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September 24, 2012 - No. 119

The Lougheed Legacy

Death of Peter Lougheed Used as an Occasion to Uphold Monopoly Right

Albertans oppose labour laws introduced in the Lougheed Era, 1986 and 2007. 

The Lougheed Legacy
Death of Peter Lougheed Used as an Occasion to Uphold Monopoly Right
A New Direction for the Economy - Peggy Askin
"Thinking Like an Owner" - Rita Soto
Peter Lougheed and the Constitutional Crisis - Peggy Morton

From TML Daily, May 11, 2012: The Myth of Alberta's "Camelot"
Ruling Circles Proclaim Peter Lougheed All-Time Best Salesman for the Monopolies - Dougal MacDonald

The Lougheed Legacy

Death of Peter Lougheed Used as an Occasion to Uphold Monopoly Right

On September 13, 2012, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed died of natural causes in Calgary, Alberta. He was Premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985, a period which saw rapid expansion of the Alberta economy, in particular with the expansion of the oil industry in Alberta. Lougheed was Premier during the implementation of Trudeau's National Energy Policy and the "patriation" of the Constitution in 1982.

Following his death, the ruling elite at both the provincial and national level, their media, government spokespersons and pundits of all sorts have bombarded the airwaves with self-serving accounts of what Lougheed accomplished and what he represented.

At his public memorial service on September 21, Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the occasion of Lougheed's passing to present his vision of the state as a salesman for the monopolies as the only possible vision for society. He described Lougheed as a great statesman, who used his "mandate" from Albertans to "create unprecedented economic growth and to develop and diversify industry... And to use the wealth so generated to reward investors and entrepreneurs, to provide well-paying jobs for working families, to put large amounts of money in trust for future generations and to build modern infrastructure and social services for communities and, especially, for those most deeply in need, in short to create an era of shared prosperity, one that echoes in Alberta to this day four decades after he first came to office."

In other words, the role of government is to serve the monopolies who it is claimed create the wealth and are responsible for economic prosperity. It is the workers themselves who create the wealth. The destruction of manufacturing in Canada and nation-wrecking of recent years has clearly illustrated that the monopolies are not interested in "providing well-paying jobs for working families," but in making maximum profit at any cost to society.

What "shared prosperity" exists for the First Nations whose right to basic human necessities such as clean drinking water is not even recognized? What shared prosperity exists when public funds are used to enrich the owners of private health care facilities. What does it mean to have "shared prosperity" while the use of temporary foreign workers continues to expand as a means of lowering the standard of living of all workers?

Harper also used the occasion of Lougheed's passing to make a number of significant statements on the constitutional arrangements he is putting into place. Referring to Lougheed's conflict with the federal government during the time of the National Energy Policy, which he describes as "one of the greatest intrusions into provincial jurisdiction ever contemplated by a federal government," Harper stated: "He asserted that the prosperity of some industries was a good thing for all and that the success of any province would mean a stronger Canada."

With these words, Harper declares that the rapid expansion and exploitation of natural resources to enrich the oil cartels which are merged with finance capital is in the national interest. In fact, the government refuses to recognize any interest other than that of the monopolies. To think otherwise is portrayed as opposing Canada's national interest.

The workers of Canada must be vigilant at this time. Why is Lougheed being called a visionary statesman? What agenda is served by this?

In this issue, TML is publishing material on the Lougheed Legacy for purposes of contributing to the discussion on the significance of unfolding events. Included is an article which originally appeared in TML on May 11, 2012, after Peter Lougheed was proclaimed the "greatest Premier in the history of Canada" by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy.

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A New Direction for the Economy

Broad opposition exists in Alberta to the direction in which the monopolies are taking the economy with more and more emphasis on shipping raw resources. This is expressed in the demands to refine it where we mine it, and to stop shipping jobs down the pipeline. Now that Peter Lougheed has died, it is suggested that this was his stand -- that shipping raw resources was short-sighted and ill-advised. Because Lougheed advocated economic diversification and development of a petrochemical industry during his time in office, some call him a visionary and suggest his stands from the past champion our interests today.

