Ralph Klein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Canadian politician. For the Israeli basketball coach, see Ralph Klein (basketball).
Ralph Klein
12th Premier of Alberta
In office
December 14, 1992 – December 14, 2006
Monarch Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor Gordon Towers
Bud Olson
Lois Hole
Normie Kwong
Preceded by Don Getty
Succeeded by Ed Stelmach
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-Elbow
In office
March 20, 1989 – January 15, 2007
Preceded by David John Russell
Succeeded by Craig Cheffins
Alberta Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs
In office
June 1993 – September 15, 1994
Preceded by Peter Elzinga
Succeeded by Ken Rostad
Alberta Minister of the Environment
In office
March 1989 – December 14, 1992
Preceded by Ian Reid
Succeeded by Brian Evans
32nd Mayor of Calgary
In office
October 27, 1980 – March 21, 1989
Preceded by Ross Alger
Succeeded by Donald Adam Hartman
Personal details
Born Ralph Phillip Klein
(1942-11-01)November 1, 1942
Calgary, Alberta
Died March 29, 2013(2013-03-29) (aged 70)
Calgary, Alberta
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) Hilda Hepner (divorced), Colleen Klein
Children One with Colleen, two step children by Colleen, two children with Hilda Hepner
Alma mater Athabasca University
Profession Journalist

Ralph Phillip Klein, OC AOE (November 1, 1942 – March 29, 2013) served as the 12th Premier of Alberta and leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta from 1992 until his retirement in 2006. Klein's tenure as premier ended when the Alberta Progressive Conservatives' new leader, Ed Stelmach, assumed office December 14, 2006,[1] exactly fourteen years after Klein first became Premier. His nickname was "King Ralph",[2] a reference to his political longevity and his management style.

Early years[edit]

Klein was born in Calgary, to Phillip Andrew Klein (1917-2014)[3] and Florence Harper (1924–2004).[3] His paternal grandparents were immigrants, from Germany and England, respectively.[4] His parents separated when he was 6 and he lived with his maternal grandparents in the city's north end.[5] His father, Phil, was born in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, grew up poor and rode the rails during the Great Depression in search of work. In the early 1940s he married Florence Harper, a waitress, and lived in her parents' basement in Calgary while trying to make ends meet working in construction. After separating from his mother, Klein's father worked as a professional wrestler in the Alberta circuit for most of the 1950s using the name Phil "The Killer" Klein and later became a businessman.[6][7]

Ralph Klein grew up in a working-class part of Calgary and dropped out of high school, joined the RCAF reserves,[8] then completed high school later in life. Klein attended Calgary Business College, and later served as president of that institution.[9] He later studied at Athabasca University. He was public relations official at the Red Cross and United Way's offices in Calgary from 1963 to 1969.[10] From 1969 to 1980 he was a television reporter.

Mayor of Calgary[edit]

Klein rose to public prominence in Calgary as a radio and television personality. He was the Senior Civic Affairs reporter with CFCN-TV and CFCN radio. Klein gained his first political experience when he was elected mayor of Calgary, Alberta, on October 15, 1980. While he was mayor, the city was enjoying an economic boom, attracting many unskilled labourers from all over the country. Klein gained unfavourable national attention by blaming eastern "creeps and bums" for straining the city's social services and police.[11] Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics during his tenure as mayor. Prior to entering provincial politics, Klein considered himself a Liberal Party supporter, although he did support the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Brian Mulroney in the 1988 federal election.[12]

Entry into provincial politics[edit]

Klein made the transition from municipal to provincial politics, becoming a member of the legislative assembly for the riding of Calgary-Elbow in the 1989 general election. He was named the minister of environment in Don Getty's government. Klein retained the style "the Honourable" for the duration of his membership in the Executive Council of Alberta).

Offensive gesture[edit]

Klein made national headlines again as environment minister when he flipped off an environmental activist who was protesting the government's decision to allow the Alberta Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) pulp mill to be constructed near Athabasca.[citation needed] Klein defended his actions by noting that it was the protester who made the offensive gesture first.


Getty resigned as Premier and party leader, as polls showed the opposition Liberals well ahead. Under former Edmonton mayor Laurence Decore, the Liberals had made major gains by criticizing the Progressive Conservatives' fiscal responsibility, the province's rapidly rising debt, and the government's involvement in the private sector which resulted in some companies defaulting on government loans. Klein campaigned for the leadership in part by making arguments similar to Decore's. He favoured a near-immediate balancing of the provincial budget and rapid debt repayment thereafter, and declared his government "out of the business of business". Klein was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party on December 5, 1992, and became the Premier of Alberta on December 14, 1992. He led the party to victory in the 1993 election, winning 51 of the 83 seats in the legislature, and almost 45% of the popular vote.

