5 memorable Ralph Klein moments

Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein died on Friday, leaving behind a storied political career marked by landslide election wins and attention-grabbing controversies. Here are five memorable moments from Klein's career.

From ‘bums' and 'creeps’ to landslide election wins, here are some memorable moments in the late Calgary mayor's life

'King Ralph' dead


8 years agoVideo
Highlights from the life of Alberta's feisty former premier 2:20

Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein died on Friday, leaving behind a storied political career marked by landslide election wins and attention-grabbing controversies. Here are five memorable moments from Klein’s career:

'Bums' and 'creeps'

In 1982 Ralph Klein, then Calgary’s mayor, slammed people who moved to the city from eastern Canada to work, calling them "bums" and "creeps" and calling on city police to "kick ass" and get unwanted newcomers out of town.

"You’re welcome to stay here a couple of weeks at government expense, but if you can’t make it after that particular time then don’t go out and rob our banks … get the hell out of town," Klein told CBC News at the time.

Many Calgarians who were bothered by a spiking crime rate and the city’s climbing homeless population stood behind their mayor’s controversial comments. Klein was Calgary’s mayor for nine years.

'King Ralph'

Klein delivers his victory speech after winning the 2004 Alberta provincial election. The popular politician represented the riding of Calgary-Elbow. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

Klein’s nickname "King Ralph" comes from his seemingly untouchable power, and his golden ability to win elections.

Klein swept into the Calgary Mayor’s office in a landslide win, became a provincial MLA in the riding of Calgary-Elbow on his very first shot in 1989 and soon became a cabinet minister.

After replacing Don Getty as Conservative party leader in 1992, Klein led his party to election wins in 1993 and again in 1997 and 2001.

Don Martin writes in his book, King Ralph, that Klein was: "A man so popular that he can campaign on the strength of his first name alone." 

Battle with alcohol

Klein demonstrates how little alcohol he drank over the Christmas holidays in 2002, months after he drunkenly stormed a homeless shelter and berated people inside. (John Ulan/CP)

In 2001, a drunken Klein barged into an Edmonton homeless shelter and berated those inside about being unemployed.

Days later, then premier Klein held a tearful news conference to discuss his alcoholism.

Klein admitted to drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine a day, and that he sometimes drank at his office to get over bad hangovers. Klein remained in office after the admission, largely with the support of Albertans.

Stronach jab

In 2006, nearing the end of his political career, Klein continued to spark controversy. At a Calgary charity roast, he told an audience: "Now Belinda roasted me as a Conservative but of course now she's a Liberal … And I wasn't surprised she crossed over — I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body. Well, except for one."

The joke was in reference to Stronach’s relationship with Conservative MP Peter MacKay.

Stronach criticized the comment, calling it exactly the kind of remark that puts women off entering politics.

Klein stood by his joke. "A roast is a roast is a roast," he told reporters.

Alberta first

Klein talks to a crowd of thousands at a pancake breakfast during the 2006 Calgary Stampede. (Patrick Price/Reuters)

Klein will likely be remembered more fondly in Alberta than in the rest of the country, perhaps unlike another late Alberta Premier, Peter Lougheed. Both premiers stoked the west’s prosperity, but while Lougheed was considered a nation-builder, Klein waged fierce political fights with Ottawa, the provinces and other Conservatives during his tenure.

He clashed with Ottawa over same-sex marriage legislation — though he later conceded there was little he could do to prevent same-sex couples from marrying in the province — and also blasted the federal government as he pushed for more private sector involvement in Alberta’s health care system.

Klein’s biggest push — an extremely popular move — was to eliminate Alberta’s debt. Riding the oil boom, Klein announced at the 2004 Calgary Stampede that the province had set aside enough money to eliminate the debt by 2005.

Today, Alberta’s government is billions in debt despite a strong economy.