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Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ralph Klein's Legacy 


Now that Ralph Klein has officially handed things over to Ed Stelmach, there will be a spate of "Ralph's Legacy" stories. Some will praise him for eliminating the provincial debt. Others will condemn him for his shoddy treatment of those who couldn't take advantage of the Alberta Advantage; the homeless, the poor, the disabled, the seniors on fixed incomes.


Ralph Klein brings to mind another popular, long serving Premier, Joey Smallwood of Newfoundland. Joey was Premier there for 23 years after bringing Newfoundland into confederation in 1949. Both Joey and Ralph had a money machine given to them that kept them in power for years. In Ralph's case he had God given oil in the ground and the OPEC cartel to keep the prices jacked up. Joey tapped into Canadian wealth and brought old-age pensions, family allowance, unemployment insurance, and other federal support programs to his province when they joined confederation.

What they had in common was a financial windfall that they both took credit for. Joey had money from the rest of Canada to dole out; Ralph had oil from God and a high market price courtesy of OPEC. This kept both of them in power for many years and to say a bad word against either of them in their own province was considered heresy.

Neither had any business experience and only minimal education. This was perhaps their downfall. In the presence of high powered, well-educated and persuasive business men that surrounded them over the years they easily bought into schemes that sounded good at the time but that proved to be financially disastrous. Unfortunately their legacies will suffer for this.

Joey's downfall was his giveaway of the profits from Labrador's hydroelectric power to Quebec. The upper Churchill contract, signed in 1969 and not due to expire until 2041, awarded Hydro-Quebec Churchill Falls power at a low, fixed rate, without the benefit of an escalator clause. For details click here. Joey didn't understand that the price people were willing to pay for electricity might soar so he didn't provide for it in the contract and Quebec has been reaping a windfall profit since electricity prices took off in the mid 70s.

Ralph's worst venture into the world of high finance came in 1996 when he presided over the oil sands royalty regime agreement. This was implemented when the price of oil was low and did not include provision for the price of oil rising. So today when the price of oil goes up a dollar, the oil companies get 99 cents additional profit and the Alberta Government; that's you and me; get a penny. For details click here. What a shame! Billions of dollars a year that could have been used for government programs and/or tax relief. Instead Ralph gave it all away to the oil companies.

Ralph Klein will have to be content with the "cocoon of love" that his Conservative MLA's profess to have for him and awards from groups that benefited from infusions of tax payer money such as Horse Racing Alberta and others.

He could have done so much more.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 17 

FIRST DRAFT OF POSSIBLE LETTER TO CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
AMA Etc.

We are firmly convinced that further movement toward the privatization of medical services in Canada will undermine and destroy the high level of trust and esteem that the medical profession, and physicians in particular, now hold in the public eye.

We firmly believe the following to be true:-

(1) That the high level of trust, respect and recognition now accorded the medical profession has been earned, especially here in Western Canada, by physicians whose commitment is to healing. The dedication has been demonstrated by clear evidence in their attitudes and behavior that their loyalty above all loyalties was, and still is, to the persons who need the medical expertise they are trained to provide.

(2) We further believe: that the trust, respect and prestige accorded by the public to the medical profession will plummet to the level now accorded to the CEOs and other financial officers of large corporations whose loyalty above all other loyalties is to the investors whose demands for profit place the doctor in the position of treating patients as sources of income rather than persons needing medical help to promote health.

There is ample evidence from the US and other countries that the word privatization is, in fact, being used to obscure the truth that, when so-called private medicine is introduced, medically trained physicians do, in fact, become employees of corporations and not primarily practitioners of medicine. The highest loyalty of those corporations is to financial investors whether called private insurers or HMOs.

Under corporate entities, decisions about the appropriateness and duration of patient care can and does become influenced, if not directly mandated, by non-medical accountants, administrators or representatives of investment-driven private insurance corporations.

We fail to see why highly trained and professional physicians want to be demoted to the level of corporate servants even if a corporation is controlled by medical doctors who no longer practice medicine.

