|12th Premier of Alberta|
December 14, 1992 – December 14, 2006
|Lieutenant Governor||Gordon Towers
|Preceded by||Don Getty|
|Succeeded by||Ed Stelmach|
|Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-Elbow|
March 20, 1989 – January 15, 2007
|Preceded by||David John Russell|
|Succeeded by||Craig Cheffins|
|Alberta Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs|
June 1993 – September 15, 1994
|Preceded by||Peter Elzinga|
|Succeeded by||Ken Rostad|
|Alberta Minister of the Environment|
March 1989 – December 14, 1992
|Preceded by||Ian Reid|
|Succeeded by||Brian Evans|
|32nd Mayor of Calgary|
October 27, 1980 – March 21, 1989
|Preceded by||Ross Alger|
|Succeeded by||Donald Adam Hartman|
|Born||Ralph Phillip Klein
November 1, 1942
|Died||March 29, 2013
|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|
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, exactly fourteen years after Klein first became Premier. His nickname was "King Ralph", a reference to his political longevity and his management style. Klein led "four successive majority governments."
- 1 Early years
- 2 Mayor of Calgary
- 3 National Energy Program
- 4 Entry into provincial politics
- 5 Premier
- 6 The Alberta Advantage: Klein's austerity campaign
- 7 Prosperity Bonus
- 8 Health Care
- 9 Ralph Klein and the oil sands
- 10 Same-sex marriage
- 11 Forestry industries
- 12 Environment
- 13 Memorable moments and controversies
- 14 Leadership review and retirement
- 15 Later life
- 16 Illness and death
- 17 Honours
- 18 See also
- 19 References
- 20 Further reading
Klein was born in Calgary, to Phillip Andrew Klein (1917-2014) and Florence Harper (1924–2004). His paternal grandparents were immigrants, from Germany and England, respectively. His parents separated when he was 6 and he lived with his maternal grandparents in the city's north end. 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.
Ralph Klein grew up in a working-class part of Calgary and dropped out of high school, joined the RCAF reserves, then completed high school later in life. Klein attended Calgary Business College, and later served as president of that institution. 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. From 1969 to 1980 he was a television reporter.
Mayor of Calgary
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 32nd mayor of Calgary, Alberta, on 15 October 1980, one of two mayors born in Calgary. He was re-elected in 1983 and 1986. During his tenure he presided over the 1988 Winter Olympics, the first Canadian city to host the games. The Calgary bid proposed by the Canadian Olympic Association (COA), would spend nearly three times what the rival Vancouver group proposed. Ralph Klein and other civic leaders crisscrossed the world attempting to woo International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates.
National Energy Program
The federal government introduced the National Energy Program (NEP) which "effectively imposed revenue-sharing burdens on oil and gas revenues in Alberta, shortly after Klein took office as mayor of Calgary.
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. 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.
Entry into provincial politics
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).
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.
The Alberta Advantage: Klein's austerity campaign
By the mid-1980s there was a worldwide oil glut, a serious surplus of crude oil, with the world price of oil dropping from over US$35 per barrel to below $10. The glut began in the early 1980s as a result of slowed economic activity in industrial countries (due to the crises of the 1970s, especially in 1973 and 1979) and the energy conservation spurred by high fuel prices. Time Magazine stated, "the world temporarily floats in a glut of oil."  By 1993, when Klein took office, Alberta's debt had reached C$23 billion.
The repayment of the debt was one of the most significant long-term goals of Klein's premiership. During Klein's austerity campaign, the "Klein Revolution", or The Alberta Advantage, as Klein called it, Klein slashed government spending by deep cuts – more than 20 per cent – in public spending resulting in massive job losses in the public sector. He shut down hospitals. 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. Without necessary infrastructure, Alberta was unprepared for the boom times.
At the 2004 Calgary Stampede, Klein announced that the province had set aside the necessary funds to repay its public debt in 2005. 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. 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.
"Never again will this government or the people of this province have to set aside another tax dollar on debt..."Those days are over and they're over for good, as far as my government is concerned, and if need be we will put in place legislation to make sure that we never have a debt again."—Ralph Klein 2004
From the mid-1980s to September 2003, the inflation adjusted price of a barrel of crude oil on NYMEX was generally under $25/barrel. A rebound in the price of oil worldwide led to big provincial surpluses in Alberta since the mid-1990. During 2004, the price of oil rose above $40, and then $50. A series of events led the price to exceed $60 by August 11, 2005, leading to a record-speed hike that reached $75 by the middle of 2006.
Political analyst David Taras of Mount Royal University argued that although Klein was popular he failed at public policy. His focus on paying down Alberta's fiscal debt during an oil boom, when the interest rates on the debt were low, was done "at the expense of hospitals, roads, light rail transit lines, and investing in better health-care services or education." Rich Vivone, who was involved in Alberta politics from 1980-2005, claimed Klein "had the trust and popularity to do almost anything he wanted and survive" and his "fiscal achievements early in his career were significant, but he "utterly failed at health reform and economic diversification" and he did "little for culture, recreation or the arts."