However, this is not the case. The stand in favour of diversification increased the stranglehold of finance capital over Canada as borrowing was used to develop the diversified economy. Towards this aim, Lougheed also strongly advocated for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which ushered in the neo-liberal phase of state monopoly capitalism and the end of the social contract established in the post-war period. Today the final touches are being put on these arrangements at a very rapid rate based on providing the most powerful monopolies with everything they need to be internationally competitive in the global market.

Lougheed's support for free trade and his stand on shipping raw resources may seem to be at odds, but a closer look at Lougheed's policies shows that he was in fact the first leading politician in Canada to present his role as that of a salesman for the monopolies. When he spoke of diversification, upgrading and development of industry locally, there was never for a moment a thought that such decisions were not best left to the owners of capital themselves. What Lougheed advocated was an enhanced role for government in pay-the-rich schemes where public funds were handed to private interests. Today this is expressed by the Redford government as making sure that the monopolies in Alberta are completely "free" to pursue their own narrow interest at the expense of the public good. Another aspect of these "pay-the-rich" schemes was the royalty arrangements made with Syncrude whereby no royalties were paid until the company had declared a profit. This was done in the name of "sharing the risk" and the arrangements have since been refined so that all risk to the owners of capital is eliminated and no royalties are paid until after the oilsands monopolies have claimed a fixed level of return on their investment. Not only does the state actually assume the risk, but the state treasury is also plundered to provide infrastructure, research and so on. Such arrangements show that in fact royalties do not represent payment for the public resources which they acquire.

It is an affront to the dignity of oil workers and all the hard working people of Alberta that the state should take such care of the rich while declaring that the standard of living of the workers is too high and must be brought down and that social programs are unsustainable. It is an affront to the First Nations and Métis on whose ancestral lands the oil sands are located, whose rights are trampled and who are fighting to develop their own economic base.

Canadians are more and more convinced that the sale of natural resources must be tied to a strict ratio of investments in regional and national basic industries, manufacturing and social programs, as can be seen in the widespread opposition to Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway pipelines.

The praise for Lougheed as a visionary, great statesman, great Canadian and defender of the people of Alberta which gushes from the political pundits like an oilwell is a huge diversion from the challenge facing the workers at this time. What is needed is the political movement to bring these huge and powerful monopolies under control and restrict their power and authority. Only the working class is capable of taking up this call of history.

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"Thinking Like an Owner"

One of the achievements attributed to Peter Lougheed is that he raised royalty rates and in this way stood with the people of Alberta against the global oil interests. It is said that Lougheed encouraged Albertans to "think like owners." If this is the case, then the logical question would be: what did this "thinking" give rise to? Did Lougheed contribute to establishing new arrangements to empower the First Nations and Métis, Albertans and Canadians to actually affirm public good and exercise control over the natural resources. The answer is a resounding No! What then does it mean to "think like an owner" when all the decision-making power remains in the hands of private interests, and when these private interests are the most powerful oil cartels merged with the biggest banks and other corporations.

The anti-social concept of turning public control of natural resources over to private interests uses royalty payments as a neo-liberal buffer to deflect public outrage and opposition to the sell out of a public natural resource. Royalties per barrel of oil or stumpage fees per trees cut create an illusion that the public is gaining something from their natural resource and that private interests are paying a form of economic rent. This plays on the Canadian liberal conscience of fairness to sell-out the people's natural resources, which are often located on unceded Aboriginal First Nations' land. Without challenging and rendering accounts with our liberal conscience, Canadians are reduced to arguing about the amount of the royalty but not the basic principle that natural resources belong in their entirety to the people and must serve the public good. It is a matter of affirming public right not bargaining right away in the name of fairness and the reasonable accommodation of contending interests.

