Sad news from the world of both Canadian politics and sports. Don Getty, the former quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos who later served two terms as Premier of Alberta, passed away today at the age of 82.
A native of Montreal, Getty became known to Canadians during his 10-year career in the CFL all of them in Edmonton. Getty would lead the Eskimos to back to back Grey Cup championships in 1955 and 1956. After retiring in 1965, Getty became involved in Progressive Conservative politics and would be elected to the Alberta legislature in 1967 as one of six Tory MPs against a well entrenched Social Credit government. Four years later, the Tories led by Peter Lougheed, would wrest power from the Socreds after 36 years. (Of course, the Tories 44-year reign came to an end last year against the NDP). Getty would serve in Lougheed’s cabinet as both Minister of Energy and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. However, Getty would leave politics in 1979 to resume his career in the energy sector. Getty had got into Alberta’s oil business during his playing days with the Eskimos.
Getty would return to Alberta politics in 1985 after Lougheed stepped down, ran for the Tory leadership and would succeed Lougheed as Premier. Alberta has long been subject to oil’s boom and bust cycle. Getty came to power while oil was in bust mode. Nevertheless, he would win two terms in office although he did lose his seat in the 1989 provincial election. Getty was a proponent of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States (now known as NAFTA) as well as the failed Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord. He did, however, part ways with Brian Mulroney and his Tory cousins over the GST and also advocated the establishment of an elected Senate (Canada’s Senate is based on the British House of Lords and appointments are made by the Prime Minister.)
Getty resigned from office in 1992 and would be succeeded by Ralph Klein who led a Tory renaissance on fiscal austerity. Despite challenging economic times, Getty is generally well remembered in Alberta. He is probably best remembered for establishing Family Day (a winter holiday which falls on the same day as President’s Day in this country). Several other provinces including Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia followed Alberta’s lead.
At the top of the post, I have included a brief video of Getty talking about his life in football and politics.
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