EDMONTON - As the sunset sweetened the sky of a gorgeous late-summer day, a motorcade accompanying the body of former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed rolled into Edmonton and up to the front of the provincial legislature Sunday.
The coffin, draped in a Canadian flag, was slid out of the back of white hearse and carried along a red carpet, up a staircase Lougheed himself walked many times in his day.
A team of RCMP members carried the coffin on its shoulders. Alberta sheriffs kept watch as they entered the building. The coffin was placed in the legislature rotunda, where it will sit for two days, to give people a chance to pay their last respects.
Lougheed, who is widely credited as being one of the most influential leaders in the province's history, died in the hospital bearing his name in Calgary on Thursday at the age of 84.
Even though the time of the motorcade's arrival wasn't publicly announced until shortly before it arrived, a few dozen people were at the legislature to watch.
Braden O'Neill, 25, wasn't even born when Lougheed stepped down as premier in 1985, but he lives near the legislature and felt compelled to attend.
"I grew up knowing that the reason Alberta has such a strong place in Confederation, and in many ways Alberta's great coming out on the national stage, was due to Peter Lougheed's leadership," O'Neill said.
Other observers were simply enjoying an evening stroll around the legislature grounds when they noticed something was up.
Karl Oelke, from St. Albert, just north of Edmonton, came to the grounds Sunday evening with his wife to take scenery pictures, but was pleased to have stumbled upon the event.
"I really appreciated the man. He did a lot for the province. He was sort of a pioneer in a lot of instances. I was very saddened to hear that he'd passed away," Oelke said.
The motorcade accompanied the hearse all the way from Calgary Sunday afternoon arriving at the legislature with six officers on motorcycles in front.
As they waited for the hearse to arrive, Mounties in red serge rehearsed their steps while the sheriffs kept the route clear of walkers and cyclists.
O'Neill said the carrying of Lougheed's coffin into the legislature felt sombre.
"He's so profoundly respected in Alberta and is held as such a champion of the province that you can't help but be saddened," O'Neill said.
The province says that members of Lougheed's family will be available in the legislature's rotunda to accept condolences from the public while the coffin is on display.
The coffin will be closed during the public viewing at the legislature.
Lougheed led the Progressive Conservatives to victory over the governing Social Credit party in 1971. He remained premier until 1985, and the Tory party has remained in power ever since.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced last week she was returning home early from a trade mission to China because of Lougheed's death. Redford had known Lougheed from her earliest days in politics and has often spoken of him as a mentor.
Lougheed's accomplishments while in office were many.
He became a hero at home and a nationally recognized figure for 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.
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.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called him a giant of both Alberta and Canadian history.
Lougheed remained politically active after leaving the legislature in 1986.
He spoke out against the Kyoto accord to control greenhouse gases, but urged caution over the environmental effects from unbridled growth of the oilsands.
His endorsement of Redford in the final days of the Alberta election campaign last spring has been cited as one of the key factors in her win.
Lougheed's family has said that it will hold a private funeral, but a public memorial service is being planned.
Related on HuffPost:
<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."
"I chose provincial politics because I though that's where the action was and you could get a lot more done"
"Our whole approach as a political party was to talk not-so-much negatively, but we wanted to talk about the future of the province and we wanted to talk postively."
"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."
"Because we had the resource revenues (we were able to) save those resource revenues for the future and create the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund."
"I'm a community person, I think in terms of community before individual. That's the essence of Albertans and to a large extent that's the essence of Canadians as well."
"I think it's important Albertans know the battles that we had in terms of the jurisdictional battles over the control of energy resources and secondly that we have a government that reflects the various provinces and differences and strengths of the provinces."
Peter Lougheed On The Future
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Peter Lougheed provides the opening address at the inaugural Public Policy Forum Western Dinner
IRPP 40 years: The Honourable Peter Lougheed
Peter Lougheed graduated from the University of Alberta and played for the Edmonton Eskimos during the 1949 and 1950 season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who Was Canada's Best Premier?
Policy Options magazine asked 30 historians, political scientists, economists, journalists and policy advisers from across Canada to pick their top five choices for best provincial premier since 1972. Here are the answers. (CP)
5. Robert Bourassa
Bourassa served as premier of Quebec from 1970 - 1976 and then from 1985 - 1994. (CP)
4. Frank McKenna
McKenna served as premier of New Brunswick from 1987 to 1997. (CP)
3. Allan Blakeney
Blakeney served as premier of Saskatchewan from 1971 - 1982. (CP)
2. William Davis
Davis served as premier of Ontario from 1971 - 1985. (CP)
1. Peter Lougheed
Lougheed served as premier of Alberta from 1971 - 1985.<br><br> The magnitude of support for Lougheed in the survey spanned the country, with first-place votes in all regions Jury members were also asked to rate premiers according to nine questions pertaining to various aspects of leadership, such as vision and communications, fiscal and economic management, intergovernmental relations and other important files. Lougheed's ratings were higher than the others on all questions, and ranged from 4.23 on interprovincial relations to 4.77 on ability to win over voters and elections. (CP)