ralph klein is alberta’s sad story.

Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

I was born in Edmonton in 1983 and the first Premier I remember being aware of was Ralph Klein.

Having grown up during the Klein-era, I have a different perspective of those years than most mainstream political pundits and their baby boomer cohort. I have mixed feelings about the announcement today that the former Premier will be receiving the Order of Canada, the highest honour in the land.

There is no argument against his ability as a politician to appeal to an incredibly broad cross-section of society in Alberta. He led the Progressive Conservatives to win four back-to-back majority governments and reached his political pinnacle in 2001 by winning 74 of 83 constituencies and 61% of the popular vote. He was beloved by many Albertans, but he was a larger than life personality that even he was not able to live up to in the end.

Perhaps helping shape some of my own political orientations, my formative memories of Premier Klein were not positive. I remember listening to my parents and grandparents (who are retired teachers) talk about the short-sightedness of Premier Klein’s decision to lay-off tens of thousands of public servants, nurses, and teachers across the province. As a politically interested kid, I remember watching the television and seeing a jovial political leader. I would wonder, “how could he be so bad?

At the time Conservatives and many Liberals rallied against the perceived excesses of previous PC governments and jubilantly cheered the cuts. Over time, it would become apparent that Premier Klein’s tenancy to lead the populist mob translated into very poor long-term planning. Walk through any hospital today and you will almost immediately become aware of an incredible generational gap in the nursing profession in Alberta. An entire generation of health care and education professionals were told that Alberta was not the place for them.

In 2001, I graduated from high school and soon began my post-secondary career. Over the years, I sat in many dark and dingy Arts lecture theatres that had suffered from many years of deferred maintenance and cutbacks at the University of Alberta. Overcrowded classrooms, less one-on-one time with instructors, and increasing tuition – it was clear that the financial cost and quality of my post-secondary education were not connected. Despite this, I carried on and my academic career was strengthened and enriched by a handful of hard-working and dedicated professors.

While my classmates and I worked part-time jobs and accepted the necessity of student debt while continuing our studies, Premier Klein was accused of having plagiarized large portions of an essay written for a distance learning course through Athabasca University. Despite absolute irrefutable evidence that he had copied sections of the essay directly from the Internet, Premier Klein was cleared of the accusations and received a mark of 77% from the University. The Presidents of the Universities of Alberta and Calgary even wrote letters to the editors of the province’s major daily newspapers defending the Premier. I doubt either of them would have jumped to my defence had I attempted to plagiarize an essay.

While his tendency to overindulge in alcoholic beverages was well-known, and treated as a joke among Albertans, the ugly side of Premier Klein’s substance abuse problem reared its head in 2001. Intoxicated, the Premier had his driver stop at an inner city men’s shelter in Edmonton where he berated a homeless man. He held a sober media conference the next day and promised to clean up his ways.

In 2006, Premier Klein only narrowly won a leadership vote by members of his party. An endorsement of only 55% was a stunning blow to the once seemingly invincible politician. PC Party members sent a clear message that King Ralph had outstayed his welcome. When Ed Stelmach was selected as leader of the PC Party later that year, Premier Klein left the crowd of PC Party members in attendance with only a few flat and unceremonious words that seemed to only take 30 seconds to deliver. That was it. He had entered the Premier’s Office with a bang and left with a whimper.

I am not completely sure what he did when he left politics in 2007. I know he was hired as a business advisor at a law firm, was a one-time gameshow host and a some-time journalism instructor. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Peter Lougheed and Don Getty, he did not have a career or a profession to return to.

He is now suffering from a severe form of dementia.

His supporters will praise the myth of the man, but when you take a closer look at Ralph Klein’s time as Premier, his quickly becomes a sad story.

52 thoughts on “ralph klein is alberta’s sad story.

  1. Maureen

    It’s easy to sit in judgement of him, but you need to compare him to other politicians to get the real picture.

    I too grew up with 1 parent harping about how much Ralph was doing wrong.

    Now that he is no longer in office and we have experienced Stelmach and Redford – he looks pretty good.

    He actually left office in 2006, not 2007. So six years later everyone is still blaming him, even his own party. How convenient. Name for me one thing this government has done in the last 6 years to correct all these wrongs? Nothing.

    So you can blame him forever if you wish but the reality is that the people we should be looking at are in power right now.

