04/16/2012 02:20 EDT | Updated 06/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta Election: Alison Redford Praises Ralph Klein After Criticism From Progressive Conservatives

Chris Young, CP
CALGARY - Premier Alison Redford dismissed criticism from within her own party Monday from those who believe she maligned the legacy of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.

"Premier Klein was a tremendous premier in knowing exactly what we needed to do to get our fiscal house in order and I've always been very pleased and proud to be a Progressive Conservative as a result of that," the Tory leader told reporters in Calgary at a campaign event.

Rod Love, a longtime friend and supporter of the former Alberta premier, said he has received calls from Conservative members who say Redford has publicly criticized Klein's achievements at a couple of fundraisers.

Love, in an interview on a Calgary radio show, said Klein, who is suffering from a form of dementia, is not able to speak for himself and his supporters think Redford should leave his name out of the election campaign.

"I didn't want to wade into this campaign. I've been watching it from the sidelines like a lot of people. I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and I've talked to a number of people who have been kind of dismayed about this stuff," Love said on CHQR and CHED.

"If you're going to discuss Ralph Klein you should discuss his legacy, not second-guess what he did or say, 'he took us backwards,' which is just baffling to me."

Love also took offence to comments from former premier Peter Lougheed. While endorsing Redford on the weekend, Lougheed suggested that Klein had taken the party in a backward direction.

"I'm not going to comment on the Conservative campaign or the Wildrose campaign but I think in fairness to a guy who we think did a pretty good job, they should just leave him alone," Love added.

Redford quickly clarified her position Monday. She denied a rift within the Progressive Conservative party has formed as the campaign to the April 23 election enters its final week. The Tories trail the rival Wildrose in the polls.

"I have always said that I believe premier Klein was a fantastic premier ... very effective for the time. One of the things that we've always done well as Progressive Conservatives is understood what Albertans hopes and dreams were for the future," she said.

Redford said she has publicly praised Klein for his efforts to get Alberta's budget balanced in the 1990's but that same approach wouldn't work today.

Love said Klein is fine physically but said unfortunately the "fog of dementia has rolled in."

He said Klein is no longer able to speak for himself so he felt compelled to speak up. Love said Klein, as premier, was always aware of what he was doing and what the long-term impact would be.

"I think there's been some mischaracterization or misrepresentations of what he did, why he did it and whether he had a short-term or a long-term view of the agenda. And for those of us who worked with him we think he knew exactly what he was doing and it was a long-term view of what's best for Alberta."

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