CALGARY - In the absence of ailing former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, his wife stepped up to receive the top Canadian civilian honour from the Governor General.
Colleen Klein was emotional upon receiving the medal for her husband, who was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada in a simple and short ceremony at Calgary’s historic city hall Tuesday.
Colleen was surprised to receive another honour for her husband -- the Queen Elizabeth jubilee medal -- from Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
The emotional Klein thanked Johnston for coming to Calgary to bestow the honours to her husband and when she turned to the small gathered crowd she flashed a 1992 Tory leadership campaign button that was attached under her blazer.
Rod Love, Ralph Klein’s former chief of staff, said he didn’t realize that Colleen was going to wear the campaign button.
“She surprised the Governor General, I don’t think he’s ever had anyone at an Order of Canada ceremony open up a blazer and there was one of Ralph’s old campaign button,” Love told reporters following the ceremony that lasted for less than five minutes.
Ralph Klein, who was mayor of Calgary for nine years, environment minister for three years and Alberta premier for 14 years, is battling a rare form of dementia.
Love said the ceremony was “bittersweet” because Klein wasn’t able to make it.
Colleen and daughter Teresa were going to see Klein as soon as the event was done to show him the medals he received.
Love said Klein is “struggling, but he’s comfortable.”
“I think Colleen believes he’ll know (about the honours).”
About two dozen close supporters were invited to the event, including Shirley McClellan, who was Klein’s former deputy premier and finance minister.
“I think that the Governor General and the office is recognizing a great Albertan and a great Canadian,” McClellan told reporters.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who can dispute what Ralph Klein did for this province and consequently for this country.
“The success of the energy industry here today and many of the things that have occurred, getting rid of our deficits and debts allowed that to happen, that benefits Canada not just Alberta.”
Premier Alison Redford said in a statement she’s very pleased that “such a deserving Albertan” was awarded the Order of Canada.
“It is wonderful to see Premier Klein honoured for his years of hard work, dedication and determination to ensure that Albertans have the best place to live.”