Alberta Premier Don Getty at the Alberta Legislature news conference on February, 7, 1992.
Credits: (Edmonton Sun file photo)
Four provinces now recognize the third Monday in February as Family Day.
The big idea came in 1990, when then-Premier Getty looked to lay the foundation for a balanced budget in Alberta - later achieved by his successor, Premier Ralph Klein.
Getty looked with dismay at dollars being spent on welfare and helping fractured families, and in 1990 he decided to do something about it.
"I thought to myself that if we could get some kind of a push back against the family disintegration, we would have families happier and
healthier and we would actually start to slow down the process of family break-up, if it worked," he said.
"We were immediately attacked by some businesses who said, ‘Yeah, you're just loading another holiday on us and we don't see why it's necessary,'" the eleventh premier explains.
"As I recall, I had to take on parts of my own caucus who said, ‘Aw, come on, we don't want to do that.'
"In the cabinet room or in the caucus room, I stood up and walked around the room, saying, ‘Goddammit, we're gonna do it,'" he said.
Getty took the idea to civic groups around the province, and gained public support for it.
"They started to get a little light in their eye and said, ‘What the heck, someone's fighting back,'" he recalls.
"We did it."
Serendipitously good weather for the first few years helped cement the day as a provincial holiday.
"For a while we felt lonely, but we felt good because we could actually feel it in the community, and on a Monday with hot dogs and
skiing or hockey, you could feel it.
"There just started to be a greater and greater enthusiasm for it, and people got to where if they'd see me anywhere in the street, they'd
say, ‘Thanks for Family Day,'" he said.
"I am just thrilled the way Albertans have adopted it. If you just quietly go to a rink or a hill, with the toboggans and things, and just sort of listen and talk to some of the families, young people or others, you'll see it. They know why they're there and what they're doing."
Catch on, the idea did; the third Monday in February became a statutory holiday in Saskatchewan in 2007 and Ontario in 2008. It
becomes an official holiday in British Columbia in 2013.
Strolling and golf are on the agenda this year for Getty, who will mark Family Day vacationing in Palm Springs, Calif., with his
wife Margaret, two sons and their families.
Getty came to Alberta on his honeymoon in 1955 to quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimoes. The Gettys' have been married 56 years and have four sons and seven grandchildren - six granddaughters and one grandson, Wyatt, who plays football for the University of Calgary.
The former premier credits his wife Margaret for putting the Family Day spirit into their family life.
"She's always built a strength of family into our home. We've certainly adopted the idea and believed in it," he said.
"I consider family to be the rock on which we build our communities. It's important."