EDMONTON, Alberta – Peter Lougheed, who as Alberta’s premier turned the province into an oil-powered modern giant and an equal player in Canada’s confederation, has died at age 84, family members said.
His family said Lougheed, who served as premier from 1971 to 1985, died Thursday of natural causes.
“Today Canada lost a truly great man. Peter Lougheed was quite simply one of the most remarkable Canadians of his generation,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
Lougheed took the reins of the fledgling Progressive Conservatives in 1965 and within six years had built a party that rejected a decades-old Social Credit dynasty and launched one of his own that continues to this day.
As oil prices rose dramatically in the 1970s, Lougheed became a provincial folk hero and a nationally recognized figure for his epic battles with Ottawa over control of Alberta’s black gold.
He kick-started petroleum diversification by nurturing oil sands development that now sprawls throughout northern Alberta, has brought the province billions of dollars, and made it the economic driver of the country.
Lougheed created a multibillion-dollar nest egg Heritage Savings Trust Fund as oil revenue began to pour in, and championed medical research.