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  2. HobbesFoster

    When we first moved to Calgary, we witnessed the sight of Klein wandering goofily around the General hospital while it was being demolished. Talk about a perfect example of right-populist idiocy.

    No real leadership, no well thought-out public policies, just populist stupidity. Their “success” was proof that far too many Albertans put ideological blindness ahead of common sense. “Martha and Henry” my ass.
    Long story short: Klein was living proof there’s no god.

    [comment edited by blog owner]

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  3. The Invisible Hand

    Over the years, I sat in many dark and dingy Arts lecture theatres that had suffered from many years of deferred maintenance and cutbacks at the University of Alberta.

    Classic “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy. The cuts happened, then your post-secondary experience was bad, therefore the cuts must be at fault.

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  4. darrin

    Not a word about his years of battling against equal rights for the LGBTQ population of Alberta? He squandered time and money on a fight that he knew would ultimately be lost. To see someone with so little respect for equal rights for others awarded at a national level is frustrating…. but to watch all the media (mainstream and otherwise) completely ignore his legacy of homophobia is like living through it all over again.

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    1. Chic@sixty

      Stop with the sympathy card and get on with your life. Have you nothing more do than insult dead people? Ralph had lots of qualities you may not have so let each have their own and stop looking for someone to ‘beat on’ or blame.

      Reply
  5. Bob

    Ralph Klein was like a long-term, unwelcome house guest. He overstayed his welcome and left a big mess. Attempting to clean it up in the midst of a recession cost Stelmach his job. And today I read that the Redford government is considering debt funding for capital projects. Newsflash Alison! Ed did that too and it didn’t work out so well. Ralph demonized debt so badly that an entire generation of Albertans think of debt the way my generation thought of the NEP. Ralph’s current condition is sad, but the province is better off without him as Premier.

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  6. daveberta Post author

    Maureen: I would argue that the large focus of government since the departure of Ralph Klein has been to repair the damage on – mostly in the form of years of deferred infrastructure maintenance and development.

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  7. Trevor Boller

    A very disgraceful story you wrote with bias on your own issues. When an Albertan can get recognized by the country, you find his flaws. If there was justice, I wish we would get a story on your college days of your sins by your roommates and ex friends. Let a man get his honor. I lost my job in his Provincial cuts, only to be thankful later in life for not rotting in that job. Judging a defenceless man is sick.

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  8. terry86

    It’s easy to say now that the cutting was too much, but let’s consider the situation we would be in if Ralph had not made those cuts. One of the reasons Canada is in a good position now is because we have a relatively low debt postion. Ralph Klein was the leader among provinces when it came to reducing debt and gave other provinces and the federal government some political cover to get their fiscal houses in order. I think we would have a greater infrastructure deficit now, if we were still spending a large portion of our income on debt servicing.

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  9. Scott M

    Is it sad that Alberta has the lowest debt of any province in Alberta. Is it sad that we have no sales tax. Is it sad that we are free to spend billions on infrastructure instead of debt servicing. If it is so sad why are thousands of Canadians moving to Alberta? Yes Ralph Klien made mistakes, every government does just as everyone does. What Ralph Klien did was lay the groundwork for a prosperous future – I dont think that is so sad!

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  10. Josh Kjenner

    Trevor:

    Every incidence of dementia in any of its forms is a tragedy and I don’t think anyone would argue that Klein’s case is an exception. However, I also don’t think that his suffering makes any critical evaluation of his performance as Premier obnoxious by default, which you seem to be (very righteously) suggesting.

    What it does do is suggest an obligation to write with sensitivity to his condition, which I think Dave has largely done.

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  11. Brandy

    People that don’t realize and forget the good things that others have done, usually focus on the negative things…yes people lost their jobs, but I think that the health care system needed revamping and new direction, in a way that is currently coming to light with all the new assistance and preventative measures that the health care system needed to change. There are not new ways to change things, its looking back in history to what was taking away and stiffled. Bring back the focus on the balance of the human body, mind, soul and connection to the earth. The Medicine wheel of my indiginous people’s is a prime example of how the health care system needs to change, people need to change their focus on what really important instead. I personally think Ralph Klien deserves this honor, after meeting him by chance on the first Family Day celebration here in Edmonton a program I had attended was facing termination, I just happened to be wearing a Wind Dancers T-Shirt he knew about the program and asked me what I thought the aboriginal communittee stood to loose if this program was lost… It would be detrimental to my people, and I followed with my own personal reasonings… Wind Dancers is still around and has continuied to teach and help the aboriginal youth gain focus and direction…

