Canada

Petering out

SUZANNE ZWARUN August 7 1978
Canada

Petering out

SUZANNE ZWARUN August 7 1978

Petering out

ALBERTA

Alberta Energy Minister Don Getty has been juggling political and family obligations since 1967, the year he, Peter Lougheed and four other Conservatives began their march toward a 1971 rout of the province’s long-ruling Social Credit government. The strain on Getty was brought home recently in son Darin’s diary, when

the 15-year-old wrote that his basketball team was leading its league, but his father had yet to see him play. A small thing, perhaps, but when former Grey Cup quarterback Getty totalled everything up he decided to bow out of politics. Long expected to assume the Tory leadership when Lougheed resigned. Getty knows his decision will mean"he is turning down “a clear opportunity to be the 11th premier of this province.”

Fiad the 10th premier stuck to his original game plan, Lougheed would be stepping down before the next Alberta election, due possibly in the spring. Instead, he has chosen to stay on for a third and. he says, final term, while his cabinet and back-bench colleagues are departing in something akin to a mass exodus. The official toll among the 69 Conservatives in the 75-seat legislature is still low—three cabinet ministers and eight back-benchers have resigned—but the tempo is expected to pick up; as many as 29 Conservatives are thought to be considering retirement.

The reasons vary. Health, age, family, careers and, in the case of some backbenchers, frustration are among those cited. Getty, at 44, will pick up his inter-

rupted business career in petroleum or, perhaps, the investment field. AttorneyGeneral Jim Foster, who has also been worrying about his private lile, has announced he will return to practising law. Bill Yurko, who has already given up his housing portfolio, is going deeper into politics, due to run federally as a Conservative in Edmonton East.

The rest is mostly rumor. Minister of Social Services and Community Health Helen Hunley, at 57 the oldest member of the cabinet, says she’ll decide this fall whether to run again. “I don’t bounce back as fast as I used to. 1 don’t know whether that’s old age or hard work.” Deputy Premier Hugh Horner, who belongs to the

West’s most famous political dynasty and was anotherof the 1967 six, is considering a return to his medical practice. Allan Warrack. telephones and utilities minister, is debating a return to the University of Alberta from where he is on leave as an agricultural economics professor. The delighted Social Credit Opposition claims there are also a number of cabinet members who will be fired by Lougheed because of their embarrassing performances.

One factor most of the cabinet members are considering is that a further commitment is more likely to be eight years than four. If the premier leaves after his next term, any long-term cabinet member who subsequently quits would be suspected of showing nonconfidence in the new leader. Staying on would mean that some of the cabinet would spend 16 of their peak earning years in politics.

After the 1975 election. Lougheed shuffled every position in his cabinet and was expected to do the same after the next.

Since he conceded in January that a “fair number” of his ministers wouldn’t be running again, there’s been guessing about potential cabinet material. Even in the overwhelmingly Conservative legislature the pickings could be sparse if all the backbenchers contemplating retirement go ahead with their plans.

Alberta, which has become a mecca for job seekers because of its low unemployment rate, has seemingly extended its job opportunities into the political field. Except for the premier’s job. Getty’s July resignation was taken by Liberal leader Nick Taylor (who hasn't a seat) to mean that Lougheed has acquired “a lifetime grip on the premiership.” SUZANNE ZWARUN