality that he and the other 4 premiers shared that placed them in the upper echelon of political leadership.

Mr Lougheed’s response may surprise you–not for what he said, but what he didn’t say.

What Mr Lougheed said was this:  he attributed his success to the ability to listen—to listen to the people in his office, the media, his party and the general public.  This indicates an open mind and a quest for information from all quarters, even the media.  Mr Lougheed said that after every interview he would ask himself what the reporter asked that surprised him.  Seeking input from unexpected sources helped Mr Lougheed understand the environment in which political decisions were being made.

What Mr Lougheed didn’t say but alluded to was this:  he understood that politicians, notwithstanding their political differences, could still respect each other on a personal level and that this respect would help them resolve their differences when they hit those inevitable bumps in the road.

Mr Lougheed’s willingness to see the person not just the politician served him well in his relationship with Bill Davis (the former Ontario premier who made it to second place on the best premiers list).  Mr Lougheed acknowledged that they had strong political differences but shared a love for football that led them to slip out of first ministers’ meetings like errant schoolboys to catch Monday Night Football.

Indeed, in discussing Mr Trudeau, the one politician you’d expect Mr Lougheed to view as an arch enemy, Mr Lougheed said “Mr Trudeau and I tangled very much” over the Canadian Constitution and federal/provincial financing arrangements, but “got along well” on a personal level.

Mr Lougheed became a giant in the world of politics because he listened to all who came within his orbit and was willing to set aside political posturing in the interests of public service.

No one described this quality better than Joe Clark who said: “Albertans and Canadians have a lot to learn from the way Peter Lougheed saw and served and enriched his country.  If more politicians developed this level of humility, the world would be a better place”.

*The 30 member Policy Options panel of the Institute for Research in Public Policy put Mr Lougheed in the top five and 21 of the 30 placed him at #1.

**Globe&Mail Online, Sept 14, 2012

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6 Responses to How Peter Lougheed Became a Political “Giant”: In his own words

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    Interesting to me that so many people recognize what this great man was but are still way more in love with their wallets and egos and instead of working for the future of our great province and country, continue their dirty poltical game and slowly destroy our prosperity our trust for government and our hopes as a country.

    It is indeed the end of an era that will not return. We now have to be on guard to protect ourselves from the idiocracy that is now in power. The condolences are not just to the Lougheed family but to all of us.

  2. roy wright says:

    I had read somewhere in the past few days that Peter Lougheed was a community person at heart, among all of the other tributes that were offered in his memory. It made me realize that when he spoke or offered an opinion, I believed him as he was truly offering his ideas as to what was best for the community, not representing a special interest group nor furthering some personal agendas (if indeed he had any) and I never tried to second guess what prompted his responses.

    I thought about how we can try to continue some of the legacy that Mr. Lougheed has given us. Many of us will not or do not aspire to political office, but I think we can still make a small difference in our communities by contributing, not for ourselves, but truly contributing for the community. Mayor Nenshi suggested we try to do three things for our community. It might not be a lot, and it likely will not match what Mr. Lougheed was able to contribute, but I am confident it will make us think about community, about how to aspire to a broader vision, and to think like a community person, just like Mr. Lougheed. That is the best recognition I can think of for a true leader.

    • I agree Roy. We can’t all be inspirational politicians like Mr Lougheed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part. Your suggestion that we start small with a selfless act of contribution is a good one. If we can bring our communities together we will be able to deal more effectively with whatever hardships the members of our community (including ourselves) experience.

  3. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    I am running a bit behind in reading your latest blog but now that I have, it answers a question I have been asking myself all week: “Why is everyone I am working with so focused on the negative?” Starting Monday I listened to people complain about problems instead trying to find answers to problems. During this same time period I was attempted to donate a full livingroom set to charity, any charity, as it is in good shape and I wanted someone who needed to have it. By Friday I discovered it was near impossible as every charity I spoke with no longer had funding available to provide pick up of large furniture items.

    On the other hand, I could call my municipality and arrange for pick up of this large piece of furniture to be taken to the dump. The municipality would pick up 2 large pieces, per year, for disposal. Does this make sense? There is government money available to have it thrown away but not to be donated.

    Like both you and Roy mentioned not all of us are suited to be in the political arena but we can do something for our community. I decided that for $19.99, and .49 cents a km, Budget would rent me a truck big enough to haul my donation to Big Brother who was more than willing to see that a family got it. Small steps count.

  4. Rose Marie, I love your comment! It demonstrates that plain old fashioned common sense will triumph over bureaucracy every time. It’s people like you who keep the social safety net strong while those who are being PAID to act in the public interest can’t get their act together. Good on you!

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