There has been a powerful outpouring of affection and respect for the late Peter Lougheed — and rightly so. As premier of Alberta and a political leader of national stature, he helped to change our country for the better.
Many sought his counsel. I was among them, both as a federal cabinet minister and an MP in the Opposition. He was always generous and helpful with his advice, across all party lines.
Quite apart from policy substance, Peter Lougheed will be remembered for three enduring and endearing qualities.
First, he was always a gentlemen. He did not subscribe to the notion that you have to hate your political opponents and abuse them at every turn. He did not believe in continuous campaigning, "attack ads" or partisan character assassination. His stuck to the high road, earning respect by being respectful of others.
Secondly, Peter Lougheed was a moderate. He prided himself on being a progressive conservative in the middle of the spectrum, trying always to accommodate the broadest possible cross-section of citizens. He expressly rejected the "Tea Party" tendencies of the extreme right-wing. He sought collaboration and inclusion, not the wedge politics of division and polarization.
Thirdly, through all his battles for "provincial rights", he positioned himself as a Canadian first and foremost.
Within the letter of the constitution, he defended provincial jurisdiction over natural resources with great vigour, but he never advocated "firewalls" to divide the country. He wanted Confederation to work equally well for every province and territory, and for every Canadian. He stood against "separatism" wherever it was found, east or west, and worked to build Canada better for all.
Some will celebrate Mr. Lougheed's legacy in terms of provincial resource development policies, the repatriation of Canada's constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the creation of a Heritage Fund, or the careful balance he struck between economic development and environmental stewardship. And in all these areas he contributed much.
But even more important is how he behaved in public life. Unfailingly civil and decent, he made us better by the example he lived.