As New Years gets closer I always find myself reflecting. A time to look at where we were and where we hope to be going in the new year. Personally, I feel that I survived another one and I remain hopeful that the next one will be better. I was reading a LinkedIn post about the great Mr. Ralph Klein today and it brought back a flood of memories from the one-time chance encounter that I was fortunate enough to meet him when he was Premier. So, I thought I would share my favorite Ralph Klein moment and maybe you can share yours too. It was at the old Baccarat Casino in Edmonton. Now the home of Rogers Center and the Edmonton Oilers. I pulled up a chair at a 3-card poker table, ordered a drink and got comfortable, I hear a voice behind me that said, “do you mind if we join you Sir?” It was a tall well-built gentleman in his early thirty’s, dressed practical, relaxed but still serious looking. Having spent 10 yrs in the military I labelled this dude a police officer or x military instantly. As he sat to my right and I looked to my left I seen Mr. Klein take a seat, my hypothesis and my suspicions were confirmed. I had always followed politics and to be sitting at a table with the current Premier of Alberta was an honor. Mr. Klein was casual and polite, understandably he didn’t want to engage in a conversation with me beyond pleasantries. The body guard to my right was giving me the evil eye and the twice and three times over. So, it was him I had to defuse. I introduced myself and started a conversation, we talked about the military, fitness, guns, tours and being a VIP bodyguard. As I talked to the police office, I made sure Mr. Klein could hear me. After a few hands Mr. Kline, like a typical Albertan just out for the evening with his wife, joined our conversation and started to ask me questions. He was genuinely interested in my work, where I lived, family and my military time. He asked questions, spoke deliberately, looked me in the eye and was engaged in the conversation.
I told him about the time Jean Chretien came to visit us in the military. Now old Jean is a hardcore French Liberal, and as much as I didn’t like him I will give him credit for not joining the US for the second Gulf war when Bush was on a rampage to find the “weapons of mass destruction”. No Canadian blood was spilled looking for fables. Obviously, there were no WMD in Iraq. Old Jean showed up to raise the moral of the troops one day, they dressed him up in an army uniform that was too big and put an army Kevlar helmet on him. An army helmet, for those of you that don’t know, is shaped like a hockey helmet, high in the front so you can see and low in the back to protect the back of your head. When Old Jean got dressed up he put the helmet on backwards. It kept sliding down his nose and he couldn’t see. Not one of his aides or large contingent of military officers in his entourage told him. I consider saying “Hey excuse me Sir but trying to act all west side ghetto tough by wearing your hat backwards isn’t working here” but I really didn’t want to be peeling potatoes for a week. Mr. Klein laughed as hard as the troops did that day. So hard there were tears coming down his face. The pit boss had to get him a tissue.
Mr. Kline was a great leader but more importantly he was just a regular Albertan out for a night. He was a normal down to earth guy that I could engage in a conversation with at any card table and enjoy.
Over the years since my fortunate encounter, I have spent time reading, researching, and often wondering, “what would I have done for some of the major decisions that he made during his 14 years as Alberta Premier.
I was wondering if he seen this lopsided contribution we are now making to the equalization fund. Alberta currently has 11% of Canada’s population but we contribute 17% to the fund. Did he forecast it and do things to prevent it? I would argue that in his infinite wisdom that he did.
Mr. Klein’s government took a lot of heat for their privation of crown corporations. To list a few things that were sold or privatized; Liquor Stores, Registry’s, and Highways. I know they also owned Oil and gas companies and had shares in pipelines, but I can’t seem to find any accurate data on it. By selling off and privatizing these branches of government and reducing the governments involvement he may have prevented billions more dollars of our money from going east in transfer payments.
Because of the unique situation Alberta has with resources we need a very strong leader. At this point, I unfortunately don’t yet see one in Nutley, Kenney, Mandel, Khan, Thorsteinson, Burns, Bjorkman, Maclise or Fildebrandt. Yes, all those people are considered party leaders and will be hopefuls in the next election to fill Mr. Klein’s seat.
All great people with good intentions, but none have demonstrated the fire, drive, knowledge, wisdom life experience and testicular fortitude it takes to lead the best province, that is current still in Canada.
Please share your favorite Ralph Klein moment on my blog or Facebook.
Happy New Year and all the best for Alberta in 2019.