Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein dead at age 70

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Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein dead at age 70

13/03/20 12:40 AM ET

CALGARY — Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein is seriously ill in the Calgary seniors’ facility that has been his home since 2011.

Klein, who led Alberta from 1992 to 2006, has been suffering from frontal lobe dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

He was hospitalized in September 2011 and moved into a continuing care facility in October of that year.

Rod Love, the former chief of staff to Klein who has served as a spokesman for the family, declined to comment on the 70-year-old’s condition.

“He’s resting comfortably. I was up there this morning, I can’t go into any more detail than that,” Love said.

“When there’s something to say or any updates, we’ll have something to say.”


Such a horrible thing for anyone to experience. Prayers and thoughts for him and his family.Frown


Yes, I was never a supporter of Klein obviously, but his rapid decline has been very unfortunate.  And he's only 70.  He's not even that old and yet he has been struck with major health problems before his time.


Yes I heard about his condition six months or so ago in the news; there was some function where his presence would have made sense, but he was not there.

Sean in Ottawa

This is a terrible disease. You don't have to agree with his politics to have human sympathy for him and his family. I absolutely hated his political beliefs but that is not relevant in this situation.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Just wanted to say I admire the common humanity being expressed in the posts of this thread.  It's a good example that you're setting here.

knownothing knownothing's picture

He is certainly an iconic figure in canadian politics.

My sympathy to him and his family.


I don't see much point in getting too much into his record, his policies, or his methods here. That can wait for another time.

I'll just say that I am glad his province has a health care system that is caring for him. I remember in the late 90s making a number of phone calls for a family member there. Because of a dispute she and her children were left without a health card and the local hospital had a sign telling people to bring a card or cash. They hadn't seen a doctor in six months, and she was not aware that what was done was illegal. I had to contact one of the province's NDP MLAs to fix it.

Sorry, Ken, I do have sympathy, but if we can allow that he was iconic (as he was in some ways) I think this point is relevant to his situation right now.





Mikal Sergov

Ralph Klein, the former premier of Alberta, died early Good Friday at age 70.


alan smithee alan smithee's picture

I'm not going to pretend I have any respect for that man...No comment (for today)


Mikal Sergov wrote:
Ralph Klein, the former premier of Alberta, died early Good Friday at age 70.

What timing for his death to happen on Good Friday.

Condolences to his family. In the faith tradition I follow, as we will discover in a few days, death does not have the final say, although what lies beyond, we cannot know right now.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

I agree with the sentiment that condolences should be sent out to his family. Other than that, the prospect of the lickspittle media here in Alberta indulging in hagiography of the former premier nauseates me.


Any news about the homeless people that Klein drunkenly called out? Are they all still living? In good health?

ETA: Here's one:

[url= man undeterred by Ralph Klein's slurred rant[/url]


Sean in Ottawa

My sympathies to the family.

I don't want to see his policies praised. If that does not happen then I can mark my opinions about them as not relevant today. Unfortunately, if there is too much praise for how great he was, a response will have to come from the other side. He was a terrible influence on his province and the nation from my perspective politically. He may well have been a great figure for the right wing from their perspective.

He was also a human being. But we don't know him as a human being. We know him as a political symbol and leader of a point of view we have found repulsive. It makes it difficult to offer human sympathies without acknowledging what he represents. On a political site-- is there a point pretending he was an ordinary person divorced from his life's work?


Sean in Ottawa wrote:
I absolutely hated his political beliefs but that is not relevant in this situation.

I don't even know his if "political beliefs" were as strong as some are pretending.  He was a populist, pure and simple; and had he emerged a generation earlier, or in an environment other than Alberta, he might have been different.


And in a Rob Ford age, he's practically benign.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Has Rob Ford got drunk and gone out and beat up homeless people yet?  He was a "populist" asshole whose insistence on balanced budgets while lowering taxes caused much of the infrastructure in the province to deteriorate.  He was the worst kind of right wing politician and one only has to compare him to Lougheed to see just how destructive he was.  He faked being a man of the people while selling out to the Calgary energy sector. The populist lie is what made him both politically successful and dangerous to society.

[I waited a day after his death to say what a I thought of him]


adma wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
I absolutely hated his political beliefs but that is not relevant in this situation.

And in a Rob Ford age, he's practically benign.

I do not see him as more benign than Ford. I was going to let his death pass by without comment. However, whatever he was, "benign" he was not. In a largely favourable obituary in the Vancouver Sun, these passages sums a significant part of this man:

"The fast-living, hard-drinking mayor gained national notoriety after an address to the Calgary's Newcomers' Club.