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  12. Doug H

    I think Dave hit the nail on the head. Sure he inherited the government after Getty’s government had run us into severe debt from infrastructure spending (the edifice complex) and Klein did eliminate the debt on the backs on public servants, but as pointed out in Mark Leisac’s book, Klein never had a vision. After paying off the debt, he simply sold our province to the Oil Companies and Utility companies to allow them to make record profits and have us pick up the tab for their expansion. His leadership style was listen to what his corporate and cabinet friends told him, then hurry out front. It is unfortunate his health has failed him, not unlike he failed Albertans.

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  13. Alex

    What an incredibly and embarrassingly one sided article.

    “…when you take a closer look at Ralph Klein’s time as Premier, his quickly becomes a sad story.”

    I suppose transforming Alberta into the economic engine of the country through resource development and fiscal conservative policies is not an accomplishment even worth mentioning for a left-winger such as yourself Dave? You write as though the public-sector job cuts in the 90s were the apocalypse like a true Liberal would, even though they largely contributed to the success of Alberta’s economy over the past fifteen years. How ironic that you call yourself open-minded, because your vision actually appears more restricted than a horse wearing blinders in the dark.

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  14. Broken Winged Swann

    Yes, it’s amazing how much damage a single man could cause, especially without massive electoral support to bolster him and gigantic opposition caucuses opposing his every move. In particular, think how bad it could have been had Albertans not been so thoroughly disgusted at Ralph they embraced the Liberal alternative wholeheartedly at the ballot box.

    Ass.

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  15. small town mayor

    We continue to see the repercussions of Klein policies. This is compounded because in order to support his policies, the Klein government ( let’s not lay it all at his feet alone – he had a merry band of supporters) demonized and attacked the other strategies. Lets look at “no debt” policies. Highway 63 to Fort Mac would be done if government could have debentured the total cost of the road. The project could have been tendered and completed during the slow years of 2008 – 2009 and it would have been a great win-win situation. Instead, because of no debt mentality the project has been stretched and multi year project with silly small stages that match the forecasted years income. It will take years to complete the project. Would I rather pay interest on the project in the years when the interest rate is so incredibily low or pay the inflationary costs on a project of this nature – I truly believe that the road construction cost in 2008 would have been alot cheaper then it will be 2013. If you fear debt servicing you are not looking at the cost of construction inflation.
    Debt can also be done in creative ways. Nothing says that the loan must be paid over 25 years. We could go with 5 or 10 year terms to lower servicing costs. Or we could self finance – “borrow” 1 billion dollars from the Heritage Trust fund, then repay the fund with interest over the next 5 years. We could set the interest rate on such a loan higher then what the fund is earning in interest right now – creating another great win-win for Albertans. The fund will grow and needed infrastructure will be built. But the Klein government attacked ALL debt. They didnt’ say debt for operating = bad , or tie any no debt policies to interest rates (for example saying no borrowing if the rate is over 6%). And unfortunately, it will take our new government a long time to change peoples minds on the topic (especially with the WRA continueing the myth “all debt is bad”)

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  16. Jody MacPherson

    Thanks for this, Dave. We need to take a more balanced view of our politicians and your willingness to show another side to the Ralph Klein story is appreciated. We will have better long term planning and more success when we listen to all sides in our political debates, instead of jumping on the bandwagon. Albertans are ultimately to blame for letting the Klein government get away with the short term thinking that now jeopardizes our long term success. It’s not Klein personally that I object to, but what he represents–the triumph of hero worship over substance. I hope we can learn to listen to reasonable arguments no matter which side they’re coming from, instead of getting distracted by the most popular. or most colourful personalities.

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  17. Martin d'Entremont

    Terry86?

    Actually an NDP government in Saskatchewan balanced the budget and got rid of the deficit before Klein did and without much of the blood loss suffered by Alberta’s public sector. All were unnecessary cuts because a proper oil royalty rate would have taken care of it.

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  18. Reality Check

    Great article, Dave.

    Alex, as to your comment: “I suppose transforming Alberta into the economic engine of the country through resource development and fiscal conservative policies is not an accomplishment even worth mentioning for a left-winger such as yourself Dave?”…. it wasn’t Ralph Klein who did that, it’s the fact that there are massive amounts of oil in the ground that happen to be within the borders of Alberta. Anyone could have been Premier and benefitted from that resource wealth.

