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Politics

Former Alberta Premier Don Getty dies at 82

WATCH ABOVE: Former Edmonton Eskimo and Alberta Premier Don Getty has passed away. The former Progressive Conservative leader led the province from 1985 to 1992. Vassy Kapelos has more on his life and achievements.

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.

WATCH: Reform party founder Preston Manning leads moment of silence for Don Getty

Conservative icon Preston Manning remembers former Alberta Premier Don Getty
Conservative icon Preston Manning remembers former Alberta Premier Don Getty

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.

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READ MORE: ‘A great Albertan’: Tributes to former premier Don Getty pour in

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.

Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker in the Edmonton Eskimos locker room,  Tuesday November 7, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Jason Scott)
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker in the Edmonton Eskimos locker room, Tuesday November 7, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Jason Scott) CP PHOTO/Jason Scott
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker in the Edmonton Eskimos locker room Tuesday November 7, 2006.  (CP PHOTO/Jason Scott)
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker in the Edmonton Eskimos locker room Tuesday November 7, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Jason Scott) CP PHOTO/Jason Scott
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker while retired player Henry "Gizmo" Williams and CEO Hugh Campbell pose for a photo Tuesday November 7, 2006. Parker died after a lengthy illness.

(CP PHOTO/Jason Scott)
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty reminisces about his Edmonton Eskimos teammate quarterback Jackie Parker while retired player Henry "Gizmo" Williams and CEO Hugh Campbell pose for a photo Tuesday November 7, 2006. Parker died after a lengthy illness. (CP PHOTO/Jason Scott) CP PHOTO/Jason Scott

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.

Alberta Progressive Conservative party Leader Don Getty stands with his wife Margaret in Edmonton, May 8, 1986.
Alberta Progressive Conservative party Leader Don Getty stands with his wife Margaret in Edmonton, May 8, 1986. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Dave Buston

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.

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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.

Alberta Progressive Conservative party Leader Don Getty stands with his wife Margaret in Edmonton, May 8, 1986.
Alberta Progressive Conservative party Leader Don Getty stands with his wife Margaret in Edmonton, May 8, 1986. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Dave Buston
Premiers ham it up following the conclusion of the Canada Round of constitutional negotiations in Ottawa Aug. 22, 1992. (L to R) Gary Filmon of Manitoba, Clyde Wells of Newfoundland, Don Getty of Alberta, Frank McKenna of New Brunswick, Tony Penikett of NWT, and Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan. (CP PHOTO/ Bill Grimshaw)
Premiers ham it up following the conclusion of the Canada Round of constitutional negotiations in Ottawa Aug. 22, 1992. (L to R) Gary Filmon of Manitoba, Clyde Wells of Newfoundland, Don Getty of Alberta, Frank McKenna of New Brunswick, Tony Penikett of NWT, and Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan. (CP PHOTO/ Bill Grimshaw) CP PHOTO/ Bill Grimshaw

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.

Departing Alberta Premier Don Getty and his wife Margaret leave Alberta’s Government House after tendering his resignation and watching the swearing in of Ralph Klein, Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 14, 1992.
Departing Alberta Premier Don Getty and his wife Margaret leave Alberta’s Government House after tendering his resignation and watching the swearing in of Ralph Klein, Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 14, 1992. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Buston
Alberta Premier Don Getty, seen with his wife Margaret, announces his plans to step down as premier at a news conference at Government House in Edmonton, Alta., Sept. 9, 1992. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ray Giguere
Alberta Premier Don Getty, seen with his wife Margaret, announces his plans to step down as premier at a news conference at Government House in Edmonton, Alta., Sept. 9, 1992. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ray Giguere THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ray Giguere

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.

Former Alberta Premier Don Getty is promoted to officer into the Order of Canada in Ottawa Wednesday April 14, 1999 by Governor General Romeo LeBlanc.
Former Alberta Premier Don Getty is promoted to officer into the Order of Canada in Ottawa Wednesday April 14, 1999 by Governor General Romeo LeBlanc. CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson

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.

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Former Alberta premier Don Getty (left in wheelchair), shakes hands with Joe Lougheed, Peter Lougheed’s son as his wife Margaret Getty, right, hugs Stephen Lougheed, another son, as they pay their respects to former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed as his body lies in state at the Alberta Legislature on Monday September 17, 2012. in Edmonton, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Former Alberta premier Don Getty (left in wheelchair), shakes hands with Joe Lougheed, Peter Lougheed’s son as his wife Margaret Getty, right, hugs Stephen Lougheed, another son, as they pay their respects to former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed as his body lies in state at the Alberta Legislature on Monday September 17, 2012. in Edmonton, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

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.

Don Getty

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

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Alberta Legislature honours Don Getty
Alberta Legislature honours Don Getty

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