During his time as Premier, tough decisions needed to be made; and difficult steps had to be taken. Premier Klein never shirked from these responsibilities; and he always owned up to the actions of his government—apologizing with humility and sincerity every time it was appropriate to do so—a rare but invaluable attribute for a politician.
Ralph went further: he proved that friendship and respect could exist beyond partisanship. He left public life to thunderous applause and tributes from both sides of the legislative aisle. Even after leaving the political arena, Ralph was always there to lend an ear or share advice with anyone who would ask. One of the great tragedies about Ralph’s death is the loss of his wisdom and mentorship for future generations of political leadership. I would also like to thank his wonderful wife, Dr. Colleen Klein, for all that she has done to make Alberta a better place!
Like most Albertans, multitudes of Canadians, and people around the world, I will never forget Premier Klein. Less than a decade ago, in a tribute to one of the greatest leaders in the history of our province, Brian Mason stated: “it won’t be the same around here without you, Ralph”. Indeed, since his death, Alberta has become a very different place.
Ralph was the first Premier I ever served with, starting in 2004. I was beginning my political career, just as his was winding down; and I am so grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to learning a great deal from him. I will always appreciate that when I spearheaded Bill 201: “The Smoke-free Places Act”, he completely had my back. It was my first private member’s bill—and it was very controversial—but it was the right thing to do; and when all was said and done, I was humbled that he and I were named two of the greatest “Albertans of Influence” that year—an honour I will forever treasure.
Premier Klein was instrumental in my choice to seek elected office in the first place. I truly respected him for many of the things that he had done; & he appreciated the fact that I had ideas on how we could do many things differently. I honour him for that. Some criticize him for being too conservative in the early years and too progressive in the later years; but all I know is that when he left the Premier’s office, Alberta was in the best shape of any jurisdiction in the Western world.
This, of course, began with Premier Lougheed; and I am forever grateful that I serve the constituency that bears his family name. Similar conservative/progressive sentiments are sometimes made with respect to Premier Lougheed as they were with Premier Klein; but there can be no argument that these two iconic Albertans brought this province to a place that other jurisdictions could only dream of.
As an elected member of Ralph’s team, I will always treasure the opportunity to have worked at his side. Even though it has been nearly a decade since he left office, his legacy lives on everywhere in Alberta. He taught us so much about leadership and being honest with Albertans; and these are lessons that we would all do well to remember. We will never forget you, Ralph!