    Dave has presented a fair assessment of Klein’s tenure. As some other comments have noted, Klein didn’t have a plan. It’s like the province was on auto-pilot and kept crashing into things. Yes, there were certainly some good things that happened, but what was squandered is quite significant.

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  19. Jonathan

    Bang on Dave.

    I remember a Legislative session in summer of 2005 that was delayed due to Klein’s fishing retreat to some remote BC location. I thought the parliamentary system was designed to curtail the whims of royal privilege……

    I recall very few moments when I was NOT wholly embarassed by Klein.

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  20. Heather MacKenzie

    Thanks for the post Dave. Very well done.

    Some people ask me if I am too young to be a Trustee on the EPSB. Some people are concerned that, at 29, I might not understand the history of education in AB and especially the changes that took place in the 90s. I tell those people that I actually lived those changes in the classroom. I experienced the loss of many opportunities in school: the loss of swimming lessons, the loss of educational field trips, the loss of drama productions and classes, the loss of art supplies, the stress of my teachers, and the stress of my parents. I was very fortunate to have parents who could offer me some of these experiences in other ways…but there were many who could not. We have many inequalities in our province today and I think that these have been largely caused by the errors made during the Klein era.

    I think that those of us who were young during the Klein years have a very real understanding of what the cuts meant on the ground and I appreciate you taking the time to write about it and share your sad story.

    Heather

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  21. Ron

    The only people that don’t like Ralph Klein are people that like big government. The socialist teachers in schools hate Klein and poisoned many young peoples minds

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  22. bartinsky

    God, is this blog filled with limp wristed millies and poofters. Klein was a mans man. told things as they were before the limpies emasculated him after telling a bunch of you lazy Edmonchuckers to go to work, grow up you carpetbaggers and find a job, move from mommas basement, go to the EEEEVIL TARRRRRSands and get a job, you’ll make a great living and stop your whineing. These comments you twits post, sound like a Cosmo thread, Klein got things done when they needed to be done, he got it done by not staring at a belly button ring and a nosering.thinking about the colors and placing like you wimps.

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  24. jerrymacgp

    Ralph’s legacy is an infrastructure deficit we are still struggling to pay for. Walk through any hospital or school; look at the walls, the plumbing, the HVAC system, and note the disrepair in many public building. That is a legacy from the deep cuts of the mid-90s. As for the province’s vast oil wealth, he doesn’t get any credit for that; millions of years of geological processes do.

    It is always sad when someone develops a dementia, but no sadder for him than for any Alberta senior struggling to survive in our high-cost, low-quality, for-profit seniors care system.

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  25. Jim

    Dave, do you have any charts from Finance or Treasury regarding Alberta’s budget deficits and debts over the past 20 years? I think when discussing Ralph Klein one should look at his main goal of debt and deficits. I am no fan of Ralph’s homophobia or many other issues but it should be discussed in the light of what he was trying to achieve. Would Alberta have financial strength now if it wasn’t for budget cutting in the past? It’s easy to demagogue the cuts but the context matters.

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  26. martin

    Ralph was the first politician who learned that you can still piss off 60% of the electorate and win a majority government in Alberta. Teachers, nurses, public sector workers, and others were thrown to the wolves. While in the short term, Ralph balanced the books, we’re paying for it now. Ralph had no long term vision. He didn’t account for growth, people’s feelings, and he wasn’t a visionary. We used to have teachers who loved their jobs. Ralph changed a devoted public sector into negative anti government employees, and many of those feelings still remain. He affected the current generation of Albertans with his “all about me” attitute that is prevalent with many young Albertans. Ralph may have temporarily balanced the books, but his lack of empathy is really his legacy. The media within Alberta glossed over his drunkeness and very little attention was paid to his drunken rant towards the homeless when he pulled up in front of a shelter in a government vehicle that was driven by his personal driver and called them all bums. He’s not a man deserving of the order of Canada. Many of his friends became very rich during those austerity years and he saved the PC party from election defeat to Decore’s Liberals. That was a huge accomplishment after Getty almost bankrupted the province but his lack of empathy set an example for Albertans that still permeates many of our institutions almost 20 years later.

