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MacEwan as Lieutenant-Governor

The paradox of Grant MacEwan is reflected in this 1966 view of him with two hats - one as lieutenant governor and the other as an agriculturist. True to his character, MacEwan wanted to carry out his position as lieutenant governor with respect and honour.  In addition, he wanted to represent all Albertans, and this meant considerable travel. Regardless of which city or town MacEwan visited, he always found time to chat with the locals, giving them his total attention. The position of lieutenant governor also presented MacEwan with the opportunity to continue his writing. MacEwan told the Edmontonian that he believed the new position might foster a different writing style as he entered a new period in his life. Most important to MacEwan was to encourage other Albertans to write about their province.

photo from the book \"Portraits from the Plains\" 1971 MacEwan insisted that his private and public personalities remained the same. He maintained his dry, quirky sense of humour that surely confused individuals who had not know him for very long. His daily routine, particularly in the morning, was unchanging: he rose early, jogged alongside the river, and consumed the same, simple breakfast. He often demonstrated his stubbornness, too, by refusing to ride in the back seat of his chauffeured vehicle. He yearned for warm spring and summer days when he could walk instead of being ushered about in luxury car. In one instance, he instructed his chauffeur to pull over when he witnessed two adults struggling to push their vehicle out of a ditch. MacEwan jumped out of the car and immediately offered his assistance. His chauffeur frequently shared in MacEwan's daily musings.

It is estimated that Grant MacEwan traveled upwards of 50 000 kilometres a year as the lieutenant governor. He visited the far corners of the province in an effort to sell the advantages of Alberta to those who were willing to listen. MacEwan also made official visits not only to other provinces but to other countries as well. The lieutenant governor continued to implement his frugal practices, insisting that the provincial government reduce travel expenses. Lieutenant Governor MacEwan preferred the simplest of hotel rooms.

In the 1950s MacEwan became a vegetarian and an ardent promoter of animal rights and conservation policies. He often spoke freely about these topics while serving as lieutenant governor. On one occasion while delivering a speech to St. John's College students, he lashed out at the audience, condemning the use of traps to capture fur-bearing animals.

Hosting formal gatherings was a tradition for lieutenant governors. Typically, a reception was held for members of the legislature; meanwhile, the lieutenant governor's wife was expected to host a tea party for the members' wives. The MacEwans preferred a different sort of celebration. The MacEwan parties, as they became known, combined both events in a more informal setting. No alcohol was served, but most guests did not mind because the food was exquisite.

In 1970 and at 68 years of age, he agreed to serve another term as lieutenant governor. He also spent a considerable amount of time researching and writing and quickly developed into one of Canada's most respected Western writers. To no one's surprise, thousands of Albertans turned out to wish Grant MacEwan and his wife Phyllis a splendid farewell when his second term came to an end in 1974. From helping everyday people to meeting British royalty, MacEwan left a colourful mark on the role of lieutenant governor. He retained the dignity befitting the Queen's representative while maintaining his distinct Western personality.


Macdonald, R.H. Grant MacEwan: No Ordinary Man. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1979.

Hauff, Donna von. Everyone's Grandfather: The Life and Times of Grant MacEwan. Edmonton: Grant MacEwan Community College Foundation, 1994.

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