The human-centred concept of natural resources has never held importance in official Canada. Such a concept upholds as principle that natural resources are public and must remain public under all circumstances and that all benefits from transforming natural resources into usable products must flow to the public. Under such a principle, private interests could only be involved as paid contractors for actual work performed or as investors at a set return. Private interests should never control the social product itself such as oil, timber, natural gas, nickel, gold, uranium etc. much less their wholesale distribution and price. Natural resources are part of the foundation of modern life and society, the other being the human factor. The human factor has mostly been freed from direct private ownership but the other pillar of life and society, our natural resources, languishes under private monopoly right and ownership. The human factor cannot blossom, move society forward and fully humanize the social and natural environments unless it becomes one seamless whole with the natural resources of Mother Earth free from the narrow interests of private monopoly right and ownership.

Royalties and Corporate Income Tax

While the illusion is maintained by the state that royalties provide a "return" to the owners of the resources, in fact royalties are a provincial corporate tax. Royalties in capital-centred accounting are falsely listed as costs of production and directly reduce a company's corporate income tax. Corporate and individual income taxes, federal fees and the GST are the federal government's main instruments in claiming realized added-value. The federal government returns a portion of this revenue to the provinces.

Royalties in particular reduce federal claims on realized added-value (by reducing corporate income tax) and are a source of friction among contending monopolies and the federal and provincial governments. Pooled government money from royalties and income and sales taxes are a crucial source of funding for monopolies in their direct operations and to build necessary infrastructure and defend their private empires from the people and competing empires. The fight over government revenue often boils down to certain monopolies having greater influence with a provincial or federal government or where the monopoly has most of its operations. Energy monopolies operate globally and play governments off against one another and try to embroil the people on their side in a fight over how government claims are made and distributed. All this fighting among the monopolies and their client states becomes a huge distraction for the working people taking them away from their own independent agenda and from the fundamental principle that added-value from natural resource extraction should go entirely to the people. Working people of course are also faced with fighting to have government controlled added-value invested into social programs and to support an all-sided self-reliant Canadian economy rather than used to pay the rich and participate in imperialist wars of aggression such as the occupation of Afghanistan, the war against Libya and the militarization of the Arctic.

Canadians have seen how the monopolies play off the provincial and federal governments against one another and how the old arrangements under the British North America Act are anachronistic and in need of renewal. An example is the bitter dispute with the Harper government over equalization payments and how to divide up government claims on oil and gas revenue from Saskatchewan and off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. More recently, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark used the occasion of the First Ministers Meeting to demand a share of the royalties as one condition for BC approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

All the politicians talk of "building the Canadian energy economy" and speak of Canada as an "energy superpower." What this means is the large-scale looting of energy, mineral and forest resources and export of the raw resources. Of course all of this is done in the name of jobs, prosperity and so on while Canada's manufacturing base, social programs and the living and working conditions of the workers are all being wrecked, the rights of the aboriginal peoples trampled, and the responsibility to care for Mother Earth treated with utter contempt by the owners of capital.

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Peter Lougheed and the Constitutional Crisis

Peter Lougheed's election in 1971 had everything to do with who could best do the job of salesman for the Alberta-based oil monopolies, a fact that provokes a sense of "déjà vu all over again" in light of the election of Redford amidst the difficulties of getting the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway Pipelines approved in the face of broad opposition. At the time of Lougheed's election, the Alberta oil patch felt the threat of the new Prudhoe Bay Alaska oil discovery and concerns that they would be shut out of the U.S. market. Lougheed was elected as their champion.

Following his election, a great deal changed with the "energy crisis" of the 1970s, but what remained constant was Lougheed's service to the oil and gas monopolies. Oil had long been plundered from the Middle East at extremely low prices. In 1974, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) began to raise the price of their oil. The imperialists declared an "energy crisis" and "shortage." This situation was used by the global oil cartels to greatly enrich themselves as the price of oil soared. The claim of a crisis which necessitated raising the domestic price of oil in Canada and massive pay-the-rich schemes was heightened when the Iranian people overthrew the Shah and dislodged the global oil cartels from their stranglehold on Iran's oil resources.

