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Don Getty was the 11th premier of Alberta and has made tremendous contributions to business, politics and athletics in Canada.
Donald Ross Getty was born in Westmount, Quebec, in 1933. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1955 with an honours degree in business administration. Mr. Getty played on the university’s championship football and basketball teams and in 1980 was named to the institution’s athletic hall of fame.
In 1955, Mr. Getty made his first trip to Alberta to play football for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. During his 10-year career, he distinguished himself as the first Canadian quarterback to lead his team to a Grey Cup championship since the import system was introduced. He is also a member of the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour.
Mr. Getty began his business career with Imperial Oil and later became Canada’s youngest independent oil company president when he formed Baldonnel Oil and Gas Ltd.
Having achieved a great deal of success in Alberta, Don Getty became interested in public service as a way to give something back to the province he had grown to love. In 1967, he was elected to the Legislature as a Progressive Conservative and helped form the official opposition. After his party won the election in 1971, Mr. Getty was appointed Alberta’s first minister of federal and intergovernmental affairs and worked to ensure that Alberta was an equal partner in making national decisions that affected the province.
Mr. Getty’s next cabinet post was as minister of energy and natural resources. He established Alberta’s constitutional right to ownership of its natural resources, began the process of economic diversification by promoting the forestry and petrochemical industries, and helped to negotiate the Syncrude oil sands project. He started the Alberta Energy Company, which played a vital role in the development of Alberta’s petrochemical industry, and he was also part of a small core group that conceived the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. The fund is an ongoing legacy of saving for the future, strengthening and diversifying Alberta’s economy, and improving the quality of life for current and future generations of Albertans.
In 1979, after 12 years in the legislature, Don Getty left politics to spend more time with his family and return to his business career. His business acumen gained him positions on the boards of Canada’s leading companies including Interprovincial Pipe and Steel Corporation, Genstar Corporation, Nova Corporation and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Remaining interested in provincial politics, Mr. Getty resumed his political career in 1985, when he was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and sworn in as premier. He led the Government of Alberta through an accelerated diversification of the provincial economy, signed the first agreement in Canada to establish self-government for Métis people, and began the process of fiscal restraint in difficult economic times. He also emphasized the importance of families and created Canada’s first Family Day holiday.
As premier, Mr. Getty made important contributions that affected all of Canada. Under his direction, Alberta held the country’s first senate election, which resulted in Canada’s first and only appointment of an elected senator. He also played a leadership role among the premiers during negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement, Triple E Senate, Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord. In 1992, Don Getty resigned as premier and left the political arena.
Mr. Getty has received several honours for his contributions to Alberta’s Aboriginal Peoples. The Whitefish Lake Band made him an honourary chief in 1990 and the Métis Nation of Alberta awarded him the Order of the Sash in 1991.
In 1998, Mr. Getty was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.