EDMONTON — Don Getty, the former premier who helped steer Alberta through the economic slowdown and falling energy prices of the 1980s, has passed away at the age of 82, a family spokesperson told Global News.
Getty’s son, Darin Getty, told The Canadian Press that his father died early Friday morning of heart failure at an Edmonton long-term care centre after his health began to deteriorate earlier this week. Getty says his mother, Margaret, and other members of the family spent time with his father Thursday night.
Don Getty was born in Quebec in 1933. A football star in high school and University, Getty headed to Alberta in 1955 to play for the Edmonton Eskimos.
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He played for 10 years as a quarterback, winning two Grey Cups. There, he met teammate and fellow former premier Peter Lougheed. It was Lougheed who drafted Getty into politics with the Progressive Conservative party.
In 1967, both were elected. In 1971, their party, with Lougheed at the helm, formed the Alberta government. Under Lougheed, Getty was both minister of intergovernmental affairs and energy.
In 1979 Getty decided to take a break from politics. He re-entered the fray in 1985, winning the PC leadership and succeeding Lougheed as premier.
On May 8, 1986, Getty led the Tories to another majority government, winning 61 of 83 seats.
Getty led the province for seven years, with many highs and lows. He created Family Day in 1990, and was a strong advocate for senate reform. But finance was a constant issue during his tenure.
The price of oil slipped from US$44 to $10 per barrel, and Getty was forced to put the brakes on spending. He hiked taxes and imposed cuts in health, education and social services. At the same time, he used government to help business.
Some of those decisions proved to be quite unpopular.
Although his party won the 1989 election with 59 of 83 seats, Getty lost in his Edmonton riding.
However Getty later won a byelection in Stettler and stayed on as premier.
He survived a 1990 leadership challenge, but huge losses of public money in bad government investments overshadow his tenure.
In 1993, Ralph Klein replaced him as premier and Getty stepped away from political life. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 1999.
Getty’s health had been in decline for several years now. Getty attended Peter Lougheed’s funeral in 2012, however he was confined to a wheelchair.
In 2013, the University of Alberta awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for helping lead the province during the recession in the 1980s, however Getty was too ill to attend the convocation ceremony, so his son Darin accepted the honour on his father’s behalf.
Don Getty was Alberta’s 11th premier. He leaves behind his wife Margaret, and four sons.
ABOVE: Alberta Premier Don Getty at a news conference at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alta., Oct. 27, 1992. This was his first comment on the referendum vote. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ray Giguere
Memorial books for Getty have been set up in the Alberta Legislature rotunda and at McDougall Centre in Calgary.
With files from The Canadian Press