EDMONTON - Flags flew at half-mast, a vase of white roses stood beneath his legislature portrait and tributes from across the country poured in Friday for former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed.

Leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, lauded Lougheed as a visionary who fought hard for Alberta's rights, but who also advocated for a strong Canada.

"This is the loss of a truly great man and that is an overused phrase in our business in politics, but Peter Lougheed was truly a giant — obviously a giant of our province, but also of our country," Harper said while in southern Quebec.

Lougheed, who was premier from 1971 to 1985, died Thursday night at the age of 84 in the Calgary hospital that bears his name.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced she would return home early from a trade mission to China.

"We lost a great Canadian and a great Albertan, the most influential and important in our province's history," Redford said in an audio posting to her Facebook page.

"Peter Lougheed was a visionary, an inspirational leader who forged a path for success and prosperity in our province that is unmatched and will be enjoyed by generations to come."

She also announced that Lougheed's body will lie in state in the rotunda of the Alberta legislature on Monday and Tuesday to give Albertans a chance to say goodbye.

Redford had known Lougheed from her earliest days in politics and has often spoken of him as a mentor.

Plans for a public memorial were expected in the coming days.

The condolences and remembrances from political leaders to people in the street seemed countless.

Added Harper: "I obviously will miss him as an adviser that I greatly respected.

"I can't say enough about what he has contributed. It's just one of those times when it really makes you sit back and look at the great sweep of history and what has been achieved and, in particular, to admire Peter Lougheed's role in all of that."

In Ottawa, Opposition NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said: "Peter Lougheed’s work and achievements for Albertans and all Canadians has left an indelible mark in our collective history and will be remembered by future generations."

In B.C., Premier Christy Clark said: "Today Canada lost a true renaissance man — a leader with vision and passion, and an undeniable legacy.

"His inspired leadership laid the foundation for Western Canada's influence in Ottawa today."

In Calgary, Colleen Klein, wife to former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, said her husband developed a bond with Lougheed even before Klein became premier in 1992.

"Ralph often reflected on their relationship built during the time they worked together as mayor of Calgary and premier of Alberta to bring the 1988 Olympic Winter Games to Calgary and make these games a tremendous success," she said.

She spoke for the family as Klein is battling a form of dementia.

She said Lougheed was also a mentor and sounding board for Klein, who was premier until 2006 and took the province from the depths of low oil prices and big deficits to multibillion-dollar surpluses.

"When Ralph became premier, he and former premier Lougheed spoke on many occasions about the challenges they shared, and the Alberta they both wanted for Albertans," she said.

"Ralph, like all Albertans, understood how Peter Lougheed put Alberta on the global map, so that others, like Ralph, could follow."

Bill Smith, the president of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party, reminded party members that all they have they owe to Lougheed.

Lougheed led the fledgling PC party to victory over the Social Credit government in 1971, followed by 11 more consecutive majority victories first under Lougheed, then premiers Don Getty, Klein, Ed Stelmach and now Redford.

"The leadership of premier Lougheed built our modern party and our continued success is a credit to his vision," said Smith.

"The foundation he created has enabled us to govern well for 41 years as Progressive Conservatives."

Well-wishers took to Facebook, Twitter and the Progressive Conservative party website to offer condolences to Lougheed's family, including wife Jeanne, sons Stephen and Joseph, and daughters Andrea and Pamela.

Former MLA Jon Lord, said whether one supported or opposed Lougheed, he commanded respect.

Lord, in a posting to the PC party site, remembered the day he helped organize a march of 3,000 students to the legislature building to protest high tuition fees. Lougheed took the microphone at a hastily assembled public address system. The jeering continued.

"He shut the crowd down in five seconds flat, saying, 'I know (pause) ... I know you are going to allow me to speak' and that was it. We shut up and listened, and he was impressive.

"It was a pivotal experience that further convinced me to enter politics myself, watching how much difference one person could make in changing things for the better for everyone if given the opportunity."

Lougheed's accomplishments were many.

He became a provincial folk hero and a nationally recognized figure for his epic battles with Ottawa over control of Alberta’s oil resources. And he nurtured the oilsands development which has become a economic driver of the country.

He created a multibillion-dollar nest egg for Alberta from oil revenues and fostered arts, culture and tourism.

