Laurence George Decore (born Lavrentiy Dikur), CM, lawyer, entrepreneur, community activist, alderman and mayor of Edmonton, Alberta MLA, leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, Alberta’s opposition leader (born 18 June 1940 in Vegreville, AB; died 6 November 1999 in Edmonton, AB). Laurence Decore was a Ukrainian Canadian community activist and politician. He served as an Edmonton alderman (1974–77) and mayor (1983–88) and chaired the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism. In this role, he led the drafting of section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It entrenched multiculturalism in Canada’s Constitution. Decore also served as an Alberta MLA (1989–97). He led the Alberta Liberal Party (1988–94) and was leader of the Opposition (1993–94).
Laurence Decore was born and raised in Vegreville, Alberta. The town is home to many people who, like Decore, are of Ukrainian descent. He was born Lavrentiy Dikur. As was common at the time, his parents, Myrosia and John, Anglicized their family’s names.
Laurence Decore attended public schools in Vegreville and Ottawa and secondary school in Edmonton. He graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics in 1961. He also earned a law degree there in 1964. He then joined his father’s law firm, Decore & Company, where he became a senior partner. He married Anne Marie Fedoruk, a professor in the University of Alberta's Department of Educational Policy Studies. They had two children together.
In addition to working in his father’s firm, Decore was a director of several companies as well as a real estate developer. He oversaw the building of a hotel, shopping centres, apartment buildings and subdivisions. He also co-founded QCTV Ltd., which brought cable television service to Edmonton and surrounding communities.
In October 1971, Decore ran to be Edmonton’s Ward 2 alderman but finished fourth out of 11 candidates with 7,899 votes. He ran again in October 1974 and finished first with 13,213 votes. After finishing his three-year term, he ran for mayor in October 1977 but came second to Cec Purves.
Decore co-founded and chaired the Alberta Cultural Heritage Council from 1973 to 1975. He also chaired the Edmonton Board of Health from 1975 to 1977. He served as president of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Federation from 1979 to 1981 and chaired the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism from 1980 to 1983. In this role, he took the lead in drafting what became section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It enshrined “the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians” in the Constitution.
Mayor of Edmonton
A year before the 1983 Edmonton municipal election, Decore assembled an eight-member team to again run for mayor. He focused on winning over working-class ethnic groups in the city’s Northeast while also seeking the support of professional organizations. He promised improved fiscal management, an end to confrontational politics, and a revitalized downtown. On Monday, 17 October 1983, Decore earned 95,981 votes while all five of his opponents, including the two-term incumbent Cec Purves, earned a combined total of 60,630.
Mayor Decore eliminated the Board of Commissioners and created the Executive Committee, which included the mayor and several councillors, to give elected officials more power to manage the city. He led efforts to bolster the economic viability of the downtown core and improved the city’s fiscal position.
Decore was publicly critical of Alberta premier Don Getty, claiming that the province was doing little to help with Edmonton’s unemployment and other problems. Many observers believed their feud was based on Decore being a Liberal and Getty a Progressive Conservative.
Decore resigned as Edmonton’s mayor and won the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party in October 1988. In the previous election, the party had won only four of 83 seats, mostly due to the unpopularity in the province of the federal Liberal Party. In the provincial election on 20 March 1989, Decore decisively won his Edmonton-Glengarry seat. However, the Progressive Conservatives (PC) won a majority government. Decore’s Liberals increased their percentage of the popular vote from 12.2 per cent to 28.7 per cent and their seat count from four to eight, but they still finished third.
At the outset of the 1993 provincial campaign, Decore and the Liberals were popular, and his promise to balance the budget and cut the province’s debt was widely supported. However, Decore said that he did not support a woman’s right to choose, while new PC leader, Ralph Klein, said abortion was a matter between a woman, her god and her doctor. The issue was the turning point in the election. The PCs won 51 seats. Decore won his riding with 66 per cent of the vote. His Liberals won 32 seats — the party’s best showing since 1917. Decore became Alberta’s opposition leader.
To balance the provincial budget, the Klein government cut public services and spending while privatizing some programs and downsizing the government. During the campaign, Decore had used a prop clock to show Alberta’s rising debt and pledged to tackle the problem, but in opposition he criticized the premier’s means of achieving that goal.
Health and Death
Decore had surgery for colon cancer in 1990 and again two years later for liver cancer. He stepped down as leader of the Alberta Liberals in July 1994 and was replaced by Grant Mitchell. Decore declined to run for re-election in 1997 due to ill health.
In December 1983, Decore was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his “services to the Ukrainian community and to the cause of multiculturalism.” Every year since 1981, 100 post-secondary students in Alberta who demonstrate outstanding dedication to leadership in their community earn a Laurence Decore Award for Student Leadership. Through this program, the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund has granted more than $185 million to over 134,000 Alberta students. Decore was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alberta in 1999. A public viewing area in Edmonton overlooking the North Saskatchewan River was named the Laurence Decore Lookout in 2003.