(3) We further believe that Canada already has the most sustainable and comprehensive public insurance coverage to be found in the world today. Under the Canada Health Act, it is fully understood that the whole of society, and not just one class with higher than average financial capacity is eligible for medical treatment.

We refute the claim by some that: because the public considers medical services in Canada to be “free” they are widely abused. In fact, it has been the fault of both government and the medical establishment that the country at large has not been informed and aware of the huge and widely dispersed benefits citizens receive for their contributions to their own public health care insurance.

(4) We believe that: by contrast with Canada’s hugely successful health insurance plan, that provides universal coverage on the basis of need rather than on the grounds of the ability to pay, there are no known private insurers who do not restrict coverage and withhold benefits from some portion of society, usually the poorest and those who need it most.

(5) We are well aware that there are those who, for political, personal, financial or professional reasons promote the illusion that private enterprise can provide medical service more effectively than our publicly supported system. Toward that end they are willing to ignore or denigrate the overwhelming evidence from other countries, the US in particular, that medical services not only are more costly when provided by corporate entities but they do not even attempt to cover the needs of a significant portion of their populations.

We are, therefore, as certain as any informed group of citizens can be that if the (Canadian Medical Association, AMA Etc.) moves further in the promotions of the so-called privatization of medicine in Canada, the medical profession as a whole and physicians in private practice in particular, will be very negatively changed from its present high level of professionalism into servants of powerful corporate controllers.

Monday, August 21, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 16 

UNDERHANDED, SNEAKY, DECEPTIVE AND IRRESPONSIBLE
“Alberta government quietly releases ‘Third Way’ health plan”

Those investor-driven corporatizers inside the Klein government function exactly like a prairie coyote skulking around the chicken coop in a farmers’ yard.

They don’t come right out in the open where the people who have done all the hard work of raising the chickens can see them. They know they'll be exposed as the sneak thieves they really are and sent packing by the family watch dog.

No, what they do is come in the doldrums of summer when even the farmer’s dog is napping. Then they will try to strike before the rightful owners of the healthcare hen house can stop them.

The problem we face in Alberta regarding health care is that the watchdogs that have the power to stop the corporate raiders are being fed on the side by the coyotes.

Our irresponsible and double-dealing politicians are helping the corporate raiders sneak in during the doldrums when the rightful owners are on either holiday or distracted by the phony and foolish fireworks show sponsored by their regressive conservative buddies in Washington and Ottawa.

Why the Klein government is so blindly determined to steal healthcare from the people and sell it to the rapidly corrupting American style corporate exploiters defies all reason and responsibility.

Corporate crime uncovered among health care providers in the US is rapidly approaching Enron and Worldcom in the corruption category.

Richard Scrushy, CEO of HealthSouth Corp., “THE (US) NATION’S LARGEST PROVIDER OF OUTPATIENT SURGERY, DIAGNOSTIC AND REHABILITATIVE HEALTHCARE SERVICES” (SEC press release March 19,2003) narrowly escaped conviction for fraud, the effect of which had been to leave thousands and thousands without needed health services.

Just this week, David Kocieniewski writing for the New York Times reports (Aug. 20/06) on New Jersey’s “LARGEST HEALTH CARE PROVIDER AND STATE’S SECOND BIGGEST PRIVATE EMPLOYER” what Federal prosecutors have called “ONE OF THE MOST LUCRATIVE MEDICARE FRAUD SCHEMES IN THE NATION’S HISTORY.”

The problems began, he says, when hospital administrators around the country - trying to satisfy the demands of investors at a time when managed companies were cutting reimbursements - turned to a handful of accounting firms that promised to help them maximize their financing from Medicare.

By exploiting loopholes in the complex formula that Medicare uses to reimburse providers for their most expensive cases, known as outliers, many hospitals had their federal aid doubled, quadrupled or increased 10 times.”

The fraud was so extensive, Medicare officials said in 2003, that to restrict the number of outlier claims they had to raise the threshold for qualified cases in each of the previous five years: from under $10,000 in 1998, to more than $33,000 in 2003.

