In the wake of the passing of former Premier of Alberta and former Mayor of Calgary Ralph Klein, we take a look back at the lasting impact he left on our city.
Ralph Klein was born in Calgary on November 1, 1942 and grew up in northwest Calgary in Tuxedo Park. He briefly held positions including Director of Public Relations for Alberta’s Division of the Red Cross, and United Way, until he moved over to a radio and TV reporter for CFCN for 11 years. As a Senior Civic Affairs reporter, Klein got an inside look into municipal politics.
In 1980, Klein shocked friends, family and co-workers with the announcement that he was running for Mayor. He mounted an extremely modest campaign, equipped with a minuscule budget, a small team of volunteers and an old motor home borrowed from his father. He was elected the 32nd Mayor of Calgary on October 15, 1980, by a sizeable margin as it was unexpected by his opponents. He was re-elected in 1983 and 1986 with among the largest margins in the city’s history.
While in office he led the development of Calgary’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) system (which transit employees dubbed “Little Ralphie’s Train”). Klein opened the south line to Anderson in 1981, the northeast line to Whitehorn in 1985, and the northwest line to the University of Calgary station in 1987. He was a huge advocate of the LRT, often opting to take it over his mayoral vehicle, chatting up commuters on the downtown line.
Ralph Klein was instrumental in Calgary’s bid to host the 1988 Olympics and served on the Executive Committee of the games. That Olympic legacy lives on in our culture and infrastructure including public spaces like Olympic Plaza, the Olympic Oval and Canada Olympic Park.
Klein created the Economic Development Authority with the Chamber of Commerce, a first of its kind for municipal government at the time, as part of a strategy to attract industry outside of oil and gas and target specific companies to move their head offices to Calgary.
After leaving office in 1989, Klein moved on to provincial politics serving as the 12th Premier of Alberta for 14 years from 1992 – 2006. As Mayor Nenshi said upon his passing, “Many Albertans will mourn him as a beloved former Premier. But Calgary was always the city he called home. A true born-and-raised Calgarian, to me, he will always be Mayor Klein.”
The City will be hosting a Celebration of Life for Klein Friday, April 5 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. A funeral procession will make two public stops at McDougall Centre and Municipal Plaza. Screens will be available at Municipal Plaza for people stay and watch the Celebration of Life.
The Klein family has requested donations to the SPCA or Salvation Army in honour of Ralph Klein's memory. Condolences may be forwarded to his family through the Government of Alberta website.