The Canadian flags at the University of Calgary were at half-mast this week to honour Ralph Klein, the former premier of Alberta and mayor of Calgary, who died on March 29 at the age of 70.
Klein left behind a polarizing legacy in a province where he was both widely praised and condemned.
He died in a continuing care centre after a long struggle with obstructive pulmonary disease, proceeded by a string of health concerns beginning with a dementia diagnosis in 2011.
Klein began his career working as a radio and TV personality, covering Calgary municipal politics during the 1980s. He took his first venture into politics in 1987 with a surprise victory that crowned him mayor of Calgary at the age of 37. Klein was mayor during the 1988 Calgary Olympics and was behind the opening of the city’s light-rail transit system.
Elected as premier in 1992, Klein built a Tory stronghold in the Alberta legislature that peaked in 2001, with his Progressive Conservatives taking 74 of the 83 seats in the year’s election. He famously balanced the provincial budget and paid off the province’s debt, doing so through deep cuts to social spending.
In 2011, Klein was granted an honourary law degree from the U of C.
U of C president Elizabeth Cannon praised Klein for his many years of service in Alberta.
“Ralph Klein was a dedicated champion for our province and a larger-than-life character. He left an indelible mark on our city and province and set the bar high for those who followed him in City Hall and the Alberta Legislature,” said Cannon in a U of C statement.
A public memorial service will be held on April 5 at noon in the Jack Singer Concert Hall.