These two examples are clearly only tip-of-the-iceberg samples (the New York article alludes to many more) of the disgusting danger the Klein government wants to impose on Canada’s public health system.

The skulking coyote in Alberta is right in the government itself trying to sneak off with the benefits that belong to the people who have brought Canada’s health system to one that is far better than what Klein is threataening to impose on the people of Alberta.

Will the farmers of Alberta finally come out with pitchforks and hay knives or will we again be robbed and asked to pay for another regressive conservative boondoggle because we’re too busy vacationing and harvesting?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

ALBERTA'S SENIORS DESERVE BETTER 

The immediately prior posting (SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 15) refers to the launching of a campaign on behalf of Alberta’s Seniors.

On Tuesday May 9/2006, a widely representative panel, organized and moderated by the Chairpersons of Public Interest Alberta’s committee on Seniors; Noel Somerville and Bill Moore-Kilgannon; presented, in a powerfully moving manner, what too many seniors having to depend on long term care for their survival are experiencing under the Klein government's market oriented values.

Here are the messages the campaign is sending to the Klein government:-

(1) Provide the assistance required to allow seniors to stay in their own homes as long as possible.

(2) Ensure an adequate number PUBLIC seniors care facilities to meet growing needs, and provide ALL MEDICALLY NECESSARY SERVICES FREE OF CHARGE.

(3) DECLARE A MORATORIUM ON THE RE-CLASSIFICATION of long term care facilities into assisted living facilities.

(4) Mandate the establishment of ADVISORY COUNCILS IN ALL SENIORS CARE facilities that receive any form of government funding.

(5) ESTABLISH AN INDEPENDENT SENIORS ADVOCATE as an officer of the Legislature.

Do not, REPEAT DO NOT, let the illusion that the Klein government has responded adequately to the Auditor’s report on the horrors of health care in too many seniors facilities deter you from acting.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

MEMORANDUM 

TO OUR FAITHFUL READERS : (If there are any) The management and staff of RALPHS WORLD have taken off to far-away places for the summer. That includes the technical department - hence no pictures. Only junior contributors who write posts for the purpose of clarifying their own thoughts are left to carry on. Recently only one contributor remains extant. Others would be welcomed with opened spaces. The boss told me to tell you this.

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 15 

SENIORS IN LONG TERM OR EXTENDED CARE
KNOW KNOW HOW THE THIRD WAY IS HURTING THEM

Short term pain for long term gain can be justified if, in fact, that pain is inflicted in order to remove some obstacle to healing.

Long term pain inflicted elderly and vulnerable persons for no purpose higher than political or financial gain can never be justified AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE.

When a healer has to cause pain in order to promote a return to health the goal is life giving and positive. The result is a person restored to a meaningful and productive experience of life.

But when a political system inflicts needless agony on the weak, aging and lonely that consigns the sufferer to purposeless pain ands leads ultimately to death.

Personal, testimony to the needless burdens of pain that Ralph Klein’s third way is already inflicting on too many vulnerable elder citizens of Alberta was presented to an audience of citizens representing literally thousands, if not millions of senior citizens on Tuesday May 9/06 in Edmonton’s Milner Library Theatre.

In eyewitness testimony, much of it heart-felt-to-the-point-of-tears, they explained how, by a simple, yet coldly calculated, change of regulations, the Klein government has moved long term care for literally thousands of aging citizens out from the under the standards and controls of Alberta’s health department.

Reclassification from “long term care” to “assisted living facilities” is putting failing seniors largely into the hands of privately operated, for profit, institutions.

Like the action of a fifth column in war time this move has taken place totally hidden away from the eyes and ears of the general public and never, so far as anyone can remember, was openly debated in the Legislature.

The consequences of, what Klein’s political prevaricators would call a simple house keeping operation, is being experienced now in the pained bodies and troubled minds of mothers, fathers and grandparents lying uncared for in unchanged beds, soiled clothing or uncomfortable wheel chairs.

