Ralph Klein dies at age 70

Ralph Klein, the popular, outspoken, Everyman premier who slew Alberta's debt dragon, has died.

Alberta Health Services issued a news release on behalf of Klein's family indicating the former premier died on Friday.

Premier Alison Redford immediately issued a statement of condolences.

"Ralph was a staunch defender of our province as he had a deep and abiding love for Alberta and Albertans," Redford said in the statement.

"His passing is a loss to us all."

Klein, 70, had been in a Calgary care home since developing dementia and chronic lung problems.

His health deteriorated shortly after he retired as premier in 2006 after serving as Progressive Conservative leader for 14 years.

"The nature of his illness made it very difficult to express his thoughts these past years which I know was a real challenge for him, but Ralph very much knew and appreciated the well wishes and warm messages he received," said his wife, Colleen Klein, in the Alberta Health Services release.

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