Calgary preparing public celebration to honour late Alberta premier Ralph Klein

Posted: March 31, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in News, world
Tags: , , , , , ,
Speaker of The Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky touches the portrait of the late Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, in Edmonton on Friday March 29, 2013.

Speaker of The Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky touches the portrait of the late Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, in Edmonton on Friday March 29, 2013.

A longtime friend of Alberta premier Ralph Klein said Saturday the family wanted his journey to end where it all began 44 years ago.Rod Love said the family was offered a state funeral for Klein, 70, who died peacefully in his sleep Friday after a long illness.

He said the answer was no.


“Mrs. Klein and the family say he walked into the Old Calgary City Hall as a 26-year-old kid reporter and Mrs. Klein just said that’s where it all started and that’s where I want it to end,” said Love, Klein’s friend and confidant in an interview with The Canadian Press outside his Calgary home Saturday.

A celebration of Klein’s life was expected to be held next Friday at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, across the street from where Klein was a reporter and later Calgary’s mayor.

Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow is to be one of the speakers at the service. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was also expected to attend.

Klein began as a long shot when he ran for mayor in 1980, but his grassroots message of change resonated. He won and he never looked back.

Under his watch, the city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988.

He made the jump to provincial politics and, as leader of the Progressive Conservatives for four successive majority governments, he proved that politicians who did what they promised and stayed the course could surmount the most divisive of policies.

During his time as premier, Klein introduced a number of austerity measures and privatization initiatives that, coupled with multi-billion-dollar, oil-fuelled budget surpluses, eradicated Alberta’s accumulated $23-billion debt.

His cut-and-slash, damn-the-torpedoes philosophy — dubbed “The Klein Revolution” — changed the political tenor in Canada over deficit budgeting.

He stepped down in 2006, and fell into ill health shortly after.

Gavin Young/Postmedia News

Gavin Young/Postmedia NewsThe flags of Alberta and Canada fly at half-staff in front of Calgary’s McDougall Centre, where former premier Ralph Klein had an office, Friday, March 29, 2013.


Love said Klein never lost his sense of humour and he finds it amusing that people continue to ask what his secret to success was as if it was a “magic potion” or a “file in a safe”.

“The secret was he never lied to people. He said here’s the truth. The Ralph Klein that I met Labour Day of 1980 was the Ralph Klein that I said goodbye to at his bedside yesterday,” said Love, who was also once Klein’s chief of staff.

“I mean the politics and the policies and the things he did and everything he did…all of which were good and important and mistakes were made and so on and so forth….but are people talking about politics? No. They’re talking about Ralph. What’s the legacy? The legacy is not what he did – the legacy is who he was.”

On the streets of Calgary, there were fond memories shared by many who simply knew Klein by his first name.

“It was always Ralph. He was just a down to Earth people person and that’s why I think people didn’t call him premier,” said Marilyn Benko. “He’ll be remembered for all the good he’s done for Alberta, his friendliness and his compassion for the people and all the wonderful things he’s done for everyone.”

Books of condolences have been set in government buildings across Alberta.

The flags are half staff at Calgary’s McDougall Centre, which served as the premier’s office in southern Alberta. Two uniformed Alberta sheriffs stood vigil near the portrait of Klein inside with three tables each with a book for the public to sign.

Mike Sturk/Calgary Herald

Only one person had signed by early Saturday afternoon.

“You brought colour to Calgary. Thank you for bringing down the deficit,” wrote E. Goodey.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall added his name to those extending condolences to the Klein family Saturday remembering Klein’s kindness in meeting with him when he was the leader of the opposition.

“He was very generous with his time and with his counsel as he reflected on the importance of not losing contact with the people even as the most difficult decisions that would effect their lives needed to be made,” said Wall in a statement.

Love said Klein was a champion of Alberta rights but was equally proud to be Canadian.

“I think former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, who’s going to be saying a few words next Friday, put it best,” Love said.

“He said Ralph Klein showed that you can be an ultra strong Albertan and defender of Alberta rights and still be a fabulous Canadian.”

Calgarian Nancy Cormier agreed and said she will remember Klein for his convictions.

“I voted for him,” she said. “I think he will be remembered for speaking frankly about what he thought of Alberta and for sticking by the people. I think he will be missed a lot. ”

“It’s always Ralph. When you hear the name Ralph your mind goes to him.”

A sample of reaction to the death of Ralph Klein:

“He was not a harsh, religious-right type of guy. He was a moderate in my book and very reasonable people. When we had tough problems, he would not go on his high horse just to score political points. Of course we had disagreements, it’s natural, we were representing different levels of government but on a personal basis, I always enjoyed his company and I had the feeling he enjoyed mine.” — Jean Chretien, former prime minister

“Ralph Klein had a common touch that truly connected with everyday Albertans and he was known across Canada for his one-of-a-kind leadership.” — Greg Selinger, Manitoba premier

“He was a very simple man, very direct, authentic, but who could baffle us because he was so transparent. If he happened to make a mistake, he would say very honestly ’I made a mistake, my government made a mistake, we apologize and let’s start all over’. You don’t see often that much candour. He had that candour which, in politics, is a very rare ingredient.” — former Quebec premier Jean Charest

“Ralph could walk with kings and the common man, and everybody was important to him. Despite a differing political approach, one cannot help but admire his incomparable ability to communicate and connect with Albertans. He never took himself too seriously or lost pride in his working-class roots.” — Bob Rae, federal Liberal leader and former premier of Ontario

“We certainly had our ideological differences but one thing I knew is that I could work with Ralph Klein and his commitment was to not only his province but to the country so it is a big loss. He was a committed Canadian and I think when the full story is written he will get much more credit for that and for me that is a very important contribution for any premier to make.” — Roy Rowmanow, former Saskatchewan premier

“Ralph was a force of nature in his home province and left an indelible impression on Alberta politics and his country. He loved his province, and I know he will be missed.”— Kathleen Wynne, Ontario premier

“Ralph Klein was a premier who knew how to not take himself too seriously, even while he treated the challenges his province faced with a seriousness of focus.” — Darrell Dexter, Nova Scotia premier

“Mr. Klein’s devotion to and love for Alberta are unmistakable, both in his work as premier and his longtime service to the people of his province.” — Kathy Dunderdale, Newfoundland and Labrador premier

“We lost our much-beloved ’Ralph’ who served this city and our province for over 25 years. His record and his efforts have created a wonderful legacy. He touched the lives of every single Albertan.” — University of Calgary chancellor Jim Dinning, who served as Klein’s provincial treasurer from 1992 to 1997

“Mr. Ralph Klein was a great politician, a very kind person and an excellent leader. The growing Muslim community in Alberta has great respect and admiration for him. This is indeed a big loss for all Canadians.” — Imam Soharwardy, the Executive Council of Islamic Supreme Council of Canada

“His legacy is one of fiscal conservatism at a time when Alberta’s economy needed it most. He made tough, controversial decisions that have been embraced by Albertans as common sense. Ralph Klein leaves a legacy of balanced budgets, debt reduction and austerity measures.” — Rona Ambrose, federal minister of public works

“Ralph was a true supporter of Canada’s athletes, through his enthusiastic engagement with Calgary’s bid for, and eventual hosting of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. There is no question that Canada’s success at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and its current status as a leading Winter nation, is directly attributable Calgary’s hosting of the 1988 Games, and to the state of the art facilities still in use today.” — Marcel Aubut, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee

“I am saddened by the loss of Ralph Klein. May his resilience and dedication live on in our memories.” — David Johnston, Governor General


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