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Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein has dementia

A one-time aide to Ralph Klein says the colourful and often outspoken former premier of Alberta has dementia.

Rod Love says Klein’s wife had grown concerned that her husband’s behaviour couldn’t be blamed on the emphysema he had been diagnosed with.

Love, a longtime friend of the former Progressive Conservative leader, said Colleen Klein knew something just wasn’t right.

“He went for a whole series of test in mid-February and they learned last week he’s got this form of Alzheimer’s, and they’ve decided to let it be known. People who were running in to him were a little alarmed at what they were seeing and so it is what it is,” Love said Friday.

“There’s a number of us, the old Klein gang, who still stay in contact. Those of us who were still seeing him were in agreement with Colleen that there was something more than emphysema going on.”

Klein, 68, is best known for his folksy charm and sometimes caustic wit that made him one of Canada’s most recognized political leaders.

He entered politics with an upset victory to become Calgary mayor in 1980 and later won landslide majorities for Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives in four elections between 1992 and 2006.

“For the greatest political communicator of our generation, it’s tough to see,” said Love.

“I’ve spent 30 years of my life with him so it’s a bit of a shock.”

Love said the Kleins have accepted what is happening and the dementia is in the early stages at this point.

“He’s got good days. I had lunch with him six weeks ago. Some of the boys took him down to Palm Springs for a little break during the winter a couple of months ago, so he’s got good days and he’s got days that aren’t so good.”