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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Calgary City Council

Grant MacEwan arrived in Priddis, Alberta, on July 1, 1952, to begin work as the manager of the Beef Producers. Stung by his recent defeat in Manitoba, MacEwan questioned some of the decisions he had made. In a short matter of time he had abandoned his comfortable career at the University of Manitoba and jumped head first into the unforgiving world of politics.

Meanwhile, Calgary was experiencing unprecedented growth largely because of the prosperous oil industry stimulated by the discovery of new oil at the Leduc No. 1 drill site. MacEwan and his family soon found a comfortable bungalow in northwest Calgary. He was initially quite comfortable with his new position but then found himself changing careers once again. Fortunately for MacEwan he would find work in a short matter of time.

With Calgary experiencing so much rapid growth, city council was seeking a sturdy and respectable figure to be the conscience of civic politics. The Civic Government Association believed Grant MacEwan to be the perfect fit. Though MacEwan was hesitant to accept the offer he was intrigued by the prospect of serving his community for the greater good. Close friends encouraged him to get involved, citing the city's unfamiliarity with MacEwan as an advantage to gaining votes. As one person quipped, "If people knew you better, they probably wouldn't vote for you."

MacEwan was an unknown with good credentials and an impressive background. On October 14, 1953, he was elected alderman. Civic politics was challenging as MacEwan found it increasingly difficult to please everyone. Constituents approached him with an array of concerns, often contradicting one another. For instance, Calgarians wanted more industry in the city but also less pollution. MacEwan was known among his colleagues as quiet, steadfast, and seldom argumentative. He typically demonstrated fiscal restraint when passing motions. Known as skilled negotiator, MacEwan sought to improve Calgary's health care by reducing wait times for hospital beds. As an ardent public transportation supporter MacEwan aimed to improve Calgary's network of roads. (As the thirty-first mayor of Calgary he was frequently spotted taking the bus to and from work.)

MacEwan served on city council from 1954 to 1963 with a break between 1958 and 1959 when he was elected leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. He was a self-described workaholic who frequently arrived at work by seven o'clock a.m. and sometimes earlier. His busy schedule and constant writing prevented him from spending quality time with his family. Precious moments with his only daughter were often replaced by work-related engagements.

MacEwan was very popular on city council, well liked for his cautious decision-making and commitment to improving health care and infrastructure. He used his knowledge and experience in education and finances by exercising caution when it came to urban expansion and development. Personally, MacEwan found that city council was an ideal stepping stone for advancing in the world of politics.

Resources

Hauff, Donna von. Everyone's Grandfather: The Life and Times of Grant MacEwan. Edmonton: Grant MacEwan Community College Foundation, 1984.


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