This is what was being reported in the Milner Library Theatre last Tuesday May 9/06. If you don't’ believe these reports just ask Lynda Jonson of Hinton or Carol Wodak of Care Watch.

The result of a political move by the Klein government to divest itself of responsibility by placing the care of our elders into profit driven, investor managed corporate enterprises has been to inflict much stress and pain on care givers and loved ones.

When long term pain is inflicted on a vulnerable aging human the consequence is meaningless and purposeless agony.

If that isn’t criminal negligence, what is?

SENIORS ARE FEELING KLEIN’S “THIRD WAY” AND IT IS UGLY.

Blair McPherson

Saturday, May 06, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 14 

KLEIN’S POPULISM IS PRETEND DEMOCRACY;
HIS ATTACK ON HEALTH CARE HAS MORE TO DO WITH
BATTLING OTTAWA THAN SAVING THE HEALTH OF ALBERTA

*Please note: This post draws on concepts found in two fine books on democracy.

(1) Historian John Lukacs’ “DEMOCRACY AND POPULISM” subtitled “FEAR AND HATRED” is an insightful analysis of how political power is more and more the result of a leader’s ability to manage information by enlisting the the media as a framer of the issues and determiner of the language of public discourse.

(2) Communication researcher and teacher George Lakoff’s book “DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT” takes some of Lukacs’ concepts and relates them to the issues facing more progressive and humanitarian parties today. (Please refer to SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 8 for a link that calls up a PDF sample of this book)

Anyone who knows the difference between democracy and dictatorship has to be aware that there has been, since the 1930s, a very determined and seriously self serving force at work moving Alberta governments as dangerously close to autocratism as possible without entirely losing the public illusion of being democratic.

Populism is more dangerous to democracy than fascism or communism because of how it uses democratic concepts in public while practicing autocratic methods in secret.

The power of populism to undermine democracy derives from the skill of political leaders at appearing to understand and respond to the emotional needs of large enough portion of the population to swing elections.

Once elected, however, they can and do act almost dictatorially by claiming to have been chosen by the will of the people. (Ralph Klein and now Stephen Harper are exhibits #1)

As historian Lukacs traces the development of populism from the time of Hitler, Mussolini and others, it becomes clear that populist leaders characteristically emerge in periods when people are, or can be, frightened by some external force and moved to angry action toward some real or imagined “bad guys”.

Populist leaders have always been oratorically evangelical. Increasingly they have become skilled at exploiting the technology of mass communication.

Mass communications, in turn, influence individuals in the privacy of their own homes, in the coffee shops and through the phone in talk shows which are little more than poolings of opinion often inflamed by a biased host acting as apologist for the populist leader of the day.

(To illustrate the power of mass media being used by a political leader recently; Lukacs indicates in one footnote that:- leading the United States into the Iraq conflict, was the first time in US history that war has been declared purely for the sake of enhancing the popularity of the President. Democracy and Populism p. 211)

George Lakoff’s addition to this historian’s study of populism is to examine and explain how populist leaders, and conservatism’s leaders in particular, have learned to feed their ideas and policies to the public in the context of what he calls “frames” that they choose as background for their ideas and language.

Alberta politicians, since at least William Aberhart's time, have framed their messages around the spectre of an eastern dominated Federal government threatening to interfere with our rights/ freedoms and, in particular, to grab our resources.

The label “Albertans” has meant, since at least Lougheed’s time, that we are always in a kind of tribal warfare situation guarding our natural resources from the rest of Canada and, therefore, must always be ready to do battle against the intrusions of the “feds”.

Little doubt that Ralph Klein’s populist power has been based solidly on his oratorically evangelistic ability to feed his language to the public through the frame of a threatened people at war with an enemy against which he must act to protect us and keep us safely prosperous.

Klein’s masterful exploitation of technology and his skillful manipulation of the media is, by now, legendary.

