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If Alberta's Tories loved Peter Lougheed so much, why do they have so little to say about him?

Linda Duncan

We have 28 federal electoral districts in Alberta of which 27 elected members of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Of those 27 Conservative MPs, one has since been kicked out of caucus for refusing to blow into a Breathalyzer and now sits as an independent Conservative. One has quit and not yet been replaced. The 28th is a New Democrat.

So how many Alberta Members of Parliament, do you think, paid tribute to former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed in the House of Commons when Parliament resumed sitting four days after Lougheed's death in Calgary at 84?

The answer would be "only one."

And who was that sole Alberta Member of Parliament who did make a tribute to Lougheed in the House of Commons? Why, that would be Linda Duncan, Alberta’s sole New Democrat MP, representative for Edmonton-Strathcona.

Indeed, only two MPs had anything nice to say about Lougheed in Parliament when it resumed sitting after his passing, and the other was a Liberal from Saskatchewan -- former cabinet minister and deputy leader Ralph Goodale.

I raise this only because of the instinctively critical reaction of a few people in Alberta Tory circles to recent suggestions by some New Democrats that today's Alberta NDP has more in common with the program of Lougheed when he was premier from 1971 to 1985 than does the party whose long spell in power began under his leadership.

Actually, even on this point the Tory response has been pretty muted -- except for a few Twitterers who obviously haven't been paying adequate attention to the Tory Trollfeed. After all, the governments of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Alison Redford, who claim to wear the mantle of the former premier, would have trouble claiming in a serious debate that their market fundamentalism looks much like any policy Lougheed would have adopted, or that current NDP policies wouldn't have mostly made sense to Alberta Conservatives circa 1971.

It's said here the Conservative braintrust must recognize that it could get a little embarrassing for today's Conservatives to try to make a serious case they ought to be called the party of Peter Lougheed -- and not the party of Ralph Klein!

Lougheed, Duncan told the House of Commons during the 15 minutes before Question Period during which MPs may comment on whatever they wish, was "a formidable advocate for establishing provincial control of natural resources and for establishing a stronger place for Alberta in the federation."

"Yet he contributed so much more on other fronts," she went on. "He created the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, investing resource royalties towards health care and medical research. He established the first Alberta Ministry of Culture and set aside protected areas, notably Kananaskis Country. He enacted the Alberta Bill of Rights and contributed to the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights. Recently, he raised concerns with the fast pace of development of the oilsands and called for greater attention to the environment. In his own words, Peter Lougheed was a Canadian first, an Albertan second and a political partisan third. He left a lasting legacy benefiting not only Albertans but all Canadians. We would do well to build on his legacy and his recent sage advice. …"

Since Monday was the first day after Lougheed's death that our MPs got together, it seems unlikely Duncan's remarks were meant as a cynical or overtly political gesture. As Opposition environment critic, however, she could hardly be blamed for mentioning Lougheed's recent words of caution about the pace of oil sands development. That reference, along with the one about the Charter of Rights, must have made Harper and his spear-carriers grind their teeth -- although possibly not nearly as much as when Lougheed said it.

No doubt Duncan expected to hear similar remarks from the some of her 25 Conservative fellow Parliamentarians. If so, she was disappointed.

Instead, from them, there was little but silence on the topic. From all the Conservative MPS in the House, according to Postmedia News, one said she was changing her name, one lauded an Olympic athlete, one said the government wants to restore the planet's ozone layer and three told the same pathetic lie about the NDP's tax policies.

Of course, you may say, Conservative politicians had their chance to make their remarks at Lougheed's public memorial service in Calgary or in the media.

This is true enough. Mind you, Prime Minister Harper spent almost as much time on that occasion attacking the legacy of Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau, even if he didn't name the man, as he did praising Lougheed.

Those few in the ranks who mentioned him at all, like the redoubtable Parliamentary blogger Brent Rathgeber, passed pretty lightly over Lougheed's real accomplishments -- for the obvious reason, I am sure, that they don't show the current crop of Conservative legislators at either level of government in a very good light.

Still, Rathgeber's blog -- posted eight days after Duncan's tribute in the House -- made one good point: "As a lasting legacy, modern politicians should study his style and replicate his methods. It would improve our democracy."

Agreed. Although it wouldn't hurt to adopt some of his policies too!

Twenty-five Conservative MPs from this province, and not one of them had anything to say in Parliament about Peter Lougheed! Their silence speaks for itself!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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