EDMONTON — Ralph Klein hung around as Alberta’s premier longer than he wanted to because his wife didn’t want him to quit, contends a just-released book by a former Tory aide-turned-journalist.
“Why did he stay so long?” asks Rich Vivone in his book, “Ralph Could Have Been a Superstar.”
“For the simplest of reason — his wife wanted him to stay.”
Vivone attributes that to “an extremely informed source” and says it meant Klein stayed in politics three years longer than he intended because he led the party into the 2004 election.
Vivone was a minister’s assistant in the governments of former Conservative premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty and the long-time publisher of a newsletter called “Insight into Government.”
Vivone, who now lives in Kingston, Ont., criticizes Klein in the book as a one-dimensional figure who retired the provincial debt but didn’t vault Alberta into greatness.
“Klein’s leadership was about himself,” Vivone writes. “He attracted few interesting people into politics. He didn’t encourage citizens to participate in politics. ”
“He had little respect for his enemies or people with different ideas. And he had no grand schemes to lead Alberta into a new era. ”
“Klein made countless speeches but none with vision, inspiration or hope.”
Vivone argues that Klein’s government perfected a system to shut down critics and would punish people in all sectors of society if they spoke out about the party in power.
“The message was clear: you are either with us or against us. That was the tone the Klein government set out early after its election in 1993.”
The author says Klein will be best remembered for paying off the province’s debt but says he squandered a chance to be “a superstar” because he didn’t achieve health-care reforms, diversify the economy or set up world-class schools, among other things.
Vivone concludes Klein’s lack of vision has continued under Premier Ed Stelmach.
He accuses Stelmach of lacking “leadership and passion.”
The provincial Liberals also don’t escape unscathed. Vivone concludes the party is always looking for the perfect leader, winds up self-destructing and will never form a government.