Lougheed's death prompts Redford to cut short trade mission

As accolades for former premier Peter Lougheed continued flooding in Friday, current Premier Alison Redford is cutting short her trade trip to Asia in honour of the Alberta icon who died Thursday.

Redford, who began her trip to China last weekend, was making arrangements Friday to return from China before its was originally scheduled to end on Monday, said her spokeswoman, Kim Misik.

"He was an important mentor for her, someone she cared a lot about," said Misik.

"She had quite a unique relationship with the former premier."

On Friday, the premier's office announced Lougheed will lie in state Monday and Tuesday at the Legislature in Edmonton.

"Peter Lougheed held a special place in Albertans' hearts, including mine as a dear friend and trusted mentor," Redford said in a press release.

"And it's important that Albertans who knew and admired him have the chance to say goodbye, and to reflect on his remarkable life and legacy."

Whatever funeral arrangements for Lougheed the province might have a hand in will "respect whatever path his family wants to take," she added.

His family has also said there'll be a private funeral for the man who was known as an elder statesman until his death.

Lougheed, who was Alberta premier from 1971 to 1985, died at age 84 in the hospital bearing his name following a lengthy illness.

He's widely credited with modernizing Alberta's social, environmental, health and energy revenue regimes while pioneering province's rights.

Flags at government buildings, schools and businesses around the province were flying at half mast in honour of Lougheed.

Earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper eulogized Lougheed as a driver of Alberta economic diversification while "working tirelessly toward a strong, united Canada."

The head of a political foe of Lougheed's PC's — Liberal leader Dr. Raj Sherman — said Friday that the political icon had foresight in many areas, including health care.

"A professional athlete, Lougheed understood the important role of prevention and wellness," he said, referring to Lougheed's stint as a professional football player.

"Thanks to his initiatives, Albertans received improved access to world-class publicly funded and delivered health care."

Just before Lougheed died, his successor as premier, Don Getty, was emotional about the loss, both on a personal and political level.

"My wife and I fell in love with Peter, in a way," said Getty, who recalled the times the families spent together during a turbulent era.

"It's heartbreaking."

Getty said he's most proud of Lougheed for standing up for Alberta during constitutional battles, and also for bolstering his country.

"We had a champion ... we were dealing with oil and gas and petro-chemicals and those are the things we used to strengthen Alberta and Canada," said Getty.

In rare praise for a premier from a union, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan credited Lougheed as a champion of all citizens rather than only big business — a philosophy the AFL head said has retreated.

"He remained engaged and outspoken in the affairs of our province, I think, because he saw Alberta's potential as more than just the success of a few industries, or short-lived booms and busts," said McGowan.

"He saw us as a community."

Calgary Sun, Friday September 14 2012

Byline: Bill Kaufman

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