Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein passed away on Friday of dementia and COPD. He was 70.
Klein was a journalist who made what appeared to be a quixotic leap into politics in 1980 when he ran for Mayor of Calgary. But to the surprise of nearly everyone, Klein was elected and spent the rest of the decade in that office. Klein put Calgary in the global spotlight by bringing the 1988 Winter Olympics to the city.
While Mayor of Calgary, Klein identified himself as a member of the Liberal Party. But at the urging of then Alberta Premier Don Getty, Klein joined the Progressive Conservatives and ran for the party in a 1989 by-election. Upon his election, Getty named Klein his Minister of the Environment. When Getty stepped down as Premier in 1992, Klein ran for and won the Alberta Tory leadership and then became Premier.
Affectionately known as King Ralph, Klein would be elected in his own right in the 1993 election and was re-elected three times thereafter until his resignation in March 2006. His most notable achievement as Premier was retiring Alberta’s debt of $23 billion in 2004.
But the main key to Klein’s electoral success was his accessibility. He was a guy with whom you could have a beer. Unfortunately, Klein’s drinking would catch up with him in 2001 when he stormed into a homeless shelter in Edmonton and began berating homeless people for being unemployed. Two days later, Klein tearfully apologized at a press conference and vowed to stop drinking. Albertans quickly forgave Klein his trespass.
For those of you unfamiliar with Klein, I would recommend listening to the commentary by Rex Murphy of the CBC. He asks why Klein hadn’t been bestowed with the Order of Canada. This would be rectified last November although he was to ill to attend the ceremony.
Well, take a listen to Ralph Klein in his own words. If he could eliminate the debt in Alberta, there’s no reason we can’t find the leadership to eliminate our debt here.