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  27. Ken

    It seems to me that Ralph Kleins greatest accomplishment was getting the average Albertan to believe what he said. I recall the great fanfare when Ralph announced that Alberta was “net debt” free. What was “Net Debt” – that was the debt remaining if the province sold EVERY asset. Wow, that’s like living in a $500,000 house with a $500,000 mortgage. The only way that is good is when you compare it to living in a $500,000 house with a $600,000 mortgage – a situation the conservatives actually put us in.

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  28. Susan Wright

    Dave, this was a difficult topic–well handled. The decision to award Mr Klein an OC should be based on his record as a political leader. I don’t quibble with the fact that he reduced the deficit but it was at too great a cost to our social services, particularly health care, elder care and education.
    That said, it would appear that the OC, like many such awards, is based not just on one’s record but also on one’s contribution to the success of the party. It’s a fact of life.

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  30. Stop deifying ralph

    Folks, it does not rake a rocket scientist to take a machete to the budget and deny tax payer education and access to healthcare. Ab taxpayer money was used to train those teachers and dr.’s that left AB when they got axed! So many of you are so ideologically duped and enamourmed by his lack of thought and concience and confuse this for tough leadership. He shifted healthcare, education and infrastructure spending onto future generations and premiers. So what great genius is there in cold, callous, shallow and remoreseless decision making? Any fool can do that, put on a tough talking persona. Only in AB, the bumpkin sheeples idolize this thoughtless schoolyard bully behavior. Give your head a shake folks, he was marginally better than Special Ed and Redfraud.

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  31. kerry

    Dave, this rings so true to my own feelings toward/experiences with Klein as premier. Well said. I don’t think Klein’s political legacy is a positive one at all.

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  32. Alvin Finkel

    Dave is certainly right in suggesting that university presidents would not have been sending letters to the newspapers to defend him if he had been the student who submitted a paper filled with plagiarism at my university (Athabasca University). Then, as now–as witnessed by the revelations, which are gradually being rolled out by the CBC, that universities and colleges have felt the need to bribe the Progressive Conservative Party with taxpayers’ money–university presidents felt that partisan and personal considerations, not objective economic need, would determine the level of government funding they receive. So you had three presidents sending absolutely ludicrous notes to the newspapers congratulating Klein on his alleged dedication to life-long learning as a way of trying to change the issue away from that of plagiarism. Athabasca’s decision to exonerate the premier of plagiarism, claiming that he had not ‘formed the intent’ to plagiarize, was so obviously political that it bears little discussion. Here was a premier, a former mayor, and a life-long journalist, and he did not know what constituted plagiarism? Top officers of the university, who would not have had the slightest involvement in decisions about any other student accused of plagiarism, made the decision to exonerate Klein (with the aid of a media company hired to “manage” all public commentary from the university regarding the issue).

    Of course, one can argue that craven university presidents, municipal leaders, and health officials who give bribes, tell lies about how well their institutions are performing to comfort the governing party, look the other way, etc. are equally to blame as Klein and his successors for the sorry ethical state of public institutions and public debate in Alberta. But until there is change at the top there won’t be much change at the lower levels. The public officials at the lower levels persuade themselves that they are protecting their clientele from persecution by the provincial Tories that would surely follow failure to buckle under. That mindset is very hard to change especially since those who have that mindset are extremely well paid and have high social status.

    Frankly, those who argue in favour of Klein’s “achievements” are largely buying the statements of sycophants dependent on provincial financing, some of whom in private reiterate the critiques of those who view the “Klein revolution” as a financially unnecessary fraud that has created long-term problems on every front. And the beat goes on!

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  33. margaret warrack

    Congradulations to Mr Klein on recieving his Order of Canada well deserved to a good man, Alberta should be proud ,i know i am!

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  34. Duncan

    Lets not use Klein’s dementia as a reason to rewrite the history books. I have family members suffering from this disease, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – but the dementia itself isn’t a valid reason to conveniently forget (and forgive) some of the poor decisions Klien made.

    As Dave mentioned, the cuts to Post Secondary funding during his term were directly responsible for a massive increase in tuition rates in the 1990s, early 2000s. Students prior to Klein could reasonably expect to make up their year’s tuition and living expenses working summer positions – a luxury not available to most PSE students today. Our province’s problems with hospital wait times can be traced to health care cuts he made – compare the number of doctors and nurses practicing in this province to what most other western countries have. As for balancing the budget, he did it during one of the largest oil booms in recent memory – so lets not get carried away saying he balanced the books all on his own. When the ledgers WERE fixed, rather than take on the deferred infrastructure maintenance, hire more nurses/doctors, open more hospital beds – we got “ralphbucks” – a policy derided by almost every economist I’ve come across. Finally, his public defence of Augusto Pinochet on the floor of the legislature showed a shocking lack of judgement.