The battles which took place in the 1970s and culminated with the fight over Trudeau's National Energy Policy (NEP) revealed the depth of the constitutional crisis in Canada. Both the Trudeau government and the Lougheed government presented themselves as defenders of the highest ideals. The federal government led by the Trudeau Liberals spoke of greater energy self-sufficiency, conservation, nation-building and Canadianization. The PC government in Alberta led by Peter Lougheed presented itself as the defender of Alberta, evoking the image of a popular struggle of the workers and farmers of the west against the "eastern" banks, grain monopolies and railways.

In reality this was primarily a fight over who would get the largest share of the revenues. Each side presented this as a matter of defending the people while the control of billions of dollars to be handed over to the monopolies was at stake. For example the "energy crisis" provided the rationale for huge state subsidies to mega-projects such as Syncrude. The political/constitutional crisis over who would get what share of energy resource revenue also reflected the sharp contradictions between different monopoly groups and how they used control of the state to further their own interests, as is the case today.

The Trudeau government responded to the measures taken by OPEC by introducing a two-price system for crude oil and natural gas. The aim of the policy was to gradually raise domestic oil prices to world levels, while the export price was immediately raised to world price. In this way the oil multinationals were subsidized by the state for the difference between the domestic and the world oil price for the oil they imported. This allegedly shielded Canadians from high world oil prices, but in fact the people paid the price indirectly through the state subsidies to the monopolies.

Within this context, Peter Lougheed raised royalties to increase the share flowing to the Alberta government treasury and brought in the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund as a source of venture capital to be made available to the rich.

Albertans Protest Against Wage and Price Controls, 1976.
 (Alberta Labour History Institute) 

As workers fought to keep their purchasing power from collapsing, in the face of soaring inflation, the Trudeau regime instituted wage and price controls in 1975. This assisted the owners of capital to claim an ever larger share of the wealth created by the workers, whose real wages and share of the wealth they created was being eroded. Workers in Alberta played their role in the battle against the shifting of the burden of the crisis onto their backs and austerity measures. They stood not with "their" owners of capital but with workers from coast to coast in defending their interests.

A big part of the mythology surrounding Lougheed is that he defended Alberta against Trudeau's NEP. Ever since, the Alberta oil patch pundits have kept alive an infantile rendering of the causes and aggravating factors of the deep recession of the 1980s which they dust off and repeat ad nauseum whenever they are demanding even more favourable arrangements. The NEP was brought in on the verge of the recession of the early 1980s. The fact that this recession gripped the capitalist world is usually not even mentioned, much less that its cause was the profound crisis of the capitalist system itself. Nor is it mentioned that the skyrocketing price of gasoline and fuel exacerbated the crisis because it further impoverished the working people who had to pay higher prices not only for gasoline and fuel but for almost everything else as well.

The oil monopolists responded to the NEP by screaming bloody murder and threatening to pull up stakes and take their rigs elsewhere. But far from drawing the warranted conclusion that this blackmail shows the need to end the situation where the owners of capital exercise such dictate, it is used to paint the energy monopolies as victims.

When the era of the megaprojects ended with the recessions of the early 1980s, Brian Mulroney dismantled the NEP and, as part of initiating the anti-social offensive, began deregulation of oil and gas prices. When oil prices collapsed in the 1980s, then Alberta Premier Don Getty reduced royalty rates on oil and expanded the existing system of direct handouts to the energy monopolies to other sectors such as forestry. Those pay-the-rich schemes are estimated to have resulted in $19-billion directly handed to the oil, construction and forestry monopolies. This was in fact a continuation of Lougheed's policy, not a departure. The budget deficit which resulted from these handouts to the rich was then the pretext used by Ralph Klein to greatly step up the anti-social offensive and engage in all-out wrecking of social programs. Royalties were again revised downward in the Klein years. His successor Ed Stelmach's rather weak attempt to raise royalty rates as oil prices soared again provoked massive opposition from the oil monopolies, royalties were instead further slashed and Stelmach was forced to resign. Such is Lougheed's legacy.