Progressive leaders in Alberta have been, and still are, totally confused by the realization that accurate information and demands for government openness are almost impotent when marshaled against words like “deficit, spiraling out of control, going though the roof , unsustainable, culture of entitlement, tax relief” and so on .

George Lakoff in “DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANt” finds an answer to why so many people will vote for a politician whose policies disdain them and deprive them of their fair share of the rights and benefits of a democratic society.

His research leads him see that, a strong emotional commitment can be evoked when the image of a populist politician is portrayed as the powerful male parent who will keep his children safe from threatening external forces, set the standards and uphold clearly defined moral values by which his family will be guided and controlled.

Recall, at this point, how our premier was originally sold as “HE LISTENS AND HE CARES.”

Once an emotional commitment to that image of Ralph Klein, the kindly caring listening daddy, was made, the majority of people in Alberta have allowed his government, for over a decade, to shame them into believing they had been bad and selfish children, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was, the listening and caring premier said, because we had selfishly spent public money on education, healthcare, seniors benefits and welfare that he must do what we had told him to do and that was; take benefits away from those who were already weaker and less well off in order to enhance the prosperity of those already well off.

His other unspoken but obvious personal objective was to impress the proponents of conservatism in Canada, US and over the seas with with his economic expertise.

One characteristics of populist leaders,according to historian Lukacs, is their belief that between themselves and their advisors they are capable of selling whatever action or policy they propose even in the face of widespread opposition.

Ralph Klein’s most recent attempt to use his populist power to wrest public healthcare from the hands of the public and put it into the hands of corporate marketers has been, to date, only partially successful.

However, as much as many would like to see the modification of the “third way” as a triumph for democracy both these writers would tell us: that would mean we don‘t understand how populism works.

The public language of conservatism in Alberta may change, especially if the son of former populist Premier Manning, (who now stands in the wings ready to enter as Premier Klein exits stage right) succeeds in his plan to restore the old order.

But the workings of a populist government hidden behind the closed doors of government house will even increase and the same values driving the present government will emerge under another name so long as conservatism's values dominate in this province..

The subtitle of George Lakoff's analysis of conservative populism is to challenge progressive thinkers to KNOW YOUR VALUES AND FRAME THE DEBATE.

There lies the challenge and the hope for progressive political leaders and followers which, in Alberta and Canada means all those whose policies and thinking see government as a servant of all people and not just those who are already masters in the market place.

Blair McPherson

Post Sctript:
This one post on one blog can only begin to look at the at the relevance these two books have for those who care deeply about democracy.

In the meantime, as recent history indicates, there is evidence that many in Alberta are unwilling to continue being treated by their government as poorly informed and impolite children who can be silenced by the posturing of an angry father figure.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 13 

FIGURES DON’T LIE
BUT LIARS FIGGER

The trouble is that, when liars who figger are caught lying, they don’t stop lying.

Instead they hire high priced research outfits, or some university research chair, to do more figgering and submit a report designed to prove they weren’t really lying. It’s just, they always conclude, that people generally aren’t smart enough to understand their figures.

Few things are easier to do than manipulate numbers for the purpose of creating an illusion.

In fourth grade I went to school one morning and reported that fifty percent of the calves on our family farm had died during the night.

The effect was as intended. Even the teacher was briefly filled with shock and sympathy. To lose fully half of the calves on a farm during the great depression was a serious matter.

But the illusion was quickly blown apart when she asked how many calves there were in our herd. The truth, I told her, was that there were actually only two.

Whenever it’s “show and tell” time in Alberta , whether in the Legislature or in front of the media cameras, our present Premier pontificates that fifty percent of the provincial budget will soon be taken up by healthcare costs.

His Minister of Health, sounding like the premier’s echo chamber, keeps turning up the volume and increasing the forebodingness of the illusion.

Every time she has the chance to do so, Iris Evans repeats the “unsustainability” mantra claiming that we can’t afford one of the most affordable and most widely publicly supported health care insurances in the world today.

