Governor General holds special ceremony in Calgary

In the midst of a bittersweet ceremony, Colleen Klein managed to inject a moment of levity.

As she accepted her husband Ralph’s Order of Canada award, Klein smiled and flashed an old campaign button of his that she had pinned to the inside of her suit jacket.

In the special ceremony held at Calgary’s City Hall on Nov. 13, Gov. Gen. David Johnston presented both the Order of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal to Colleen Klein — who accepted the awards on behalf of her husband.

The Order of Canada is the nation’s second highest order of merit. It recognizes outstanding accomplishments or distinguished service by Canadians. The Order has three levels of recognition: companion, officer and member. Klein was recognized as an officer.

While the Order of Canada investiture ceremonies are normally held at Rideau Hall — the official Ottawa residence of the Governor General — Johnston travelled to Calgary to present the award to the Klein family.

Ralph Klein is currently in a long-term care centre suffering from a severe form of The Order of Canada (left) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (right) were both awarded to Ralph Klein. Both are designed to recognize public service and other contributions made to Canada.

Photo by Karry Taylorfrontal-lobe dementia. He was not able to travel to Ottawa or to personally accept the award. Klein’s former chief of staff Rod Love said Klein’s family visited him following the ceremony to show him the medals.

Love, who is also a close friend of Klein’s, said the former Alberta premier is “struggling” but “comfortable.” He also said Klein would have been humbled by the honours.

“He always felt his award was public service,” Love said. “He appreciated the medals he received because of the sentiments behind the people who gave them.

“But you know Ralph — it wasn’t about the medals. It was about the people.”

Klein served three terms as premier of Alberta from 1992 to 2006. Prior to his entry in provincial politics, he was the mayor of Calgary from 1980 to 1989.

In a statement released by the governor general’s office, Johnston said that Klein’s Order of Canada was made in recognition of his “lasting contributions to the province of Alberta and to public life in Canada.”

The Order of Canada cannot be awarded posthumously. Love said there was some element of “relief” when it was announced that Klein would receive it.

“It’s the highest civilian honour you can get, and many of us believed for a long time that he was deserving,” Love said.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston presents her husband’s medals to Colleen Klein at Calgary’s City Hall.

Photo by Karry TaylorThe ceremony was kept small, with only about two dozen of Klein’s family members and friends in attendance.

Shirley McClennan, who served as Klein’s deputy and finance minister, was one of those invited. McClennan said the awards recognizes Klein’s contributions as “a great Albertan and a great Canadian.”

“The success of the energy industry and many of the things that have occurred — getting rid of our deficits and debts allowed that to happen,” McClennan said. “These all benefit Canada, not just Alberta.”

In a press release Alberta premier Alison Redford added to the praise, reflecting upon Klein’s “endearing and enduring relationship with Albertans, who affectionately refer to him as Ralph.”

“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.

“I join all Albertans in their love and admiration for Premier Klein on this special day,” Redford said in her statement.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca

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