I was listening to a call-in radio show on CBC, about the death of former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. I listened to the glowing reviews until I felt like vomiting, and turned the radio off. You see, I lived in Edmonton through the Ralph Klein years, and I am frankly sickened to hear the sycophantic tributes.
First, he was called “King Ralph” not as a compliment, but to illustrate that Klein had no idea that he was to govern the province, as opposed to rule it.
One of the first things Klein did when he came into power was to cut welfare rates. By 50%. The majority of the people affected were either elderly, or suffered from mental illness or substance abuse issues. If anyone had a problem with the cuts, they were offered a one-way ticket to B.C.
“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.” (This has been attributed to both Pope John Paul II and to Gandhi — take your pick.)
He gave the oil industry a free pass, with the lowest oil royalty charges in the developed world, thus depriving Albertans of billions of dollars in revenue.
He had been a reporter before he became mayor of Calgary. As such, he was a close friend of many of the people who were supposed to report objectively on his activities as Premier. They did not do this. Many negative stories were spiked, because hey, “It’s just Ralph being Ralph.”
Finally, by the start of the 21st century, his old drinking buddies started to retire, and a new generation of media people began reporting on Klein. They knew him only as a politician, so they reported what good old Ralph was actually doing.
Klein became surly and abusive towards the media, even going so far as to storm out of press conferences when he was challenged.
The last straw was when he was out drinking one night and was being driven home. He demanded his driver pull over, walked up to a homeless shelter, and got into a screaming match with some of the people trying to find a bed for the night, accusing THEM of being drunks.
The majority of Albertans were worse off after his years of government.
His family has every right to mourn; I offer them my deepest sympathies on their loss.
But he was not the great folksy leader he is being painted as; he was a drunken, blustering bully. The province is better off without leaders of his type.
Steve Weller is an actor living in Winnipeg.