EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford is cutting short her trip to Asia and returning home as a result of the death Thursday of her friend and mentor, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
The Canadian flag over the legislature has been lowered to half staff and a dozen white roses have been placed by Lougheed's portrait outside the premier's office on the building's third floor.
The premier's spokesman Jay O'Neill said Redford plans to end her travel in Asia three days early.
"Arrangements are being made for her return," he said.
It isn't known whether Lougheed will lay in state at the legislature. The last to be honoured in that fashion was former Lt-Gov. Grant MacEwan.
Tributes have been pouring in for the 84-year-old former premier from all across the nation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada had lost a truly great man.
"Peter Lougheed was quite simply one of the most remarkable Canadians of his generation," he said in a statement. "He was a driving force behind the province's economic diversification, of it having more control of its natural resources and their development, of Alberta playing a greater role in federation and of improving the province's health, research and recreational facilities. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Canadian Encyclopedia."
Harper noted Lougheed's legacy will live on in the institutions that he pioneered which continue to generate benefits for the people of Alberta and Canada.
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston said Lougheed never stopped believing in a better, stronger Canada.
"His was a full life, with a record of achievements that will be long remembered," said Johnston. "He was a loving husband, father and grandfather — and a dear friend — and he will be missed."
Premier Alison Redford said Lougheed was a visionary and an inspirational leader who forged for success and prosperity in the province. She expressed condolences to Lougheed's family on behalf of all Albertans.
"Peter Lougheed was a man who made us all so proud to be Albertans and he will be deeply missed," she said.
Colleen Klein expressed sympathy for the Lougheed family on behalf of her ailing husband, former premier Ralph Klein.
"Ralph, like all Albertans, understood how Peter Lougheed put Alberta on the global map, so that others, like Ralph, could follow," she said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened that he has passed away, but grateful for the doors that he opened."
Finance Minister Doug Horner, who grew up around the premier as the son of former Lougheed cabinet minister and right-hand man Hugh Horner, said Lougheed's legacy had a profound effect on Redford's Progressive Conservative government.
"He was a Progressive Conservative," he said. "We do have a social conscience and Peter Lougheed defined that and really did define what Progressive Conservative was all about."
He said everyone recognized that Lougheed always had Alberta's best interests at heart.
"From the right spectrum or the left spectrum, all of his ... political foes respected the fact he was in it for the right reasons, that he was there to do what in his heart was the right thing for his province. I think that's something all politicians should try and emulate."
Accolades have indeed come in from leaders of all political stripes.
"There's an element of grace to everything that he's done," said Roy Romanow, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan. "The hallmark of the man as an individual always will be that he was a gentleman."
Marc Lalonde, the former federal Liberal cabinet minister, there was nothing personal about the political battle between the Trudeau government and Alberta on the National Energy Program in the early 1980s.
He said Lougheed "was an extremely able politician and a very "hardball" player. He had very much at heart the interests of his province ... but nobody could question his strong views about Canada, and his strong support for Canadian unity."
NDP Leader Brian Mason said Lougheed fought for Alberta and was a tremendous builder of the province.
"His work to ensure that Albertans get a fair deal for their resources, to create a more progressive province, to improve our education system and to encourage a fairer society is of unquestionable importance to the province that we have today," he said in a statement. "He stood up for Albertans, but remained a passionate Canadian."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said Lougheed helped modernize Alberta.
"His zeal and determination to make our province and nation a better place will not soon be forgotten. He was a visionary Albertan who moved our province forward in the hopes of ensuring a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren."
Gil McGowan, president of the 150,000-member Alberta Federation of Labour, said Lougheed understood the concept of the public interest, and did not confuse what was good for private industry with what is good for the public as a whole.
"He was not a cheerleader for narrow business interests, and he did not engage in gimmicks or short-term thinking. He used our wealth to build a better Alberta."
The board and staff at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts expressed sadness at the loss of "a truly exceptional man and consummate statesman."
"Mr. Lougheed was a proud trailblazer for arts and culture in Alberta," the centre said in a statement.
The Calgary Herald, Friday September 14 2012
Byline: Darcy Henton
With files from James Wood and Kelly Cryderman