Patrick Mahoney

Patrick Mahoney, first alumnus to be dubbed “the Last Liberal in Calgary”!

Pat Mahoney was born in Winnipeg, 1929. His father, Paul, had come north from his birthplace in South Dakota and became a grain buyer for the Alberta Pacific Grain Co. When he was 6 years old Pat contracted polio, which ended his athletic ambitions, although he retained a lifelong interest in sports. While attending the U of A, he managed the Golden Bears hockey team and graduated from Faculty of Law, in 1951.

In 1952, Pat Mahoney became corporate counsel to Standard Holdings Group, a Calgary based construction company, but his interest in community involvement did not take long to surface. In 1955, he was appointed secretary of the Calgary Stampeders, and rose to the positions of Director, Executive Vice-President and briefly, General Manager. In 1959, he moved the Labour Day Classic match against the rival Edmonton Eskimos to Calgary, where it has since become a sporting institution. In 1966, he was named President of the Western Conference of the Canadian Football League, and used his position to help devise the first pension plan for CFL players.

In 1969, he ran in the Federal election in Calgary South. He was elected with a majority of 756, thus becoming the first and only person to have been elected as a Liberal in Calgary since 1940. In 1970, he became parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance and in 1972 he was promoted to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Trudeau as Minister of State. By the 1972, the wave of ‘Trudeaumania’ had ebbed in Alberta and he was defeated in the General Election by his Tory rival by a majority of more than 16,000 votes.

In 2011 Pat Mahoney recently said to the Calgary Herald,
“I think we will elect an MP in Calgary again before
the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup”

After his defeat Pat returned to the law and was appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, which hears appeals from military courts. He was Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeals court until his retirement in 1994.

“He was courteous, welcoming and helpful,” recalls David Bright, a lawyer who appeared before Mahoney on several occasions. “He genuinely cared about people in the Canadian Forces.”

Pat Mahoney died in Victoria in June 2012.

For further reference, see:

Globe and Mail, June 23, 2012, Ron Csillag, special to the Globe and Mail

Title: Last Liberal from Calgary, and proudly so, was not bitter about city's allergy to Grits

Turning tides of political fortunes had him earmarked as finance minister and then turfed from office within a few months

Patrick Mahoney wore his bygone status almost like a badge of honour. He was: The Last Liberal From Calgary. Elected in the groundswell of Trudeaumani a in 1968, Mahoney squeaked by in the riding of Calgary South by just 756 votes. Uncharacteristically, Alberta sent three other Liberal MPs to Ottawa that watershed year.

As Mahoney was fond of saying, Trudeaumania soon soured to Trudeauphobia, at least in the West, where shrugs and inscrutability didn't go very far. Four years later, all four Alberta Grits were turfed from office - with Mahoney getting crushed by his Conservative rival by a none-too-subtle 16,448 votes.

"The unappreciative voters of Calgary South turfed me out. So that was my political life," Mahoney told The Globe in a 2004 story on the Liberals' bottom-dwelling fortunes in Alberta. But he was never bitter. "Better to be a has-been than a never-was."

Calgary has elected Tory MPs ever since. Mahoney half-joked that the Toronto Maple Leafs would win the Stanley Cup before the city sends another Liberal to Ottawa. Mahoney, who died June 8,2012, in North Vancouver at 83, "rattles off the names, parties and election dates with an encyclopedic grasp of Canadian political history," The Globe related eight years ago. Calgarians have long been anti-Liberal, he pointed out, but Grit politicians showed that every now and then, they could win in the city.

In that interview, he turned his mind back to 1905, when Alberta became a province and Calgary's rocky relationship with both the federal and provincial Liberals was born. Frank Oliver, Edmonton newspaper publisher and Liberal MP in the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, persuaded the prime minister that his hometown deserved to be the capital of the new province, The Globe's Dawn Walton wrote. "The reason: Essentially, Edmonton was Liberal and Calgary was not."

At the same time, Alexander Rutherford, president of the Liberal Party of Alberta, was appointed the province's first premier. He pushed to set up the University of Alberta, an institution that Calgary thought it deserved, but which Rutherford placed in his hometown of Strathcona, now part of Edmonton.

"I think Calgary felt it got a pretty good screwing from the Liberals back then," Mahoney said piquantly, and except for his term as an MP, the city's allergy to Grits was set.

Mahoney had a life before politics as a businessman, lawyer and advocate for athletes, and one after as a federal judge. In his brief political interim, he served as parliamentary secretary to the finance minister and later joined Pierre Trudeau's cabinet as minister of state without portfolio.

He helped guide sweeping tax reforms in the early 1970s that included the elimination of the federal estate tax and the introduction of the capital gains tax. He was being groomed to become Canada's finance minister, at least according to Edgar Benson and John Turner, both of whom had held the post and thought highly of Mahoney. Benson said Mahoney "had a lot of common sense to him" and "would make a good finance minister," while Turner felt Mahoney was well suited "for some of the most important jobs in the country" and that "it's good to have a westerner give me a hand."

"Watch Patrick Mahoney! Next finance minister?" an Ottawa Citizen headline proclaimed in 1972. A few months later, Mahoney was a private citizen again.

Pat Mahoney, from 1968 General Election
(Calgary Herald)

Pat Mahoney after his defeat in 1972 (Calgary Herald)