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'Citizen Ralph' praised for his accomplishments

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CALGARY -- Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein was remembered Friday as the king of a conservative revolution who never lost the common touch.

"To me, he wasn't King Ralph, as some described him," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a news release. "Instead, during a colourful political career he remained Citizen Ralph -- a man equally at home in the Petroleum Club as he was in the St. Louis Hotel. A man who said what he believed and did what he said.

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"Alberta and Canada have lost a unique and significant leader. While Ralph's beliefs about the role of government and fiscal responsibility were once considered radical, it is perhaps his greatest legacy that these ideas are now widely embraced across the political spectrum," added Harper.

Klein, Alberta's premier from 1992 to 2006, died Friday at age 70 in a care facility in Calgary after battling a form of dementia, lung problems and pneumonia.

"It's a sad day for Alberta," Premier Alison Redford told reporters on a conference call.

"We remember what a force of personality he was, how driven he was, how motivated he was, how straightforward he was, and that we trusted him implicitly.

"Premier Klein was a passionate Canadian who believed that Alberta's role in Canada had to be a strong one. When I attend premier's conferences now and listen to premiers such as former (Quebec) premier (Jean) Charest talk about the role that he played at the table, we can be proud of what he did not only for us as Albertans but also as Canadians."

Redford said condolence books will be set up in government buildings across the province. There will also be an online tribute page.

Klein's wife, Colleen, said she'll remember her husband of 42 years as a man who knew his priorities and values.

"In his public life, while many will now debate what he stood for, he himself simply believed that public service was important, that it need not be complicated, and that it revolved around people," she said in a news release.

"In his private life, his greatest gift to his family was that when the long work days were over, and he came home, it was his sanctuary and the politics stopped at the door."

In a prepared statement, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said: "Ralph Klein had a common touch that truly connected with everyday Albertans and he was known across Canada for his one-of-a-kind leadership. Above all else, Ralph Klein will be remembered for his love of Alberta and his many years of dedicated service to its people."

Klein began his political career with a stint in civic politics -- as mayor of Calgary -- and he proudly presided over the Winter Olympics in 1988. Calgary's current mayor, Naheed Nenshi, made it clear on Friday that the city has suffered a particular loss.

"The many highlights of his career and political legacy will undoubtedly be shared over the coming days, and many Albertans will mourn him as a beloved former premier," Nenshi said in a release. "But Calgary was always the city he called home. A true born-and-raised Calgarian, he served as mayor from 1980-1989 and, to me, he will always be Mayor Klein."

Nenshi said Klein taught Calgarians that they don't need to put on airs. "We don't need to pretend we're something we are not in order to be a truly great city in this world. His legacy surrounds us, and he will be sorely missed."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 A20

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