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Alberta PC party leader Alison Redford makes a campaign stop at a Sikh temple in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, April 15, 2012. Albertans go to the polls on April 23. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
Alberta PC party leader Alison Redford makes a campaign stop at a Sikh temple in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, April 15, 2012. Albertans go to the polls on April 23. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Alison Redford's Ralph Klein problem Add to ...

Wary of alienating more of her party, PC leader Alison Redford sent out a statement in support of former premier Ralph Klein.

“I think it is important to remember, I have been a loyal PC member for the past 32 years, including Premier Klein's tenure,” Ms. Redford said Monday morning.

Mr. Klein served as premier from 1992 to 2006, inheriting debt and deficit from his predecessor, Don Getty, before slashing his way to surplus. It was popular at the time, but left the fast-growing province with an infrastructure deficit, which his successor, Ed Stelmach, spent billions catching up on. Those billions led to deficits during recession, which have helped give rise to the Wildrose Party, which is now leading in the polls.

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Which brings us to this race. Ms. Redford has cited this infrastructure deficit as a reason for her focus on infrastructure cash - it's a key difference with Wildrose, which would slow infrastructure spending by stretching Ms. Redford's three-year plan to four years, saying Alberta has caught up and needs to get its books in order. (The province has a deficit of an estimated $886-million, and is forecast to return to surplus next year).

All this raised questions that Ms. Redford was piling up on Mr. Klein, who is suffering from frontotemporal dementia and is no longer making public appearances.

Ms. Redford said she backs the decisions of Mr. Klein, but that times have changed.

“I have been clear about Alberta's need to invest in infrastructure today to prepare for very high levels of future growth. The decisions of the 1990's were correct for the time. But they would not be appropriate for this decade. Different circumstances require different solutions,” she said in the statement sent out Monday.

On the trail, Ms. Redford has indeed mentioned the lack of infrastructure spending, but there are more outspoken critics of Mr. Klein. In particular, former premier Peter Lougheed has said Mr. Klein “reverted the party backward” to the days of the Social Credit (the party dynasty that Mr. Lougheed knocked off to start the current 41-year-streak of PC governments). Mr. Lougheed has also endorsed Ms. Redford, while some of Mr. Klein's supporters are long gone.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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