He was re-elected in 1997, this time with 51% of the popular vote and winning 63 of the 83 seats in the legislature. He got his highest amount of support ever in the 2001 election, winning 62% of the popular vote and 74 of the 83 seats.

His government took a knife to funding for arts and health programs, going so far as to demolish hospitals, laying off thousands of nurses, and selling off the provincial public telephone company, AGT to private interests. Klein's social and environmental views were seen by opponents as uncaring. Supporters argued in response that Klein was merely choosing appropriate priorities for limited government funding.

Klein was opposed to the Kyoto Accord, since Alberta was a major producer of oil and natural gas, and he felt that environmental measures would hurt the economy. The successive government initiated a massive carbon-capture project.

In 2003, mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Alberta. The cow was inspected, found to be substandard and removed so that it would not be fed to animals or humans. The carcass was processed into oils and the head sent to the United Kingdom where the case of mad cow was confirmed.[13] Klein said, "I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that," referring to the farmer in northern Alberta whose animal was found to have the disease when it was taken to a slaughterhouse. Exports of Canadian beef cattle had already been stopped at the U.S. border, with other countries already following suit. Japan had been a key stumbling block to getting the U.S. border reopened because it made clear it might rethink taking U.S. beef if it had Canadian beef mixed in with it. Klein called on the federal government of Canada for support, citing the response to the Toronto SARS crisis in previous months.

Ralph Klein at the 2005 Calgary Stampede Parade

In late June 2003, Klein and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met to discuss the beef ban and the route of an Alaskan oil pipeline, which Klein argued had to be integrated with the extensive Alberta pipeline system. This was popular with Cheney and other advocates of North American energy independence in the oil industry.

At the 2004 Calgary Stampede, Klein announced that the province had set aside the necessary funds to repay its public debt in 2005. The debt stood at about C$23 billion when Klein took office[citation needed], and its repayment was one of the most significant long-term goals of Klein's premiership. Klein was re-elected for a fourth term in the 2004 provincial election held on November 22, 2004 with a reduced majority, as he only won 47% of the vote, and only 62 out of the 83 ridings.

In June 2003, an Ontario Superior Court Charter ruling removed federal restrictions on same-sex unions being recognized legally as marriage. Klein repeated a promise to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to veto any requirement that the province register same-sex marriages.[citation needed] Contrary to many media reports which annoyed Klein[citation needed], this was a position of the Alberta legislature itself, passed five years earlier, and not a new position of his own. In December 2004, Klein called for a national referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage.[citation needed] This plan was quickly rejected by the government of Paul Martin and by federal Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper.

Following the federal Parliament's approval of same-sex marriage in 2005 via Bill C-38, Klein announced initially that his government would fight the distribution of same-sex marriage licences[citation needed]. However, he later recanted, stating publicly that there was no legal route to oppose the federal act (neither via the notwithstanding clause nor the province's power over civil marriage), and the government reluctantly acknowledged the marriages.

In September 2005, Klein announced that each Albertan resident would qualify for a Prosperity Bonus as a result of an oil-driven budget surplus.[citation needed]


One comment Klein made on the radio, that a youth court judge (who had suggested he would not sit in order to protest about judges' salary) should be "very, very quickly fired," was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Provincial Judges Reference (1997) for raising concerns about judicial independence. The court merely said the comment was "unfortunate."

In the late 1980s Klein was photographed in a Calgary bar drinking with two members of the Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club, later to be patched over to the Hells Angels. Years later, this photo was used against him by the Hells Angels when he objected to them patching over two motorcycle clubs in Alberta in 1997.

A problem drinker, Klein, under the influence, in the company of his driver, once berated homeless people, and threw money at them at an Edmonton-area shelter.[14] After the incident, Klein pledged to either severely curb or stop drinking, and did not acknowledge having another drink for the balance of his premiership. Klein resisted calls to acknowledge his drinking problem as alcoholism.[14]

In February 2006, the Western Standard magazine came under fire for printing comments about Klein's wife Colleen Klein, who is Métis. A column by Ric Dolphin, arguing that Colleen Klein has too much influence over her husband, quoted an unnamed source who said "Once she stops being the premier's wife, she goes back to being just another Indian."[15]

Reacting to comments made in March 2006 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opposing any two-tiered health care system in Ontario that Klein has proposed in Alberta which would allow quicker access to surgery for those who pay, Klein stated "I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation".[16]

On March 1, 2006, Klein got into trouble for exclaiming "I don't need this crap" and throwing the Liberal health care policy book at a page during question period in the Alberta legislature.[17] The same booklet later sold on eBay for a reported $1,400, signed by Alberta's Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, with the caption, "Policy on the fly".[18] Earlier in the question period he also had to apologize for calling Liberal leader Kevin Taft a liar on the floor of the legislature, which is considered unparliamentary language. His apology consisted of saying, "Sorry, Mr. Speaker. I won't use the word 'fib.' I'll say that he doesn't tell the whole truth all the time - most of the time."[19][20]

