Friends and colleagues of Ralph Klein are sharing messages of affection and support for the former Alberta premier, as his health deteriorates in a Calgary care home.
Klein, 70, is battling a form of dementia and a lung disorder and in recent days has been moved to palliative care.
Premier Alison Redford offered her thoughts on Klein, who was premier from 1992 and 2006, and mayor of Calgary from 1980-1989.
“He is a great man and he redefined this province and his legacy is important and I know he will be missed. This is the time to talk about that legacy but right now not too much, right now we have to I think respect the fact that the family is going through very difficult times and that our thoughts and prayers are with them," the National Post reported Redford as saying Wednesday.
“We’ve given a lot of thought as to how we can support the family and ensure the family’s wishes are respected,” she said.
Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman called Klein a "force to be reckoned with" during his time in office, saying he was "animated and fiery" and "an inspiration to me and my colleagues."
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"Ralph Klein under palliative care. Albertans should brace for the worst as the people's premier prepares to move on. Very sad days ahead," he wrote Wednesday.
Ralph Klein under palliative care.Albertans should brace for the worst as the people's premier prepares to move on. Very sad days ahead.— Don Martin (@DonMartinCTV) March 20, 2013
Klein was hospitalized for his illness in 2011 and moved to a care home one month later.
Skip McDonald, Klein's longtime friend and former president of his Calgary-Elbow constituency office, told the Calgary Herald Klein has been heavily sedated and is on oxygen.
“He recognizes us. He’s unable to communicate, which is the cruelness of this disease. He was a great communicator and he can’t communicate,” he said.
In his heyday, Klein was one of the most outspoken politicians in Canada. And despite some unpopular moves throughout his career, Albertans embraced him for his straight talk and ability to connect with his constituents.
“I think Albertans really bonded to Ralph Klein. He made a lot of mistakes but he was a guy they could relate to, someone they could have a beer with and say, 'Yup, I had a drink with the premier and he's just like one of us’,” Martin told CTV.
NDP Leader Brian Mason, a longtime question period foe of Klein's, also wished the former premier well.
Mason said the two didn't agree on much, but Klein has such a disarming personality, you can't help but like him.
"He was a hard guy not to like. He was charming," said Mason.
"I described him one time as (kind of like) a cute little puppy right next to a pile of poop on the rug — you didn't know what to do with him."
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said she remains optimistic.
"He has had tough times before and he's recovered from them, so our hopes and prayers are with him that he does make a recovery and he is able to have a few more months with his family," said Smith.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters Wednesday that Klein will "always be the mayor who is best identified with this city.”
“Mayor Klein’s legacy is a legacy in this city that we live with everyday and we should celebrate that while he’s still with us,” Nenshi said.
Klein was named to the Order of Canada last year, and his wife, Colleen, was presented with the insignia of office at a ceremony in Calgary.
(With files from The Canadian Press)