Workers and their allies should discuss why historical figures like Peter Lougheed are being hailed not just as the defenders of Alberta but as great unifiers and Canadian statesmen while the contradictions with the Canadian federation continue to sharpen.

The 21st century is not an era of individual heroes but a time when history is calling on the workers and their allies to provide their own vision for democratic renewal and a renewed constitution that will vest the decision-making power in the people as a basis for a new nation-building project.

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From TML Daily, May 11, 2012: The Myth of Alberta's "Camelot"

Ruling Circles Proclaim Peter Lougheed
All-Time Best Salesman for the Monopolies

Huge rally at Alberta Legislature during 1980 provincial employees strike.
(Alberta Labour History Institute)

The recent outpouring of admiration for Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985, and the efforts to link current Premier Alison Redford to Lougheed and his "vision" for Alberta raises the question of what Lougheed stood for, and what is behind his promotion at this time.

With great fanfare, the monopoly media announced May 3 that a poll has concluded that "by a landslide" the "greatest" provincial premier in the history of Canada was Alberta's Peter Lougheed. Lougheed is hailed as the person who "built modern Alberta," totally ignoring the fact that it was the working class and people who built Alberta. The Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)[1] conducted the poll and based it on the opinions of a panel of thirty "eminent historians, political scientists, economists, journalists and policy advisors."[2] The panel rated the premiers on "nine leadership categories: vision for their province; ability to win elections; management of provincial finances; managing the economy; building infrastructure; communication skills; relations with fellow premiers; federal-provincial relations; and the extent of their legacy."

Since Lougheed resigned in 1985, the monopolies have proliferated a mythology that the Lougheed Era was a time of unprecedented prosperity when all the working people in Alberta were well looked after and lived great lives, some kind of wonderful "Camelot" that everyone should now aspire to return to. This myth is pushed even though this was the same era when, for example, the Alberta Labour Act was amended (1983) to eliminate the right to strike for firefighters and hospital employees, deny university faculty their right to join a union, impose compulsory arbitration, and require arbitrators to consider government policy, the employer's ability to pay and non-union wages. The amended Labour Act also allowed suspension of the collection of dues if employees participated in "illegal" strike action.

To further polish up the myth of the Lougheed Era, a contrast is drawn with the blatant slash and burn policies of the Klein Era, although during his time Klein was also promoted as a "man of the people." The main trick is that instead of clarifying how each provincial regime serves the needs of the energy monopolies by implementing particular policies at particular times in history, it is suggested that somehow Lougheed was an exception who fought for the interests of working people against the foreign oil monopolies. But Lougheed was just as much the champion of the monopolies as Redford, Klein, Manning or any other Alberta premier, and this is the real reason he is now being awarded a new "honour."

Lougheed took leadership of Alberta's moribund Progressive Conservative (PC) party in 1965 and led the PCs to their initial victory in Alberta in 1971, winning 49 seats to defeat and later destroy the 36-year Social Credit dynasty. He remained premier until 1985, beginning an unbroken period of Tory rule to the present day, and is still dusted off when it serves the monopolies. During the April 2012 Alberta provincial election, when polls and pundits were falsely heralding a Wildrose victory over the PCs, Lougheed promoted incumbent PC Premier Alison Redford in a CTV interview: "She's positive and she's a positive thinker, and she has an up-to-date view of the province." Redford will be the main speaker at Lougheed's June 6 award dinner in Calgary.