As the global price of oil increased Klein created the Prosperity Bonus, known locally as "Ralph Bucks," in which the Alberta government sent a $400 cheque to each Alberta resident not in prison, at a cost of $1.4 billion. ATB Financial's Todd Hirsch observed,
"At the same time, the University of Calgary was looking at expanding. It had great plans for a downtown campus that was going to cost around $1 billion. I think we missed some great opportunities to invest in our post-secondary education systems; instead, we frittered away our money. People got a couple of dinners and put some gas in their Hummer, and that was about it."—Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist
In October 1998 Klein had the old Calgary General Hospital demolished with explosives.
In July 2005 Klein delivered a speech on the his "third way" in health care which would lie between the American system and the Canadian system. He proposed a series of provincial health care reforms that would potentially violate the Canada Health Act. Klein's reforms for Alberta would have permitted for-profit care and made it possible to jump queues, to "allow patients to pay cash for some surgery and let doctors practice in both the public and private health systems." Public outcry forced the government to listen to Albertans and the third way was not legislated.
Klein's responded by exclaiming, "I don't need this crap" and throwing the Liberal health care policy book at a seventeen-year-old page who had delivered the book during question period in the Alberta legislature. 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". 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." 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".
"This was matched by the elimination of or reduction of hours for 14,753 positions in health care. Regionalization of Alberta’s health care was intended to rationalize health services."
Alberta was ill-prepared for the huge growth of the oil sands because of cuts taken to public services during Klein's term.
Ralph Klein and the oil sands
Calgary's economy was so closely tied to the oil industry that the city's boom peaked with the average annual price of oil in 1981. As the price of oil rose Alberta's budget surplus stood at $4 billion in 2004. The province used this surplus to eliminate its $3-billion debt.
The subsequent drops in oil prices were cited by industry as reasons for a collapse in the oil industry and consequently the overall Calgary economy. Low oil prices prevented a full recovery until the 1990s. Federal and provincial and federal major investment incentives for oil sands companies were introduced by both the federal government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and the provincial government under Klein. The Liberal federal government "reformed and streamlined the tax write-offs it allowed for oil sands firms." Klein "scrapped a welter of one-off royalty deals to create a generic royalty – one that demanded only token payments in the first years of the megaprojects." This facilitated oil sands development.
According to the Calgary Herald,
"Ralph Klein’s legacy is inextricably linked to his government’s role in encouraging the province’s energy industry – particularly his role in presiding over the province as development in northern Alberta’s oil sands flourished."—Kelly Cruderman
Klein changed Alberta's royalty system so that oil companies paid only one per cent of their profits to Alberta until they recovered the cost of the project. The royalty rose to 25 per cent once the recovery cost was reached. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) claimed there was almost $4 billion coming from oil sands royalties in 2006.
In late June 2003, Klein and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met to discuss 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 end of Klein's term one of the most common concerns "was that Albertans were not getting enough money for their resources."
Cheney had met with Klein to discuss the American ban on Albertan beef that was in place following discovery of mad cow disease in a cow in Alberta in 2003. 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. 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.
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. Contrary to many media reports which annoyed Klein, 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. 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. 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.
Economic diversification was one of Klein's goals. In December 1990 Klein announced the final approval for the construction of "North America’s newest and largest pulp mill" by Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac). It was the "first in a new generation of pulp mills constructed to meet higher environmental standards put in place in the late 1980s." Al-Pac received a loan of $264 million from Klein from the Heritage Savings and Fund Trust in what Klein called a "sweetheart deal." Against the advice of the Auditor General and the Provincial Treasurer on March 31, 1997 Klein wrote off the $140 million loan to the Alpac Joint Venture with Mitsubishi/Crestbrook/OJI et al. when prices for were low for pulp.
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.
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. Klein defended his actions by noting that it was the protester who made the offensive gesture first.
At a 2002 fund-raiser Klein joked,
"You know, my science is limited to the fact that I know that eons ago there was an ice age. I know that for sure. I know that at one time, the Arctic was the tropics. And I guess I wonder what caused that? Was it dinosaur farts? I don’t know."—Ralph Klein
Memorable moments and controversies
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.
After an embarrassing incident in 2001, where a drunken Klein berated people in an Edmonton homeless shelter, for being unemployed, Klein held a press conference to discuss his alcoholism. Albertans continued to support him for many more years.
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.
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 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."
|Wikinews has related news: Alberta premier Ralph Klein joke outrages Liberal MP Belinda Stronach|
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".
Leadership review and retirement
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 31 October 2007. 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. In 2006, Alberta Progressive Conservative Premier Ralph Klein agreed to step down as party leader that year after he received the endorsement of only 55% of delegates in a leadership review. 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.
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, 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.
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".
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. According to the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors, the change in tax rules cost investors $35 billion in market value. Stephen Harper specifically promised "not to raid seniors' nest eggs" during the 2006 federal election.
On March 27, 2008, Klein was created an Officer of the Order of the Legion of Honour by the Government of France. The creation had been approved by the Government of Canada on November 24, 2007.
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.
Illness and death
He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005,, The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and was appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2010.
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