During a charity roast on November 9, 2006 Klein made a lewd joke at the expense of former Conservative Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach: "Belinda roasted me as a Conservative, but of course now she's a Liberal.. and I wasn't surprised that she crossed over; I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body.. well, except for one." (Referring to Peter MacKay, her former boyfriend, who is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada.) Klein refused to apologize for the remark stating that "a roast is a roast is a roast is a roast", while his spokesman pointed out that "Ms. Stronach roasted the premier two years ago and made remarks about his weight, his clothing and even his flatulence".[21]

Leadership review and retirement[edit]

Prior to the 2004 election, Klein stated his intention to serve only one more term in office. Pressure mounted on Klein to set a firm date and, following such a request from party executive director Peter Elzinga, Klein announced on March 14, 2006, that he would be tendering his resignation on October 31, 2007.[22] He subsequently stated that his resignation would take effect in early 2008 after a successor is chosen at the party's leadership election.

Klein announced his timetable days before party delegates were to vote in a review of his leadership on March 31, 2006. The drawn-out schedule for his retirement, along with his announcement that any cabinet minister who wished to run for leader must resign by June 2006, generated a large degree of controversy, including criticism from cabinet minister Lyle Oberg who was subsequently fired from cabinet and suspended from caucus.

When the leadership review ballot was held, Klein won the support of only 55% of delegates, down from the 90% level of support he had won at previous reviews and far lower than the 75% Klein felt he needed in order to continue. The result was described as a "crushing blow" to Klein's leadership.[23]

In the weeks prior to the vote, Klein had said he would resign immediately if he did not win the leadership review by a "substantial" margin. In the hours following the vote, Klein released a statement thanking delegates for their support and saying he would take several days to consider his future.

"Given the results of this vote, I intend to meet with party officials and my staff to discuss my next step," he said. "I will do this as quickly as possible and announce a decision about my future shortly.[23]

At a press conference on April 4, 2006, Klein announced that as a result of the lukewarm vote for his continued leadership he would submit a letter in September to Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party urging them to convene a leadership contest. Klein said he would resign as party leader and Premier after a successor was named, and would assist the new leader in their transition to Premier.

Klein officially handed in his resignation as party leader on September 20, 2006,[24] officially kicking off the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership race. However, Klein remained premier until the new PC Leader, Ed Stelmach, assumed office on December 14, 2006. He resigned his seat in the legislature on January 15, 2007.[25]

Later life[edit]

On January 18, 2007, the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais announced that Klein, who is not a lawyer, would join their firm as a senior business adviser who would bring "valuable insights to our clients as they look to do business in Alberta, in Canada, and in North America".[26]

In a July 9, 2007, interview on Business News Network, Klein criticized Conservative PM Stephen Harper and Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for their mishandling of the Income Trust issue and for not keeping their word on Income Trust taxation.[27] According to the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors, the change in tax rules cost investors $35 billion in market value.[28] Stephen Harper specifically promised "not to raid seniors' nest eggs" during the 2006 federal election.[29]

On March 27, 2008, Klein was created an Officer of the Order of the Legion of Honour by the Government of France.[30] The creation had been approved by the Government of Canada on November 24, 2007.[31]

On March 20, 2010, Klein appeared on his own television game show called On the Clock on the Crossroads Television System network. Klein, shown perched on a golden throne, evaluates the responses and awards "Ralph Bucks" to the contestants whose answers he found the best. The person who has the most Ralph Bucks at the end of the game is declared the winner.[32][33]

Illness and death[edit]

On December 15, 2010, it was reported that Klein was suffering from COPD, a lung disease. His long-time friend Hal Walker commented that Klein was "not well."[34]

On April 8, 2011, it was reported that Klein was suffering from Pick's disease,[35] a form of progressive dementia.[36][37][broken citation]

Klein was hospitalized in September 2011 due to complications from COPD and dementia.[38] He died in Calgary on March 29, 2013.[39]


Klein held the Order of La Pléiade from the Assembly of La Francophonie.[40]

He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002,[citation needed] the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005,[citation needed], The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012[41] and was appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2010.[42]

Klein was made an Officer of the Legion of Honour by France in 2008.[30][31]

Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from University of Calgary in 2011.[citation needed] and a member of the Order of Canada in late 2012.[43]