When challenged to expose the figures on which these threatening illusions are based, neither Klein nor Evans is ever heard to mention the more than half a billion public dollars they took out of the system or the buildings and training facilities they impoverished. (Lisac; Alberta Politics Uncovered p. 51)

Instead, they hired a Mulroney vintage politician whose mathematical qualifications, so far as the public knew, consisted of laying out some numbers to convince a car-buyer that the customer was going to get a good deal.

Naturally, from this hired hand, they heard some of what they wanted to hear about the rising costs of medical services. Qualified researchers soon found serious false assumptions in his methodology. (see, especially ‘THE BOTTOM LINE’)

Then they convened a very costly conference of healthcare experts from all over the world who didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear about the wonders of market place medicine.

More recently they used huge amounts of public money to hire a corporate outfit called AON that was, not only already in the insurance business, but also had a highly questionable record of ethical dealings.

Now AON says what qualified researchers like Dr. Colleen Flood of the University of Toronto have been telling people in Alberta for months i.e. that private insurance costs more and serves the public less well than public health insurance wherever else it has been adopted.

BUT, for thousands of public dollars, like a demolition company hired to tell a landlord how bad a building is, Klein and Evans have another voice shouting THE STRUCTURE'S GOING TO FALL APART.

The figures on which AON is basing it’s projections will never be made public,

The Klein government has been manipulating numbers and purposefully creating false illusions from the minute the image of our present Premier was projected onto the public screen as a man of integrity who listens and cares.

If the word integrity could even vaguely be associated with the political party still desperately hanging on to power in this province, then citizens would be shown the figures. Since honestly gathered numbers don’t lie there could be a sensible public response.

As it now stands, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the present government is guided and directed by a bunch of liars who figger in secret and then manipulate numbers in public for the purpose of creating threatening illusions.

Blair McPherson.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 12 

IT’S TIME FOR QUIET SATISFACTION
BUT NOT FOR RELAXATION FROM VIGILANCE

“Tories bury third way” Edmonton Journal April 21/06

Understandably, no citizens in Canada today are more entitled to a victory celebration than the people who have given so much of themselves to opposing Ralph Klein’s ‘third way.’

Thousands of pamphlets, skillfully written and distributed. Hundreds and hundreds of hours spent outdoors demonstrating in all kinds of weather. Probably half a million dollars, or more, raised for media advertising.

Even though Stephen Harper and his PR people will claim to have saved the Canada Health Act something far more important has taken place at the intellectual, emotional and social levels within Alberta itself.

For the first time since Ralph Klein became the mouth piece for a cold, calculating, money-driven conservatism a significant number of Alberta’s people have made it clear that conservative values are both dehumanizing and dishonest.

More citizens than ever before mentally dispute the bombastic claims of an irresponsible premier and challenge him with more accurate numbers. For 13 years he has gotten away with frightening the public into submission.

Many who identified emotionally with the illusion of a man of the people who performed on the media stage as a strict but well intentioned father who controlled his children through the power of money, no longer fear his power.

Others, who once allowed themselves to believe the dishonest claim that our province faced bankruptcy because we had selfishly indulged ourselves in education for our children, benefits for seniors, help for the downtrodden and medicine for the sick can now see the social evil in that claim.

Yet there are at least two dangers in rejoicing too loudly or celebrating too noisily.

One of them simply has to do with appearing to be as punitive and revengeful as the government against whom we have been contending. Among the social values we dare to hope are coming through in this battle against corporatization is that people generally are against unfairly pitting the weak against the strong.

While the premier and his supporters on health care are temporally down it is unwise to think they are more than slightly weakened.

The second danger follows from the fact that it is almost certainly a mistake to think that, because Klein is going, the drive by commercial interests to take over health care has been stopped.

To put it rather grossly: conservatism in it’s desire to undermine all social programs by turning them into sources of income for massive corporations is like the proverbial snake.

This non-biblical snake is said to be self rejuvenating. If you cut it in half, it will simply become two snakes each of whom are going to bite you.

