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The Honourable Donald R. Getty, OC, AOE, 1985-92

The Honourable Donald R. Getty was Alberta's eleventh Premier. As well as being prominent in Alberta politics, he was well-known in Canadian business and sports.

Donald Ross Getty was born on August 30, 1933, at Westmount, Quebec. He is the son of Charles Ross Getty and Beatrice L. Hampton. Donald R. Getty was a member of the United Church of Canada.

Don Getty attended public and secondary schools in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and London (Ontario). While attending Sir Adam Beck Collegiate Institute in London, he captained the school's football and basketball teams, was elected president of the Students' Council, and represented the school in the Ontario Leaders' Club.

While attending the University of Western Ontario, Don Getty quarterbacked the University of Western Ontario Mustangs to the Eastern Collegiate Union football championship in 1954 and again in 1955. He also played starting guard on the basketball team that won the Senior Collegiate Championship of Ontario in 1952, 1953, and 1954. He was awarded the Dr. Claude Brown Trophy as Western's Most Outstanding Athlete of 1955, and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Getty graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Business Administration. In 1980, he was elected to the University of Western Ontario's “W Club” Athletics Hall of Fame.

On June 18, 1955, Donald Ross Getty married Margaret Inez Mitchell, daughter of Wilfred C. Mitchell and Muriel M. Kew of London, Ontario. The Gettys had four sons: Dale, David, Darin, and Derek.

Shortly after their wedding, the Gettys travelled to Edmonton, Alberta, so that Don could begin his professional football career. He played for the Edmonton Eskimos for the next 10 years, helping them win two Grey Cup championships. He was the quarterback on the 1955 and 1956 championship teams. In 1959, he was named Outstanding Canadian in the Western Conference and was runner-up for the Schenley Award as Outstanding Player in the Canadian Football League.

In 1955, Don Getty began working for Imperial Oil Limited in Edmonton. In 1961, he was hired as lands and contracts manager with Midwestern Industrial Gas Limited, and was appointed assistant general manager in 1963. In 1964, he formed Baldonnel Oil and Gas Company. He became a partner in the investment firm of Doherty, Roadhouse, and McCuaig in 1967.

The leader of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party, E. Peter Lougheed, asked Getty to consider entering Alberta provincial politics in 1965. In the 1967 provincial election, Donald R. Getty was elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Strathcona West. From 1967 to 1971, he served as a Member of the Official Opposition. In 1971 and 1975, he was re-elected as the Member for Edmonton-Whitemud.

In 1971, the Progressive Conservative Party won the majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and formed the provincial government. Donald R. Getty was appointed Minister of the new Department of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs on September 10, 1971. Following the 1975 election, he was appointed Minister of Energy and Natural Resources on April 3 of the same year.

Wishing to spend more time with his family, he did not stand for re-election in 1979. Upon returning to the private sector, he founded the investment firm of D. Getty Investments Limited. From 1981 to 1985, he served as chair and chief executive Officer of the Nortek Energy Corporation located at Nisku, Alberta. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Alberta Gas and Ethylene Company Limited, Brinco Limited, Celanese Canada Incorporated, the Financial Life Assurance Company, the Genstar Corporation, the Interprovincial Steel and Pipe Corporation (chair of the Board), the Nortek Energy Corporation, the Nova Corporation of Alberta, the Northern Life Assurance Company of Canada, Novacor Chemicals Limited, Pacific Copper Mines Limited, Placer Development Limited, Pacific Trans-Ocean Resources Limited, and the Royal Bank of Canada. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Resources of Canada Fund.

In 1985, Donald R. Getty re-entered Alberta provincial politics and was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party on October 13 of the same year. He was appointed Premier of Alberta on November 1, 1985, by Lieutenant Governor W. Helen Hunley. On December 11, 1985, he once more became a Member of the Legislative Assembly by winning a by-election in his former riding of Edmonton-Whitemud.

Don Getty led his party to victory in the general elections of 1986 and 1989, although he lost his own seat of Edmonton-Whitemud in 1989. A by-election on May 9, 1989, returned him to the Legislative Assembly representing the electoral district of Stettler.

The major priorities of the Alberta Government under the leadership of Premier Donald R. Getty were agriculture and rural development, energy development, the family and economic diversification, including the growth of forestry, high technology, and tourism. His government took the lead in the development of non-conventional oil projects.

Other achievements of the Getty Government include a strong record of fiscal management, private telephone lines for rural Albertans, and the establishment of Family Day in 1990. In 1985, Premier Getty introduced Christmas at the Legislature which opened the Legislature Building to the public during the festive season. Celebrate the Season continues to be an annual event.

Don Getty was successful in establishing a process for election of a senatorial candidate as an expression of Albertans’ support for Senate reform. In 1989, the Legislative Assembly passed the Senatorial Selection Act, empowering Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer to conduct elections of senators-in-waiting in conjunction with provincial general elections. The 1989 Alberta general election was the first time Albertans voted for a senatorial candidate. Getty’s efforts also resulted in the issue of Senate reform becoming part of the negotiations to amend the Constitution in the Meech Lake Accord.

The Getty Government made provisions to deal with issues of First Nations’ business training, education, land claims and self-government. Acts respecting the establishment of a non-profit foundation for aboriginal business issues and First Nations post-secondary institutions were passed during his first term as Premier. In July 1990, The Métis Settlements Act and related legislation were passed. The landmark legislation granted self-government to eight Métis settlements. In December, 1990, he was made an Honourary Chief ("Kinnosayoo") of the Whitefish Lake Band (Cree). In October 1991, Don Getty was bestowed the Order of the Sash by the Métis Nation of Alberta in recognition of his leadership on indigenous self-government.

Don Getty resigned as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and as Premier effective December 14, 1992. He resigned as the Member for Stettler effective April 20, 1993.

Over the years, Don Getty continued to receive honours for his accomplishments. In 1998, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1999, he received the Alberta Order of Excellence. In 2001, the Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park was established. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

He was awarded an Honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Lethbridge in 2003 and an Honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta in 2013. He received the Distinguished Citizen Award from Grant MacEwan College in 2006 and the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Club in 2012.

Don Getty had his name added to the Wall of Honour in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Eskimos. He was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the London Sports Hall of Fame in Ontario in 2012.

He was active in community affairs serving as a director of the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club, governor of the Edmonton Petroleum Club, director of the Derrick Golf and Winter Club, and adviser and fund raiser for the Alberta Wheelchair Basketball Team.

On February 26, 2016, at the age of 82, Don Getty passed away in Edmonton.

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