Klein was made an honorary member of the Blackfoot Siksika Nation, one of only two to be honoured as such.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stelmach sworn in as Alberta's 13th premier - CBC Article, December 14, 2006
  2. ^ King Ralph's Long Reign - Macleans Article, February 16, 2004
  3. ^ a b Perry, Craig 2006, pg. 597
  4. ^ SANDRA MARTIN (April 5, 2013). "Ralph Klein, 70: The man who ruled Alberta". Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ "CTV Montreal News - Local Breaking News | Weather, Sports & Lottery". Montreal.ctv.ca. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ https://books.google.ca/books?id=i_dGLlfvGJkC&pg=PT86&lpg=PT86&dq=phil+the+killer+klein&source=bl&ots=trFEyWRGiC&sig=dZw62iTyx9SRItKFqor1auksrMU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vBeTVKHJCPP9sAS79YD4BA&ved=0CEcQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=phil%20the%20killer%20klein&f=false
  7. ^ "Phil Klein dead at age 97". December 16, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  8. ^ Brian Bergman. "Ralph Klein (Profile)". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Honourable Ralph Klein, 1992". Assembly.ab.ca. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Honourable Ralph Klein". Abheritage.ca. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ Ralph Klein's Bums and Scums - CBC Archive Footage
  12. ^ "Ralph Klein's Biography Alberta Legislative Assembly". Archived from the original on February 7, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2006. 
  13. ^ "CBC News Indepth: Mad Cow". Retrieved September 21, 2006. 
  14. ^ a b "Alberta Premier berates homeless in visit to shelter". WSWS.org. December 22, 2001. Retrieved January 4, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Comments on Klein's wife spark new controversy for Western Standard". CBC News. February 15, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Klein defends health care plan while PM promises 'full response'". CBC News. March 1, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ Henton, Darcy (March 2, 2006). "Ralph throws a fit". Edmonton Sun. Retrieved March 26, 2006. [dead link]
  18. ^ "Piece of Klein history once a real page turner". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. July 5, 2006. [dead link]
  19. ^ "Geez, Ralph. Chill!". Edmonton Sun. March 3, 2006. Retrieved March 26, 2006. [dead link]
  20. ^ "March 1, 2006 Hansard 1:50" (PDF). Retrieved March 26, 2006. 
  21. ^ "Klein won't apologize for Stronach 'bone' joke". CTV. November 9, 2006. Retrieved November 9, 2006. 
  22. ^ "Ralph Klein will retire in October 2007". Canada.com. Retrieved March 26, 2006. 
  23. ^ a b "Klein takes devastating blow to leadership". Toronto: Globe & Mail. Retrieved April 1, 2006. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Klein hands in resignation letter". CBC. September 20, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  25. ^ Jason Fekete (January 15, 2007). "It's citizen Klein from this day forth". Calgary Herald. Retrieved January 15, 2007. 
  26. ^ "Borden Ladner Gervais LLP ("BLG") — Lawyers - Patent & Trade-mark Agents". Retrieved September 27, 2014. [dead link]
  27. ^ "Ralph Klein speaks on Income Trusts". YouTube. August 1, 2007. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  28. ^ "CAITI - Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors". Caiti.info. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Stephen Harper Income Trust Promise". YouTube. November 2, 2006. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b CKUA Radio News, March 27, 2008.
  31. ^ a b "Government House; Awards to Canadians" (PDF). Canada Gazette Part I (Government of Canada) 141 (47): 3240. November 24, 2007. 
  32. ^ "King Ralph reigns on new game show". CBC News. March 19, 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  33. ^ [1][dead link]
  34. ^ Bell, Rick (December 15, 2010). "Former Alta. premier Ralph Klein very ill: Friends". Ottawa Sun (Sun Media). Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Ralph Klein suffering from front temporal dementia Disease". Global Calgary (Shaw Media). April 8, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  36. ^ "Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein seriously ill in Calgary seniors’ facility | Canadian Politics | Canada | News | National Post". News.nationalpost.com. March 20, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  37. ^ Braid, Don (April 8, 2011). "Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein suffering from progressive dementia". Vancouver Sun (Postmedia Network). Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein hospitalized". CTV News. Canadian Press. September 23, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  39. ^ "Former Premier Ralph Klein dies after long illness". Globalnews.ca. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  40. ^ http://www.sen.parl.gc.ca/ctardif/images/photos/2005-09-17-Ralph%20Klein.jpg[dead link]
  41. ^ Bill Graveland (March 30, 2013). "Ralph Klein Dead: Calgary To Remember One Of Its Most Prominent Leaders (PHOTOS, VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2014. 
  42. ^ Alberta's top citizens chosen to receive province's highest honour
  43. ^ "Ailing Ralph Klein named to the Order of Canada | CTV News". Ctvnews.ca. June 29, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  44. ^ Schmidt, Colleen (1 April 2013). "Memories of Ralph on minds of many Albertans". CTV Calgary. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Perry, Sandra E.; Craig, Jessica J. (2006). The Mantle of Leadership : Premiers of the Northwest Territories and Alberta. Edmonton, Alberta: Legislative Assembly of Alberta. ISBN 0-9689217-2-8. 

External links[edit]