Ralph Klein

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Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

Rank: 12th Premier
Term of Office: June 15, 1993–Present
Predecessor: Donald Getty
Successor: incumbent
Date of Birth: November 1, 1942
Place of Birth: Calgary
Spouse: Colleen Klein
Profession: Reporter
Political affiliation: Conservative

The Honourable Ralph Phillip Klein (born November 1, 1942), leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, is current premier of the Canadian province of Alberta. He has held the post since 1992. He boasts the nickname of King Ralph, which is a reference both to his political longevity and his perceived autocratic style of leadership.


Mayor of Calgary

Klein rose to public prominence as a radio and television personality, much as did radio-evangelist–cum–premier William Aberhart. Klein gained his first political experience when he was elected mayor of Calgary, Alberta, on October 15, 1980. 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 bums and scums" for straining the city's social services and police. In 1988, Calgary hosted a very successful Winter Olympics during his tenure as mayor.

Entry into provincial politics

Klein made the transition from civic to provincial politics, becoming a member of the legislative assembly in the 1989 provincial election. He was named the minister of environment in Don Getty's government. He was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party on December 5, 1992, and became the province's 12th premier on December 16, 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.

Although his government has been generous in funding arts and has not cut health programs to the degree as some other Canadian governments (notably Ontario), Klein's social and environmental views are seen by opponents as uncaring. Supporters argue in response that Klein is merely choosing appropriate priorities for limited government funding.

An admitted alcoholic, Klein, under the influence, once verbally abused homeless people at an Edmonton-area shelter. After the incident, Klein reportedly sought to end his alcoholism, which had once been regarded as a sort of amusing, harmless quirk by many Albertans. Though Klein was intoxicated during the incident, this was consistent with an earlier stance on welfare he had taken, which was to offer destitute people "a bus ticket to Vancouver" to exploit the more generous social assistance of British Columbia. Since the election of the Liberal Party government of Premier Gordon Campbell in BC, which currently takes a conservative approach despite the name, the gap has narrowed somewhat.

Klein has opposed the Kyoto Accord and other action on global climate change. Alberta is a major producer of oil and natural gas, despite many attempts to diversify into forestry, software, and beef ranching.

In 2003, mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Alberta. At first the Alberta government claimed that the cow had been removed from the food processing chain, with a test being done six months later. However, the story changed when, "Despite assurances that a cow infected with mad cow disease was never eaten by humans, officials said Wednesday it was likely fed to pigs and chickens which in turn could have been on a dinner table", according to a CBC story published May 21, 2003. Three other Canadians cows have since tested positive: one that had been sold to the US, and two in January 2005 were caught while still in Canada. Since less then 1 in a 1000 cows are tested, it is unknown how many cows have the disease.

"I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that," Klein said in a speech, 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 were subsequently stopped at the US border, with other countries following suit. Alberta ranchers were selling beef for as low as C$1 per pound in Calgary. In July 2003, Klein offered to pay $10 billion to any Japanese citizen who comes to Canada and gets ill due to beef traced back to mad cow. Japan has been a key stumbling block to getting the U.S. border reopened because it has made clear it may rethink taking U.S. beef if it has 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. This being very unpopular in Alberta, Klein repeated a promise to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian constitution 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. If, however, the federal government passes legislation to permit same-sex marriage, Alberta may not be able to use the Notwithstanding Clause, and may be required to register these marriages.

In late June 2003, Klein and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, widely reported to be friends, met to discuss the beef ban and the route of an Alaskan oil pipeline, which Klein has vehemently argued must be integrated with the extensive Alberta pipeline system. This is popular with Cheney and other advocates of North American energy independence in the oil industry.

At the 2004 Calgary Stampede, Klein announced that the province had set aside the necessary funds to repay its public debt in 2005. The debt stood at about C$23 billion when Klein took office, and its repayment was one of the most significant long-term goals of Klein's premiership. Klein was reelected for a fourth term on November 22, 2004 with a reduced majority. (See Alberta general election, 2004.)

Klein has stated his intention to retire following his next term in office, although there has been media speculation that he may step down before his term ends in order to give his eventual successor an opportunity to establish him or herself with Alberta voters before the next election which could be as late as 2009.

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.

See also

List of Alberta premiers

External link

Preceded by:
Donald Getty
Premier of Alberta
Succeeded by:

Template:End box

Template:Alberta politics



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