Once again our very colorful neighbor to the West, Mr. Ralph Klein, is capturing the media’s focus. While some of his tirades have been outrageous, I personally think he has chutzpa, that zest that is a refreshing change from the measured, scripted political speak we usually hear so much.

His latest fiasco involved throwing the Liberal policy book back at a page in the Alberta legislature and calling it crap. To be fair, it probably is, but abusing a page is unacceptable. Mr. Klein has, to his credit, issued a very public apology to Jennifer, the young woman in question.

Some of Ralph’s more colorful episodes are worth repeating. As I said, I like the man, even if he isn’t the absolute role model one would hope for. I think that perhaps I find him to be colorful on a political wall of gray blandness. At times, Ralph simply comes out with stuff that makes you do a double take, and sometimes it is simply something others were thinking but didn’t have the courage to vocalize outright. I know I should probably condemn the actions of Ralph if for nothing else but the perception that I project by siding with him. His actions are sometimes in bad taste and careless. He is, however, a no holds barred kind of guy, the kind we need more of.

In December, 2001 Ralph decided to visit a homeless shelter while tanked. He was caught giving the homeless a chastising for not having jobs, but was kind enough to throw some money onto the floor on the way out. There is no word if that caused any physical altercations to ensue once he left. Ralph issued one of his many apologies, and pledged to put a stop to his alcohol abuse.

When he was mayor of Calgary back in the 1970’s, he accused eastern Canada of sending their ‘creeps and bums’ his way, leading to escalating crime.

He has cited ‘dinosaur farts’ for causing global warming, which to me is a wonderful new angle to consider along with the reduction in ice in Greenland, which has many of our drinking establishments worrying.

In 2004, during an election, he pointed out two women who were unhappy with the province’s disability insurance, and once again he held nothing back. “They didn’t look severely handicapped to me, I tell you that for sure,” the premier fired off. “They both had cigarettes dangling from their mouth and cowboy hats.” While their are many people in need of our compassion, Ralph was simply showing the frustration that many of us who see the abuse of the system feel.

Ralph has pledged not to lead his party into the next election. He has done more for Alberta than any other premier, and has earned the respect and trust of the citizens of our western cousins, running the country’s soon to be powerhouse province for almost 16 years without missing a beat.

While accused of being the dagger in the back of Canada’s Health Act, it is the opinion of this man that he is the only one willing to stick his political neck out to do what must be done to save it, and I am sure that one day the country will look back on his decision as a good one, but, that is simply my opinion and mine alone.

The simple fact is that the Canada Health Act is dying and it is in need of changes that most premiers are too terrified to make; instead of it getting better as they pledge, it slowly spirals downward. The answer to the problem obviously isn’t more public money.

So while the sun sets on his tenure, Ralph Phillip Klein will now be able to sit back and watch the world around him, maybe with a brandy in hand beside his wife Colleen. And perhaps, just perhaps, we will still occasionally be invited to hear what Ralph really thinks.

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