1 9 7 5 ~ 1 9 8 5 D i v e r s i t y D a n g e r
Wildly swinging fortunes emphasized the danger of a single-industry economy. In this context, the 1976 establishment of the Heritage Trust Fund to save energy monies for a “rainy” day was a portent for the future.
Prosperity continued into the early 1980s. While agricultural prices rose and coal production increased markedly, oil and gas primed Alberta’s economic pump. Prices skyrocketed in 1981 to nearly $40 a barrel. Construction cranes dominated Calgary’s skyline. In 1978, more than 400 companies were listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange. Public spending increased from $1.1 billion in 1974 to $10.8 billion in 1985.
The good times were over by 1982 amid a national recession, a despised National Energy Policy, falling oil and agricultural prices, lagging construction, and diminished investment capital. Unemployment hit double digits and many left the province. Trust and mortgage companies collapsed. This depression, the first since the 1930s, awak- ened policy makers to the need for a more diverse economy. The new focus was on high technology, forestry and tourism, with the latter two alternating as the third largest industry after oil and gas, and agriculture.
Ghermezian brothers build the first phase of West Edmonton Mall.
Fearing further NEP-style intervention, Alberta leads a lengthy legal battle with Ottawa that results in a constitutional “notwithstanding clause.”
Separatist stirrings increase as Gordon Kesler, a candidate for the factional Western Canada Concept Party, wins a provincial by-election.
Mayor of Eckville and high- school instructor James Keegstra is fired for preaching racism to students.
Captained by Wayne Gretzky and bankrolled by Peter Pocklington, the Edmonton Oilers win the first of four Stanley Cup victories.