Laurence Decore

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Laurence Decore
B.A, LL.B, MLA
Ldecore.jpg
Leader of the Opposition in Alberta
In office
1993–1994
Preceded by Ray Martin
Succeeded by Grant Mitchell
Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party
In office
October 8, 1988 – July 15, 1994
Preceded by Nicholas Taylor
Succeeded by Bettie Hewes (interim)
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
In office
March 20, 1989 – March 11, 1997
Preceded by John Younie
Succeeded by Bill Bonner
31st Mayor of Edmonton
In office
October 17, 1983 – October 17, 1988
Preceded by Cecil John Harry Purves
Succeeded by Terry Cavanagh
Edmonton Alderman Ward 2
In office
1974 election – 1977
Personal details
Born Lavrentiy Dikur
(1940-06-28)June 28, 1940
Vegreville, Alberta
Died November 6, 1999(1999-11-06) (aged 59)
Edmonton, Alberta
Political party Alberta Liberal Party
Spouse(s) Anne Marie Fedoruk
Children Michael and Andrea
Alma mater University of Alberta
Profession Lawyer
Religion Ukrainian Orthodox
Signature

Laurence George Decore, CM (June 28, 1940 – November 6, 1999) was a Ukrainian-Canadian lawyer and politician from Alberta. He was mayor of Edmonton, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Early life[edit]

Decore was born Lavrentiy Dikur in Vegreville, Alberta on June 28, 1940, the son of future Liberal Party of Canada MP and judge John Decore; the family later adopted Anglicized names. He was educated in Vegreville, Edmonton, and Ottawa, and graduated from the University of Alberta in 1961 with B.A. in history and political economy, and in 1964 with an LL.B. He was called to the bar the year of his graduation, and eventually founded the firm Decore & Company. He married Anne Marie Decore (who later became the University of Alberta's Associate Vice President Academic), with whom he had two children, Michael and Andrea.

Decore was involved in a number of business ventures that made him a millionaire. These included an Edmonton cable television station, a hotel in Jasper, and assorted other commercial enterprises. From 1973 until 1975 he was founding chairman of the Alberta Cultural Heritage Council.

Political career[edit]

Municipal politics[edit]

Decore first sought office in the 1971 municipal election, when he ran for alderman in Ward 2. He finished fourth of eleven candidates; among those who defeated him was Cec Purves, against whom Decore would later run for mayor twice.

He was elected as an alderman to Edmonton City Council in the 1974 election, in which he finished first of the ward's fourteen candidates. After serving a three year term, he ran for mayor in 1977. He wound up nine thousand votes behind Purves, while finishing ahead of incumbent Terry Cavanagh, who had been appointed interim mayor by city council after the death of William Hawrelak, and four other candidates.

Decore stayed out of politics for the next six years. He was a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies (1977–1981), president of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Federation (1979–1981), and chairman of the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism (1980–1983), a position from which he led a national lobby resulting in a Constitutional change acknowledging Canada's multicultural nature.

He returned to politics in the 1983 mayoral election when he defeated Purves in a landslide, more than doubling the incumbent's vote count and establishing a new historical plurality record. He was re-elected by a similar margin in 1986. As mayor Decore eliminated the city's Board of Commissioners - handing more power to its elected city council - put in place a fiscal program that would eliminate the city's debt, took key major steps which began downtown revitalization and won a high-profile battle with the Province of Alberta over the city-owned telephone company's right to a fair share of long distance revenue. He also oversaw the city's recovery after 1987's Edmonton Tornado and expressed the city's sadness over the Edmonton Oilers' trading Wayne Gretzky (the hockey team had won its first four Stanley Cups during Decore's time as mayor).

On October 17, 1988 Decore resigned to enter provincial politics.

Provincial politics[edit]

As 1988 opened, the Alberta Liberal Party was led by Nick Taylor, who had served in this capacity since 1974. For most of those years, the party had been shut out of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, but in the 1986 election it won its first four seats (including Taylor's) in more than a decade. This wasn't enough for some party faithful, however, and a 1987 leadership review resulted in a 1988 leadership convention (some have suggested that Decore helped orchestrate this result).

Taylor contested the convention, as did Edmonton Meadowlark MLA Grant Mitchell, but Decore won a first ballot victory. In the following year's snap election, he led the party to eight seats, twice as many as it had held at dissolution of the legislature, while also getting the second-highest popular vote, though the NDP retained official opposition status with sixteen seats. Decore, who was elected in Edmonton Glengarry, defeating New Democrat John Younie, declared "there is a new party on the horizon", as one of his candidates Percy Wickman had unseated Premier Don Getty.[1]

In the legislature, Decore focused his attacks in the government around fiscal responsibility and the province's rapidly rising debt. He was also critical of the government's involvement in the private sector which had, in some high-profile cases, resulted in companies defaulting on government loans. The Liberals rose rapidly in the polls, and Progressive Conservative Premier Don Getty resigned in 1992 rather than lead his party into another election that it might well lose.

The Progressive Conservatives' new leader, Ralph Klein, had won the leadership in part by making arguments similar to Decore's. He favoured a near-immediate balancing of the provincial budget and rapid debt repayment thereafter, and declared his government "out of the business of business". In the 1993 election, Decore therefore faced a Premier with whom he agreed on many issues; he coped by arguing that the Progressive Conservatives had, as a party, no moral authority left on the issues on which Klein was campaigning. The campaign was also notable as the former mayors of Edmonton and Calgary were facing off as party leaders.

The Liberals won 32 of the province's 83 seats, the highest percentage they had won since leaving government in 1917 and the highest percentage won by any opposition party in the province's history. They returned to official opposition status for the first time since 1967, while banishing the New Democrats from the legislature.

Nonetheless, many members of the new caucus were unhappy to find themselves in the opposition benches after an election they had expected to win. The disappointing results led to calls within the party for Decore to step down. Decore resigned his leadership in 1994, and did not seek re-election as MLA in the 1997 election.

Personal life, death, and legacy[edit]

After leaving politics, Decore returned to business and became chairman of the Canada-Ukraine Business Initiative. He was admitted to the Order of Canada in 1983, and received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Alberta in 1999.

Decore was a two-time cancer survivor, having survived colon cancer in 1990 and liver cancer two years later, but a third incidence killed him in 1999. In paying tribute to him, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called Decore "an extraordinarily gifted leader" and "a man of vision and perseverance", while Klein said that he "brought great passion and a keen intellect to all he did in public life".

Laurence Decore Lookout, a viewing point overlooking the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, is named in Decore's honour, as are the Edmonton Decore electoral district and the Laurence Decore Award for Student Leadership, a provincially endowed scholarship.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]