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Ty Lund, 23-year PC MLA and holder of four cabinet portfolios, dead at 82

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Former Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Image: Facebook

Ty Lund, one of the hardy perennials of the Progressive Conservative dynasty who served six terms as MLA for Rocky Mountain House, has died at 82.

Lund was born in the west-central Alberta town about 50 kilometres west of Red Deer on the last day of March in 1938, near where his family had farmed for two generations before him.

And while he continued as the third generation on the family farm, he was as much a professional politician as a farmer -- first elected as a councillor of the Municipal District of Clearwater in 1980, serving as reeve for the last for years until 1989.

In 1989, he was elected as the PC MLA for the Rocky Mountain House riding, a seat he would hold for 23 years through six general elections. By 1994 had been elevated to cabinet as minister of environmental protection by premier Ralph Klein.

He was either a success in that post or he wasn't, depending on how you look at things. Certainly he was unenthusiastic about strict environmental regulation of factory farms, which he called "heavy handed," arguing farmers should be trusted to fix problems through a regime of "self-assessment."

This kind of thing inspired the always clever Alberta Liberal leader Nick Taylor to describe him as "one of the finest examples of a Victorian environment minister I've ever met." Since the portfolio included responsibility for forests, Taylor dubbed Lund with a nickname that stuck like spruce sap: Forest Stump.

With environmentalists "infuriated by allowing industrial activity in sensitive regions," as Alberta Views magazine put it, premier Klein replaced Lund in the portfolio in 1999 with Gary Mar, then a 39-year-old lawyer from Calgary who would go on to be the best PC premier Alberta never had. After that, Lund held portfolios in agriculture, food and rural development; infrastructure and transportation; and government services.

Throughout his long career as a rural MLA, he was metronomically re-elected every general election until 2012, when all of a sudden he wasn't.

It may not have been clear at the time, but Lund was probably one of the first political casualties of the rise of Alison Redford, chosen by the PCs in 2011 over Mar. If they'd chosen Mar, it's possible Lund could have remained in office in his conservative riding much longer.

In the event, despite high expectations among the punditocracy for the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith, Redford managed to hang on to a reduced PC majority. One of the reductions, though, was Lund's formerly safe seat.

On election night, he was beaten in the renamed and lightly redrawn Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding by the Wildrose Party's Joe Anglin, a former Green Party of Alberta leader who didn't really fit in with either the far-right Wildrose crowd or the riding's rural Tory tradition represented by Lund.

The defeat came as shock to Lund, who seemingly had no idea of what was about to hit him. "The mood was sober at Ty Lund's campaign headquarters in downtown Rocky Mountain House," the Ponoka News reported on election night 2012. "Lund, himself, seemed somewhat shell-shocked by the results. 'It's a disaster,' he muttered, 'but there is nothing we can do about it. I'm not making any comments,' he added, shaking his head. 'I just can't understand it.'"

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre has been represented since 2015 by then Wildrose now United Conservative Party MLA Jason Nixon, Anglin's former constituency staffer who challenged him for the nomination. Nixon is also environment minister in Jason Kenney's cabinet and his policies continue to be unpopular with environmentalists.

In 2015, the year the NDP was elected, Lund opposed Nixon's election, campaigning for PC candidate Tammy Cote in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. He blamed PC premier Jim Prentice's early election call for the result.

In 2016, Lund was one of 50 former PC MLAs who endorsed Premier Kenney's candidacy to lead the PC Party, the premier's first step to the creation of the UCP. The list also included the likes of Steve West, Ted Morton, Stockwell Day and Ron Liepert.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image: Facebook

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