    As I said, remember Klein for who he was – the good, and the bad. Recognize that not every decision he made was the right one, and that we are still in many ways suffering the after effects of his term in office. I feel for him and his family battling this disease, but rewriting history though rose coloured lenses should be avoided.

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  35. Lisa Klein(Pinder)

    Ralph married my Mom 40 years ago July, he has been apart of my life until one year ago when he entered long term facility. I am still “involved” and no one unless you have a loved one with asphasia will never understand how heart breaking it is to have a man with so much knowledge and wisdom to not be able to have a simple conversation!!! I want to reply to the back lash and lack of knowing what was going on behind closed doors of legislature. When you make a mistake does not someone ride you for making it, well when you are a politician, your whole family is in the light of the media and all scrutiny behind it as well from the public. I really believe I have heard it all and now read it all…as the same you all would stand up for your fathers, I am doing the same for mine and not on his behalf all on my own accord.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinions. All I want to say is Ralph as a Premier was a legend and had this Province flowing and out of debt, now that the Province is in peril due to the past 2 Premiers well blame it on Ralph he can’t defend himself and you all know very well he would if he could talk~~ So keep your opinions going cause that’s what makes the world go round~~~Peace to all

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  36. John

    To Lisa Klein

    I am sorry that your father is as unwell as he is. It is no small thing you and your family is going through, I know.

    You should defend your father but not to the point of losing sight of reality. Many of his choices as premier were destructive and still being felt today. That is the truth. Perhaps you will one day see that if you allow time to heal some wounds and hurts of today.

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  37. Tim Brassor

    I would just like to say that I thought Ralph Klein, I thought was a great man, I wished that he would have run Canada, I know that he would have cleaned up all the debt and Canadians would have been all the better for it. I hop that Ralph rests in peace. I meet Ralph in Edmonton years ago. We needed him in Ontario. Collen I am very sorry for your loss. I know that he will be watching over all of us.
    Tim & Suzanne Brassor Ontario Canada

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  38. Gene Rau

    Ralph, was a one of a kind. Did he do everything perfect? No. But, no one ever does. Ralph left a legacy
    not only for Calgary, for Alberta, but for Canada as well. Any one who took the time to watch or listen to the Celebration of his life, that was broadcast by CBC, heard from those he worked with in the political arena.
    Many of his colleges have been interviewed over the course of the last week. Even those in the opposition, respected him, even though, they may not have always agreed with him or understood why he did things the way he did them, at least not at the time. Ralph would always greet the everyday guy, and was the very same, no matter who he was talking to. He left a legacy that his family can be proud of. Ralph has finished his race, and now because he made his peace with God, Ralph knows that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Thanks Ralph. Those of us who Christ as our Lord & Saviour will be seeing you very soon. In the meantime, don’t stir up too much trouble in heaven, just kidding.

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  39. James

    Why kick a dead man? Better to take a look at what is now happening and look for change there. Alison is cutting budgets and destroying the public sector, building on Ed’s mistakes such as removing the Health Care Premiums when most Albertans did not agree with this 1.1 billion dollar false deficit (56% of Albertans in a UofL survey wanted them back). When will we ever have a stable economy without proper royalties, diverse marketing strategies and long term mitigation for when the “bubbles” burst?

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  40. JonnyB

    His era will be a black mark on our history for certain, but where I run into trouble is trying to rank exactly who was the worst premier we’ve had.

    I think I would have to put Aberhart as worse than Klein, what with the pseudo-despotic attempts to take control of the newspapers and banks.

    I might put Brownlee as worse than Klein, but that would be based only on the Eugenics Board which he had arguable responsibility over, and the handling of depression era protest which does appear to have been mandated over him by R.B. Bennet.

    But to essentially transfer the provincial debt to the municipalities, hospitals, and schools, thus spawning a generation of potholes and stopping urban rail in it tracks, creating linups and wait lists at hospitals that we hadn’t seen since the 1930s, the highest tuition inflation probably in the province’s history and almost destroying medical training so that once the hospitals did re-appear we had no personnel to fill them is already a pretty dodgy legacy.

