Ailing Ralph Klein in line for long-overdue recognition
Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein is seen in this file photo.
Published Sunday, June 24, 2012 12:42PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 24, 2012 12:48PM EDT
Into the worst of times, something good has finally come to ailing Ralph Klein.
The 69-year-old force of personality who went from crusading reporter to Calgary mayor and upward to Alberta premier will get the overdue Order of Canada recognition he so richly deserves.
It will be formally announced Friday, but one of the people who nominated him, former treasurer Jim Dinning, was told last week.
It was a lingering oversight which first infuriated former chief of staff Rod Love. He rallied the troops until it included a diverse group ranging from former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall, powerful business leaders and Calgary’s mayor. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper let it be known he supported the honor for Klein.
As support swelled across party lines and through political layers, one representative of the Order of Canada advisory panel confided to me it was a rare time when public pressure spurred the group to act.
Even so, it’s almost too late as the fog of dementia takes its toll.
Klein is suffering from what, for him, must be hell on Earth. The once-great communicator is unable to speak. His phenomenal memory for names has deteriorated into recognition of only the very few. A body that used to relish golf and the treadmill now spends entire days in a long-term care bed.
"He is leaving this world, although the jury is out on how long the physical body will carry on," confided one of Klein’s close friends. "Lots of tears here."
If we can be grateful for small mercies, word from inside the tight circle surrounding Klein is that he was at least aware of the honour and hugged his wife Colleen when shown a column revealing the news.
He won’t be physically able to travel to Ottawa for the lapel pin which signals membership in this elite club. Colleen plans to send their daughter and a few closest friends instead.
But for a Ralph Klein who is a sad shadow of his former formidable self, getting the Order of Canada brought a rare smile to his face.