The Lougheed government's election in 1971 was not a victory for the people but mainly for the home-grown Alberta energy and other capitalists who wanted a larger share of the revenues from energy exploitation being siphoned off by the foreign-owned monopolies. The Manning Social Credit government heavily favoured foreign monopolies such as Exxon through state administrative structures like the Texas-inspired Alberta Oil and Gas Conservation Board which allocated exploration and development rights and regulated oil and gas production. The ideological climate of the Cold War smoothed the way for U.S. control of Alberta oil and gas, with the Manning regime invoking the "security" of the continent to justify pro-U.S. policies. One example is the special 1951 law enacted by the province, under pressure from the U.S Department of Defence, guaranteeing natural gas supplies to the Anaconda copper smelters in Butte, Montana.

Exxon/Imperial Oil's major oil strike at Leduc #1 in 1947 was a major turning point in the Alberta economy, shifting it dramatically from a dependence on agriculture to a dependence on oil and natural gas, which accounted for over half the new jobs created in Alberta in the 1960s. Unable to influence the Manning regime as much as they desired, homegrown Alberta capitalists such as Mannix, the Southerns of ATCO,[3] Bob Blair of the Alberta Gas Trunk Line, and Calgary oilmen such as the Seamans of Bow Valley Industries, manoeuvred Lougheed into power so as to gain more control over the state machine and use it to further their own goals. At that time, the state was serving two roles: to suppress the working class and people and to sort out the contradictions among the various sections of the ruling class.

One of Lougheed's first steps, once in power, was to replace the old Social Credit deputy ministers in the state machine with his own people. For example, he selected Alan "Chip" Collins, former president of Mannix subsidiary Manalta Coal, as his deputy treasurer. He then embarked on a major state-subsidized industrialization and diversification program, largely within the energy industry. The 1970s were years of major growth in the energy industry, which earned $18 in net income for every $100 earned in 1972 and $42 in 1980. Recorded increases in after-tax profits in 1979 and 1980 were 53.8 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively. Many fortunes were made from drilling and exploration, providing equipment and services for the oil patch, investing in start-up companies, and so on.

At the same time, Lougheed did not oppose Exxon and other foreign energy monopolies. For example, in 1974, his government established the state-owned Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA). Publicly-funded AOSTRA perfected the now widely-used in situ steam-assisted gravity drainage process (SAGD), an enhanced oil recovery technology for producing heavy oil and bitumen from the oil sands, then handed it over to Imperial Oil. Another example is the opening of Imperial Oil/Syncrude's oil sands project on September 15, 1978. To finance Syncrude's interests, Lougheed created the state-owned Alberta Energy Company in 1975, which paid for 80 per cent of the pipeline to ship Syncrude product from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, 50 per cent of the $100 million power facility required to fuel the Syncrude plant, and 20 per cent of the Syncrude plant itself. Alberta Energy was handed over to private interests in 2002, becoming natural gas producer Encana, which later spun off oil sands monopoly, Cenovus.

The Workers' Collective Memory

Rally organized by United Nurses of Alberta in 1980, during a strike caused by the Lougheed government.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta)

The workers' have a collective memory of the Lougheed years, and it is not of a "visionary" acting on behalf of all Albertans. During the Lougheed years, workers in Alberta fought tenaciously in defence of their rights against a government which had come to power to champion the interests of the Alberta-based owners of capital, particularly in the oil and gas sector. Lougheed was one of the first, if not the first premier in Canada to openly declare himself a salesman for the monopolies, declaring that the Alberta government was directly in the oil marketing business. His negotiations to secure the building of Syncrude included changes to the labour code, essentially written by the owners of capital who formed the Syncrude consortium, to champion monopoly right.

Syncrude insisted as a condition of the project that it would require a no-strike agreement with the construction unions building the plant. If a voluntary agreement could not be reached, Syncrude insisted that the government legislate amendments to the labour laws for special project status which would allow a specific site agreement with no-strike provisions. In the summer of 1974, on Syncrude's insistence, the government changed the labour code, providing the guarantee that Syncrude demanded as a condition of the project.

Nowhere in the legislation was there any guarantee that when a project was designated for a separate agreement, that it would be a union site. The intent and effect of the legislation was to ensure the unrestricted rights of the oil and construction monopolies to "labour peace" in the oil sands. This special project status legislation was used by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), to shut out the unions on the Horizon oil sands project site and sign an agreement with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).