    Add to that the macro layer of paying off the debt when interest rates were at their historical lows, and to completely neglect all forms of infrastructure when construction prices were at their lowest as well is one of the most brilliant examples of utterly clueless administration in a Western Country since Harold Wilson.

    Dead or alive, a ready contender for worst premier’s legacy ever.

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  41. Pam

    Obviously you Albertans have a very short memory, about the good things Ralph Klein did for this province. He got Alberta out of debt, The Ralph bucks is another example, made Alberta the best and richest place to live in Canada, gave schlorships to post secondary students. Yes there were layoffs with Teachers and Nurses, but that happens everywhere, and usually they revamp those industries. I grew up out of province where there is no jobs, high unemployment and welfare. I couldnt even get a job at McDonalds with a grade 12 education, had to go on welfare when I was 18 and fresh out of high school to pay my bills and rent so I can have a roof over my head and food on the table, until I found something that pays even minimum wage. My only regret is I should had moved out to Alberta right after high school. So I can work and save up for my post secondary education without taking out student loans. Oh well you live you learn. With Stelmach and Redford they really messed up Alberta’s economy but we are in better shape than most provinces.

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  42. Kevin

    Born in 1983? …you are too young to have really seen it. no offence,I wish I was younger. Social services advocates will not be happy until education is free with an Oxford on every corner, until hospitals are drive throughs and 75% of the people are in the public service sector. A line needed to be drawn and Ralph drew it. I was there and it hurt people, but it was a means to an end. Maybe not genius, but he did something.

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  43. Elke Babiuk

    Reading these comments from so long ago and seeing how many of them are positive gives me a chill. Were people really that blind? Klein was a real life tragedy – he was embarrassing, insulting, rude and often a belligerent drunk. Obviously, he was a media darling who could do no wrong. Unfortunately, the pablum the media dished out about Klein distorted his true nature and his true record.

    While Peter Lougheed was the best Premier that we had and a true Progressive Conservative, Klein’s neoliberal economic policies made him the worst Premier Alberta ever had and a right-wing ideologue. He had no vision and no plan for Alberta. All he did was cut public services, and brutally at that. Alberta is still reeling from those cuts because neither Klein nor anyone since then has kept up with population growth and restored the damage. Because of that, there is a 2-4 year wait for regular dementia care for people who cannot afford to pay for private which costs over $6,000/month. There is a 2-year wait for hip replacement, and 4-hour waits in hospitals. I could go on and on, but won’t because he brutalized health care so bad, I often wonder if it wasn’t deliberate in order to privatize.

    When the boom happened and Klein should have known it was coming – others did – the money came rolling in but what happened to it? If he was the sound economic manager with the alleged fiscally responsible conservative policies that others boast about, where is the money that should have been put into the Heritage Fund? Why was nothing put away for a rainy day? Why did our public services decline so far? Why did we develop an infrastructure deficit? Could it have been because the corporate welfare was so absurd that he was giving away Alberta’s resources while the oil and gas companies and their shareholders were profiting?

    Klein was an aggressive neoliberal and a fellow at the Fraser Institute, a right-wing Astroturf group funded by oil companies and the Koch Brothers who own over a million acres of oil sands leases in Alberta. Klein started the corporate welfare gravy and “Starved the Beast”. “Starving the beast” is a political strategy employed by right-wing neoliberal politicians in order to limit government spending by cutting taxes. The end result is to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force the government to reduce spending. Given the corporate welfare give-a-ways and thus decreased revenues, Klein was forced to reduce spending by cutting public services and he did that zealously by laying off thousands of people. He also introduced a flat-tax system – a dream scheme for the rich – despite the fact that a progressive tax was a lot fairer. That cost the government billions in lost revenue. He deliberately starved the governments of needed revenue that could have been used for public services or saved for a rainy day.

    The tar sands were also developed without any consideration given to the environment – a corporate neoliberal dream scheme that benefited shareholders all the way to the bank. With corporations not paying their fair share, Alberta also developed an infrastructure deficit. The debt which Alberta did have should have been paid off with far less pain than what happened if companies would have paid their fair share of royalties and the rich would have paid their fair share of taxes. Our public services would not have been brutalized as much either and we would have had enough money to put in the Heritage Fund for a rainy day.