The Calgary Herald quoted Klein as attacking "a lot of creeps" who were arriving in the booming city without jobs or skills. Admitting to being a bit of a "redneck," Klein also pledged to use "cowboy techniques" if outsiders turned to criminal activity to make a living.

The so-called bums-and-creeps remark sparked a furor that was only quelled by a tour of Eastern Canada that remarkably earned him a grudging respect. He clarified, but never apologized, for the remarks. ...

In 2001, an intoxicated Klein dropped by the city's Herb Jamieson Centre, a homeless shelter in Edmonton's downtown, so he could see for himself the city's reported homelessness problems. An argument broke out and Klein chided a homeless man, telling him to get a job and tossing money at the man.

Speaking to reporters a few days later, a teary-eyed premier apologized and declared booze a "devil" and "awful beast." ...

Klein certainly seemed to be tiring of it all when he infamously flung a Liberal policy book at a legislature page, telling the assembly: "I don't need this crap." Klein apologized to the young female page for losing his temper, but the incident sounded alarm bells for many people."


The only times he apologized were when his behaviour was already damaging his political career. When, as in the case of the first incident, it appealed to a large segment of the population, he didn't apologize, but used it to increase his popularity by dumping on those who were most easily scapegoated.  


Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

Well it was a Ralph Klein love fest on CC Checkup. I called in and was told that many had called in with negative commentary but none of us got on.

It was Rlaph Klein slayed the deficit in Alberta and paved the road how for the rest of Canada, Ralph Klein was a kind and loving man and his homelss shelter comments were because he was drunk, and Ralph Klein was a champion of Alberta's indigenous people.

They interviewed a Klein cabinet minister, Pearl Calahasen, who said Klein was called "Bluebird", and all of indigenous Alberta love him. Can anyone provide some insite on this? Anyone else listen to CCC.

Hope they remember to do the same for prominent New Dems when they pass, :-(

voice of the damned

Well, I doubt he was loved by ALL indigenous Albertans(as Calahasen would have it), possibly not even a majority. I did know at least one First Nations person who was supporting him during the '92 leadership, and she told me he had a lot of support among First Nations. But she was speaking from anecdotal evidence, I believe. Not sure if she or her friends continued to support him over the years.

As for his being called Bluebird, that might be a reference to this... 

As a journalist, Mr. Klein liked to say that “there are no stories in the newsroom.” Among the best ones he found out on the road was a documentary he made in 1977 on the Siksika Reserve in Gleichen on the Bow River, about 100 kilometres east of Calgary. Prince Charles was in Alberta to commemorate the centenary of Treaty 7, which several, mainly Blackfoot, bands had signed with the Crown back in Queen Victoria’s day. Mr. Klein’s assignment was to investigate conditions on the reserve and to find out how the Blackfoot felt they had fared under the treaty.

In a wide-ranging research trip, he studied the rituals and traditions of the Blackfoot and participated in sweat lodge ceremonies. Having developed an empathy for the Siksika people and gained their confidence, he returned with a camera crew and filmed an emotional and often angry documentary in which he confronted authorities about housing conditions and demanded to know why, for example, grocery stores had bulk supplies of vanilla extract on their shelves and why were they selling it at huge mark-ups to obvious alcoholics.

The reaction was immediate after the show aired in June, 1977: outrage from viewers and appreciation by the Siksika, who named him White Writer and later became his political supporters. He never turned his back on the first nations, perhaps in part because his wife Colleen is Métis.

As the years passed, he visited sweat lodges on the eve of provincial election campaigns, carried an eagle feather in his briefcase and hung braids of sweet grass in his offices. The First Nations didn’t forget him either. He was the second white person adopted into the Siksika Blackfoot Nation in 1993 and he was made an honorary chief by the Blood Tribe in 1996.

Make of that what you will. I've also heard that the Siksika were criticiced by other First Nations groups for their continued embrace of Klein. I heard that from relatively credible sources, but I don't know the details.

I do recall quite clearly Klein being mocked by SoCon Tories for his embrace of First Nations practices, when he eventually refused to squash marriage-equality in Alberta. Along the lines of "Well, of course he doesn't like the Bible, he's a bloody pagan!!" But these sorta comments were few and far between. Generally, Klein's spiritual practices were not much discussed, even in Alberta.

Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

Thanks VOTD. I can tell you that I would have been more impressed with the CBC if someone had gotten on of contrary opinion, Rex's sentiments are well known. There was no journalism today. And going forward, I don't expect outbreaks of jounalism to occur about either him or Trudeau.


I met Ralph Klein twice, both times in the early 90s before he was premier but when he was a cabinet minister.

Each time I was with a friend who knew Klein and who introduced me. The occasions were perhaps six months apart and and in two different bars. Eah time Klein was very personable and very drunk.