Ralph Klein, known as King Ralph in Alberta, Canada, has died. He cut public debt to zero and with budget surplus gave out “Ralph Bucks” and was one of Canada’s most successful politicians.
The politician ruled Canada’s energy-producing province of Alberta from 1992 to 2006 with conservative policies that included deep public spending cuts and debt reduction.
Klein, who was 70, was a one-time television reporter and once the mayor of Calgary. He had been ill and had been out of the public spotlight that he basked in for much of his adult life.
“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, Klein’s wife, Colleen, said in a statement.
Klein fostered a business-friendly economy in Canada by reducing corporate taxes, luring several major companies to the province to make use of what Klein called the “Alberta advantage.”
During his premiership, Alberta’s oil sands gained global attention as the world’s third-largest accumulation of crude oil and increasingly important source of U.S. supply.
Klein often grabbed national notoriety, not just for the common touch that won him popularity with Alberta voters even as he slashed public services, but also for frequent jibes at opponents.
Some of his more memorable moments on the public stage included blaming “creeps” and “bums” from Eastern Canada for straining Calgary’s public services in the boom years of the early 1980s, flipping off an environmental protester in front of TV cameras when he was Alberta’s environment minister and throwing cash at a homeless man at a shelter.
After the latter incident he admitted to having a drinking problem, although Klein would never vow to give up alcohol.