    Rachel Notley has a lot of damage to undo, not only from the Klein days but from those who came after and continued his neoliberal ways. I wish her all the best and hope that Albertans will be patient. She has a lot of work to do but given she is running with some of Peter Lougheed’s policies, I have no doubt she is up to it. With Notley’s progressive platform, she is sure to bring back a kinder and more democratic Alberta!
    ___________________

    ps: no personal offense intended about being ‘blind’ – I was a right-wing conservative for the better part of 4 decades and until I did some research, I was also ‘blind’ to almost all of it.

    Reply
    1. Shayne

      It is sad to see someone so beaten down by life that they would turn on free enterprise and yearn for the good old days behind the iron curtain.

      There is nothing that Rachel Notley can do to turn around anything. She is the biggest problem that this province has faced in my lifetime and probably will be through that of my grandchildren. Her fundamental beliefs preclude her from benefiting a free enterprise economy because she simply doesn’t understand it.

      Reply
  44. David Grant

    I agree with Susan that balancing the budge isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but the costs to accomplishing such a goal were too high. I think that Dave is right that Ralph’s story is a sad one for himself being stricken with Alzheimer’s and Emphysema, but the province as a whole. The problems we face from the cuts in health care , social services and infrastructure, the lack of diversification in the economy and climate change have wrecked havoc on our province. While it is a sad story, the saddest aspect is how much his government and the PCs were allowed to get away with as much as they were allowed to get away with. This is something that everyone who voted for this government for a long time has to take a long look in the mirror and recognize that they were part of the problem. That can change by not ensuring that another political dynasty is created. That is the challenge for all of us.

    Reply
  45. Shayne

    Dave,

    I just realized why I feel so sorry for you. Besides truly not understanding economics or appreciating the political might that was Ralph Klein, you lived Robert Kiyosaki’s childhood, minus the rich dad.

    Next time I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad I will be thinking of you.

    Reply
  46. Shane

    It’s pretty sad when you read blogs like this. Learning to be objective and applying that attribute in life appears to be hard for some people. You can argue Ralph’s economics all you want. The outcome was just. Understaffed? It’s called “living within our means”. And if you think I’m so wrong then wait a few more years under the NDP. You’ll soon understand what it takes to recover from from a disastrous experiment.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Shane, you just don’t comprehend the extreme damage that most of the Alberta PC governments have done to Alberta. Peter Lougheed was a visionary. He was the only great Alberta PC premier we had. What did Ralph Klein do? Catered to his big business buddies, and left us paying billions of dollars for his failed schemes and bailouts. Didn’t support proper royalty rates for our oil, losing us even more money. Never maintained the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Created an unfair tax system, that only benefited the wealthy. Left infrastructure in a horrible state of disrepair. Acted like a bully and a dictator. This is not something we should be proud of. The Alberta PCs are gone for good reasons. Throughout much of their rule, they did pretty bad things, which still affect us adversely to this present day. They have lost the ability to gain trust. It is not very likely that we will see the Alberta PCs in power again in Alberta.

      Reply
  47. Charlie Brown

    It seems even Ralph had a fault or two when in power and leading to his governing our land we call Alberta.

    My brother and I sat with Mr. and Mrs. Klein once in Calgary at a sporting event. Ralph told us to call him just that after both my brother and I called them Mr. and Mrs. Ralph was a man of the people, almost Donald Trump (ish) really. You could sit and chat with Ralph, share a cigar, talk politics, racing (as we did that day) or just sit and appreciate the opportunity to meet such a fine Alberta, who loved their Province so much they jumped in to public life and did with with more flare, class and determinedness that most anyone could have.

    Ralph was flawed, BUT aren’t we all?

    Charlie Brown

    Reply
  48. Charlie Brown

    It seems even Ralph had a fault or two when in power and leading to his governing our land we call Alberta.

    My brother and I sat with Mr. and Mrs. Klein once in Calgary at a sporting event. Ralph told us to call him just that after both my brother and I called them Mr. and Mrs. Ralph was a man of the people, almost Donald Trump (ish) really. You could sit and chat with Ralph, share a cigar, talk politics, racing (as we did that day) or just sit and appreciate the opportunity to meet such a fine Alberta couple, who loved their Province so much they jumped in to public life and did it with with more flare, class and determinedness than most anyone could have.

    Ralph was flawed, BUT aren’t we all?

    Charlie Brown

    Reply

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