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Eric Lafferty Harvie (1892-1975)

 

Eric Harvie's philanthropic legacy is a legend in western Canada. His landmarks include the Glenbow Museum, Heritage Park, Sandy Park, the Devonian Gardens and thousands of other works. He created the Devonian Foundation, named after the Redwater oil-bearing formation that he successfully exploited in his first developed field.


But in the day, Eric was also recognized as a leading-edge oilman. And it is because of that Duncan McNeill and Andrew Crooks nominated Eric for the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.


Like many Calgarians, Eric did not hail from Alberta, but after visiting as a child, he fell in love with the west and moved to Calgary. He started work as a lawyer in downtown Calgary, having served in the First World War. He eventually became a partner with the firm later known as Macleod Dixon LLP.


While still practicing law, he purchased a 400,000-acre block of mineral rights—not for oil and gas; his original interest was in the gravel underlying these leases. Oil and gas was not then on his mind. Unfortunately, he suffered a legal setback. A rancher claimed that the gravel was not a mineral and Eric lost the case, thereby losing the value that the land had brought.


But in 1947 it became apparent that a large portion of his original lease holdings offset Leduc, and the Imperial Oil Limited exploration well of storied fame. At that time, a large tract of his leasehold interests had been leased to Imperial. So he was not yet an active oilman. But thereafter, he developed his own mineral and oil and gas interests, starting with the Redwater play near Edmonton. He used the cash flow from this play to acquire mineral leases across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, with some minor holdings in British Columbia. Within three years of the original Leduc find, he had built the second largest oil company in Canada behind Imperial, with 100 employees and growing. When he took one of his oil and gas companies public on the New York Stock Exchange, he, through that company, controlled almost two million acres of leasehold interests in western Canada. He had drilled the first well north of the Arctic Circle. And the company was thriving. Not many years after that, this company, together with Can Alberta was sold to Petro-Fina to constitute the Canadian operations and oil and gas core of Petro-Fina, which were the core properties for the early Petro-Canada.


In building his oil and gas empire, Eric also had to create the service infrastructure required for modern oil and gas operations. He had his own drilling rigs, service rigs, road construction crews and pipelining operations. He was a pioneer in many of the integrated exploitation and exploration techniques that are known in the industry today.


"He developed an oil and gas production empire," said Crooks, chief executive officer of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, one of the legacies created by Eric's descendants. McNeill commented that "In one year, he made more money than the Government of Alberta." His oil and gas interests also included chemical and industrial developments in western Canada.


Said McNeill: "He was a great citizen." The legacy he left proves this, and he contributed a lot to the oil and gas business in Alberta. Crooks said, in support of Eric's nomination: "He helped spawn a new industry."

 

   
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