Alberta PC leader’s comments anger Ralph Klein’s wife, friends

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford recently did something she might now be regretting.

Redford criticized the legacy of former Premier Ralph Klein - who is now suffering from frontotemporal dementia, and lives in a continuing care home with limited speech and mobility.

At a private fundraising event even last month, Redford said she was still dealing with negative impacts from Klein's cost-cutting during his reign from 1992-2006.

Word of Redford's criticism leaked out last weekend and has buoyed a controversy Redford could have done without during the final week of a nasty election campaign.

"Leave Ralph Klein alone," said Rod Love, Klein's longtime friend and former chief of staff.

"When it comes to Ralph, I am non-partisan. Just leave him alone. This is a man who can't speak for himself," Don Braid reported in his Calgary Herald column.

Klein's wife was also upset by Redford's comments.

"I am so very sorry and saddened to hear that some people are questioning Ralph's legacy," Colleen Klein said in an e-mail to Braid Sunday evening.

'King Ralph' served as Alberta's premier from 1992 to 2006, inheriting debt and deficit from his predecessor, Don Getty, before slashing his way to surplus.

As reported by the Globe and Mail, the austerity measures were popular at the time, but  left the province with an infrastructure deficit, which his successor, Ed Stelmach, spent billions catching up on. Those billions led to deficits during recession, which have helped give rise to the Wildrose Party, which is now leading in the polls.

Ironically, according to the Edmonton Journal, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is trying to make hay over the comments.

"I think Rod Love and Ms. Klein said it best. It's pretty poor form to be criticizing the record of a beloved premier who isn't able to defend himself," she said to loud applause at a Wildrose rally in Edmonton, Monday.

Redford, whose comments also angered some members of her own party,  was in damage control mode on Tuesday.

"The decisions of the 1990s were correct for the time," she was quoted as saying in a press release.

"But they would not be appropriate for this decade. Different circumstances require different solutions."