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Retrenchment (1981–1994)

The Tory-Business Atrium

During 1981 and 1982, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy, world oil prices, Alberta’s intense over-reliance on the energy sector, a general recession in the Western world, and high interest rates led to Alberta’s economic bust. Thousands of employees were laid off by oil companies and by related service businesses. Bankruptcies, business closures, and bank foreclosures were commonplace occurrences. Local banks and credit unions tumbled. Real estate values experienced a major meltdown. Alberta’s imploding markets led to a huge migration out of Alberta.

Alberta’s first food banks surfaced in the early 1980s. By the end of the twentieth century, there were 80 food banks scattered throughout the province. On a national scale, the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was entrenched. The Charter changed laws, social attitudes, and advocacy initiatives throughout Canada.

Sports have always been important to Albertans, so, in 1978, Edmonton hosted the Commonwealth Games at the Kinsmen Centre and Commonwealth Stadium. In 1988, Calgary hosted the Winter Olympic Games.

The Timms Centre for the Arts

Myer Horowitz was President of the University of Alberta from 1979 to 1989. During his tenure, the University experienced a number of milestones. The University won the bid to host the World University Games (Universiade) in 1983. It was the first time that this event was held in North America. The World University Games had 6,000 participants from 87 countries. In preparation for the event, the University built the Tennis Centre and the Universiade Pavilion (Butterdome) and increased student housing in the Garneau community.

The year 1983 also marked the University’s 75th anniversary and was honoured by a variety of celebrations. Prince Charles and Princess Diana made a royal visit to Edmonton and on June 30, 1983 at the special 75th Anniversary Convocation held at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium, the Prince gave an address to the Convocation. Prince Charles also received an honorary law degree. (Read his convocation address.)

Construction of the Business Building began in 1982. The official opening ceremony was held on November 26, 1984. More than 600 people attended, including University President Myer Horowitz and Dean of the School of Business, Roger S. Smith. Other dignitaries who attended the ceremony include the Minister of Municipal Affairs and MLA for Edmonton Strathcona, Julian Koziak; Provincial Minister of Advanced Education, Dick Johnston; University Chancellor Peter Savaryn; Chairman of the University’s Board of Governors, John Schlosser; and Robert Stollery, Chairman and CEO of PCL Construction Ltd. Premier Peter Lougheed gave an address that emphasized the challenges Alberta faced in international trade and business. Other platform guests included Mrs Shirley Stollery; Eric Geddes, past chairman of the Business Advisory Council of the School of Business; William A. Weir, President of A.V. Carlson Construction Corporation Ltd; Donald Bittorf, Principal-in-charge of Donald G. Bittorf Architect Ltd; and Peter R. Winters, Chairman of the Building Committee, School of Business.

Atrium in the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre

In the late 1960s, the University made plans for a health sciences centre. Plans became reality with the construction and opening of the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, Phase 1 in 1984.

In 1984, the School of Native Studies was established. In the same auspicious year, the campus radio station CJSR went public.

Premier Peter Lougheed retired and was replaced by Don Getty in 1984. Oil prices took another drop in 1986, further aggravating Alberta’s economic plight. In 1989, the Conservatives won the election and imposed a wage freeze on the civil service and cut public services.

On December 14, 1992, Ralph Klein became the Premier of Alberta. His primary mission was to eliminate Alberta’s debt. Cutbacks prevailed, particularly in education, social services, and health. Between 1990 and 1994, the Alberta government cut 21% from the University of Alberta’s budget.

The Butterdome

In July 1993, construction of the University’s Book and Record Depository (BARD) began; the facility opened in February 1994. It was located off campus in an old Ikea building.

Construction of the Timms Centre for the Arts, which began in 1993, was a testimony to what could be achieved through donations and partnerships. At a time of intense fiscal restraint, the construction of the Drama Department’s $11.23 million Timms Centre was made possible by a large donation from Albert Timms. When Timms passed away in the 1970s, he left the bulk of his estate to the University with the stipulation that his family name be given to a building. By 1993, Timms’s estate had grown to more than $7 million. His donation was topped up by other contributions from private donors, major banks, and by the Government of Alberta. The Timms Centre had its first theatrical debut, Ring Round the Moon in 1995.

Paul Davenport was installed as the University’s tenth President in 1989. He resigned in 1994 to become President of the University of Western Ontario. That same year, the Governor General presented the University with an official coat of arms. The University’s Board of Governors was also forced to declare a state of financial exigency.

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