The Lougheed years saw the government preside over unprecedented union-busting.

In 1984, the Contractors' Association locked out building trades across the province when their contracts expired. Twenty-four hours later they declared that the collective agreements were null and void, and unilaterally cut wages by 50 per cent and even more. The anti-worker labour laws to this day permit the contractors to establish as many paper companies as they like and force the unions to recertify what is really the same company over and over again. Work can simply be transferred from a unionized company to a non-union "spin-off." Many workers still remember this bitter period, both for its hardships and the courageous battles fought in defence of the rights of all. Building trades workers organized mass demonstrations at the Legislature, and carried out actions on construction sites. They were known as a force which stood as one with workers of every sector fighting for their rights. For example, in 1986 hundreds of out-of-work construction workers stood as one with the workers at Gainers, returning day after day for the historic "Battle of 66th Street" to defend the strike and keep scab replacement workers out of the plant.

Prior to his election in 1971, Lougheed had promised full collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. But instead his years in office saw the passage of laws which criminalized health care workers and provincial government employees, making strikes illegal for hospital workers through the passage of Bill 44 in 1983 and for provincial government employees through the Public Service Employees Relations Act in 1977.

The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) were forced on strike twice during the Lougheed era. During the first strike in 1980, the government ordered the nurses back to work after three days through an order in council. The nurses stood firm and refused to return to work. The determination of the nurses and overwhelming public support for their courageous stand forced the government to back down and six days later UNA reached a negotiated settlement which met virtually all of their demands.

Button produced by the Alberta Federation of Labour during the campaign against Bill 44. (Alberta Labour History Institute).

Two years later, the Tory government tried to force the nurses to participate in a government-supervised vote to supercede the vote the union had organized according to its constitution. UNA resisted this attack on its members' right to decide, and the government retaliated with legislation making it a criminal offence for a union to boycott a government-supervised strike vote. Nurses went on strike again in 1982 and this time the government used back-to-work legislation which included large fines, decertification of the union and banning workers from holding office in or working for a trade union in Alberta for two years for defiance.

These attacks were followed by the passage of Bill 44 in 1983 which made strikes illegal for all hospital workers. Bill 44 provided for huge fines and suspension of dues collection for up to six months for any union which upheld its members' right to decide their wages and working conditions. Strikes of hospital workers have been illegal since that time.

The first strikes of provincial government employees also took place during the Lougheed era, beginning with the strike of the Alberta Liquor Board Employees and a two-day walkout of direct government employees angered by the government's bad faith bargaining in 1980. The Public Service Employees Relations Act made strikes illegal and provided for compulsory arbitration in which the arbitrator had to consider government fiscal policy. Calgary teachers were also subjected to back-to-work legislation in 1980 when they walked out demanding that the government address the question of class size, a battle which teachers are still fighting to this day.

The Klein years are remembered for their brutal assaults on public sector workers and the privatization of many public services. But the mythology of the golden years of Peter Lougheed has pushed into the background the fact that between 1983 and 1984, layoffs of public sector workers had reduced the membership of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) by 10 per cent.

Workers should discuss what is behind this rewriting of history, especially the fact that it is designed to convince workers that there is no need to develop their own independent working class politics and new direction for the economy. The Lougheed era represents the old, not the new which can only flourish on the basis that the workers take up the responsibility to lead the whole society by advancing a program to resolve the problems facing society in a manner that favours the people, not the rich.

For Your Information: Peter Lougheed

Peter Lougheed was already part of the Alberta ruling circles when he became premier in 1971. Coming from an old Calgary family, he entered politics in the 1960s following his grooming as vice-president of Alberta's privately-owned Mannix Corporation, one of Canada's largest construction monopolies and a major pipeline builder. Lougheed's mentor, owner Fred Mannix, was one of four major capitalists who in 1970 founded Alberta's Canada West Foundation, a research centre for the home-grown western monopolies.[4] Peter Lougheed's brother, Don, was senior vice president of Imperial Oil from 1975-81. Imperial is the Canadian subsidiary of Rockefeller's Exxon (formerly Standard Oil of New Jersey) which struck the Leduc #1 oil well in 1946 and currently runs Syncrude, Alberta's largest oil sands monopoly.