During the debates over patriating the Constitution, Lougheed fought for a role for the provinces and helped engineer a notwithstanding clause to ensure their rights.

He was a proponent of bilingualism and in retirement spoke out against the Kyoto accord to control greenhouse gases, but urged caution over the environmental effects from unbridled growth of the oilsands.

Although Albertans saw him as their champion, he was also remembered for his nationalism.

"He was unshakable in his belief that this country was the greatest country in the world and that it had to be united," said former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, who came to know Lougheed during the constitutional debates.

"I watched his performances and they were outstanding because he understood that, in Canada, we built this country by a policy of inclusivity."

Even one-time rivals offered praise.

"We were known to have differences of opinion on occasion, but I never questioned his integrity or his motivation," said former Ontario premier Bill Davis.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall lamented the loss of a mentor and a political hero.

He recalled asking Lougheed to give his members a pep talk in 2007 after the Saskatchewan Party first formed government.

"He said he would but wondered if we could afford his consultation fee. I asked him what the fee was. He said a steak sandwich," Wall said.

"His subsequent visit and the resulting discussions through the years have turned out to be the most important steak sandwich ever bought in our province."

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  • <strong>On being named Canada's best premier by Policy Options magazine poll: </strong> "The attribute that really pays off is listening ability. Both listen to the people that are involved with you working in the Office of the Premier, listening to the media...listening to your party and the general public."

  • "My whole life, 365 days a year, was team sports and I found anything in my public life we really accomplished that was worthwhile we accomplished as a team."

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  • "We got Albertans to think as Canadians. We didn't think of ourselves as just provincial, we thought of ourselves nationally and we contributed nationally - not just in public life and in government but we contributed in a multitude of other ways - the arts and culture and sports, in writing and business and science. All of those were contributions by Albertans into Canada."

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  • Edmonton Eskimos

    Peter Lougheed graduated from the University of Alberta and played for the Edmonton Eskimos during the 1949 and 1950 season.

  • Harvard University

    After the U of A, Lougheed received a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University.

  • Defeat of the Social Credit

    In 1971, Lougheed leads the Alberta Progressive Conservatives to power, dethroning the Social Credit, which had held power in the Alberta legislature since 1935. Until that point, the Social Credit had held the longest, uninterrupted government tenure in Canadian history.

  • Ottawa vs. Alberta

    Lougheed may in some corners be most remembered for his fight against Ottawa during the institution of the 1980's National Energy Plan. The feisty premier took on Canada's flamboyant Prime Minister of the day, Pierrre Trudeau, fighting for Alberta's right to chart its own course, as it kicked its oil and gas industry into overdrive. Much of what these two leaders accomplished and agreed to in this battle, still governs how provinces interact with the federal government today.

  • The boom

    It was under Lougheed's tenure that Albertans became fully aware of the economic potential of their province. It was under his direction that Alberta experienced its first economic paradigm shift and came face to face with its first of many booms.

  • Infrastructure

    With Alberta's industry and economy in full boom mode, Lougheed helmed the expansion of the province's infrastructure by building, among other things, roads, schools and hospitals - a somewhat different approach than the one taken by a later, and arguably more popular, successor, Ralph Klein. One of Alberta's premiere hospitals today bears his name - The Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary.

  • Kananaskis Country

    Many of those who worship mountain culture and adventure have much to thank Lougheed, who in 1976 established Kananaskis Country. For many, it's hard to believe that massive swath of alpine majesty was not a park, or even protected, until Lougheed came along.

  • Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund

    Thinking of the future, Lougheed introduced the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund in 1976. The fund would see 30% of royalty revenues in the province going into it, as way of ensuring the wealth Alberta had then didn't run out when the oil did.

  • Tory legacy

    By sweeping the Alberta Social Credit from power, Lougheed launched Canada's - and some would argue the world and second only to China - longest, continuous political legacy. The Tories have now officially been Alberta's governing party for the last 41 years.

  • The statesman

    Lougheed's last public appearance was June 16, 2012, where he was honoured as Canada's greatest premier of the last 40 years. But although he was well known for his scuffles with Ottawa during his tenure, Lougheed, during his acceptance speech told the audience to remember, and work hard knowing, that we are all Canadians first.

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