Ralph Klein changed my life, says former homeless man

An encounter between Ralph Klein and a homeless man years ago would have a lasting impact on both of them.

Late-night encounter at homeless shelter a wake-up call for both Mark Shea and Ralph Klein

Best known as the man who blew the whistle on Ralph Klein, Mark Shea says his encounter with the former premier at the Edmonton homeless shelter where he was living in 2001 changed his life.

"I hadn't quite figured myself out at that time," says Shea. "I was kind of soul searching, kind of trying to find my niche, as they would say."

On a late-night visit after a party, Klein — who was Alberta's premier at the time — berated Shea and others and threw money at them, telling them to get jobs.

Shea says the moment made him want to prove that not everyone in a shelter is a "bum."

"It made me strive to succeed," Shea says.

Klein admits to drinking problem

The incident prompted Klein to publicly acknowledge that he had a drinking problem in 2002.

"It was a wake-up call for him," said Rod Love, Klein's former chief of staff.

"He stopped drinking for however long he was left in public life. He didn't drink much after he left."

Shea moved to Halifax last year. Now happily married, he is planning to become an electrician. 

While both Klein and Shea followed very different paths, there's little doubt about the impact that the meeting had for both of them.