Exxon first invaded Alberta through Imperial's 1920 takeover of Calgary Petroleum Products (CPC), which hit the Dingman Well in 1914, the first major oil strike in Alberta's Turner Valley. CPC was co-founded by Peter's grandfather, Senator James Lougheed, future Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett (Lougheed's law partner), and rancher A. E. Cross. James Lougheed was one of Calgary's leading capitalists. He was lawyer for the dominant CPR, Bank of Montreal and Hudson's Bay Company, director of other major Canadian companies and an investor in numerous enterprises, including Calgary Power and the Calgary Herald and Calgary Albertan newspapers. During the creation of the province of Alberta, he led the campaign for provincial control of mineral rights.[5]

After handing over the PC premiership to Imperial Oil alumnus Don Getty in 1985, Peter Lougheed joined his grandfather's Calgary law firm, now called Bennett Jones. He has since served as a director of many monopolies, including Royal Bank of Canada (the "oil" bank), the Bush and CIA-linked Carlyle Group, ATCO, Bechtel Canada, Burlington Resources, Canadian Hunter, CP Limited, Luscar Coal (CEO), Norcen Energy, Northern Telecom and Pacific Western Airlines. Currently, his main position is chairman of Keyera, a 1998 energy spin-off from Gulf Canada Resources. Lougheed was Co-Chair of the private sector group that tried to sell the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement to the Canadian people in 1988.

Due to his involvement in events related to the patriation of the Constitution Act (1982), Lougheed has presided over a number of Constitutional conferences, including the conference sponsored by the Business Council on National Issues (now called the Canadian Council of Chief Executives) in 1996. He is Canadian Co-Chair of the North American Forum, which annually brings together "leaders and experts from government, business and other communities to discuss the strategic challenges facing the United States, Mexico and Canada." George Schultz, U.S. Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan and former CEO of Bechtel, is the U.S. co-chair. Lougheed is a member of the U.S. Trilateral Commission, a think tank founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 to advance the economic interests of the monopolies in U.S., Europe and Japan.


1. The IRPP, founded 1972, is Canada's oldest public policy think tank. It purports to be non-partisan but its board of directors is rife with representatives of the Canadian ruling circles: Jim Dinning, former Alberta Minister of Education and CEO of Canada West Foundation; John Manley, CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Barbara McDougall, former Minister of State for Privatization and director of Stelco; Anne McClellan, former Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister; Jacques Menard, Chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns; and Paul Tellier, who served in the Mulroney government and led the privatization of the Canadian National Railway.

2. The panel included Thomas Axworthy, former chief speech writer to Pierre Trudeau; Thomas Courchesne, neo-liberal economist; David Emerson, former minister in the Harper government; Roger Gibbins, CEO of Canada West Foundation; and Paul Tellier. For a complete list of panelists and their affiliations, follow this link.

3. In 1980, Lougheed facilitated ATCO's purchase of U.S.-owned International Utilities' controlling shares in Calgary Power (now Transalta) and Canadian Utilities. ATCO received a loan from the newly created state-owned Alberta Heritage Trust Fund to buy the shares. This was followed by substantial increases in utility fees through the state-owned Public Utilities Board. Lougheed became a director of ATCO after stepping down as premier.

The other founders were G. Max Bell who accumulated his considerable fortune mainly through Turner Valley oil, FP newspaper chain, Alberta Eastern Natural Gas, and the CPR; A.J.E. Child, who took over Alberta-based Burns Foods in 1986; and James Richardson, head of the Winnipeg grain merchant family.

5. Alberta did not obtain full control of its resources until 1930.

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