As Ralph Klein faces defeat on this ‘third way’ he snarls “It’s being postponed but someone is going to have to deal with it . . . Good luck” (Globe and Mail April 21/06)

The real challenge, for those who hold social values, is to propose and support those now in political leadership who hold progressively positive rather than conservatively negative human and social values.

Blair McPherson

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Towel Guys and Fat Cats 


"I go to the club and I work out, and you get some of the fat cats – you know, the rich guys – saying, 'You know you should spend it on education. You should do this and you should do that,' "But the guy who handles the towels says 'Right on, right on.'"

With these words, Premier Ralph Klein, the guy who claims to stand up for the little guy against those “fat cat” oilmen, justifies his preference for handing out more prosperity cheques to Albertans. Read all about it by clicking here.

Here's some questions all you little guys out there who vote for Mr. Klein and his PC party should ask yourself. See if you can figure out if he is on your side of the side of those he calls the “fat cats”.

Question 1. Is Mr. Klein a member of the posh Glencoe where he works out or does he work there along with the towel guys?

Question 2. When Mr. Klein sits down for lunch after his workout who joins him at his table to have a bite and talk about things; - to have a few laughs? The towel guy or the fat cats?

Question 3. Do you believe that Mr. Klein spends more of his time with fat cats or with towel guys? How many towel guys do you think Mr. Klein invites along to his home or to his fishing lodge? How many towel guys have a heart-to-heart with the Premier in his office discussing things like what's best for Albertans?

Get my point?

The reason the fat cats want to spend the surplus on things like education is because Mr. Klein has given them so much over the years that their personal wealth is secure. That's how come they're members at the Glencoe and how come their $400 prosperity cheques would likely get lost in the stack of dividend cheques from Imperial Oil, Encana and the like. That's also why these guys give wads of cash to the PC party. They want to make sure the wealth keeps flowing their way.

Question 4. Mr. Little Guy, how much do you receive in dividends from Imperial Oil, Encana and the like?

Question 5. Do you grasp the significance of the following equation?
Tiny royalties==>Big Oil Company Profits===>Big Dividends===>Glencoe Club Membership===>Lunch with Premier Klein===>Tiny royalties . . . . . . . etc.

Question 6. Do you think Mr. Klein's policies of having one of the lowest minimum wage rates in Canada as well as toxic anti-union legislation has helped your wages or do you think it has helped feed company profits?

Mr. Klein once was one of the little guys and he still knows how to put on the act. But all the little guy gets these days is a free pancake if you show up at a PC fundraiser and maybe; just maybe, another $400 prosperity cheque.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE #11 



ME AND MY NEIGHBOR

NEIGHBOR: I’ve got to set you right.

ME: Oh! how come?

NEIGHBOR: You’ve been praising up those Liberals.

ME: I don’t recall doing that.

N: You’ve been writing in the paper in favor of universal health care.

ME: Oh! that. Just trying to keep Ralph Klein from ruining our health care system.

N: That’s where you’re wrong; everything should just be turned over to private insurance companies.

ME: Are you saying that it’s all right with you if I have more money than you (which I doubt) and I buy an operating room space ahead of you to have my knee replaced while you wait in line like everybody else?

NEIGHBOR: Well no, I don’t mean that. What I’m saying is that everyone should have private insurance and then we’d all be equal. Everybody knows governments can’t run anything without making a mess of it. Just look at what they are doing to our city.

ME: So you really believe in equal opportunity and you think private insurance companies would make sure that everybody is treated equally?

N: Well, no, it’s not that I think insurance companies are more fair than the government it’s just that I believe in free enterprise and letting the market place set the standards. Competition always improves service and brings down costs.

ME: But we already have in Canada the least expensive insurance and the widest coverage of health care that it is possible to obtain. Are your saying you’d rather purchase health care coverage from a huge American insurance corporation?

N: Well, then I’d have a choice of which insurance company to deal with. The way it is now the government is just a great big monopoly.

ME: So you think, if everybody bought insurance from private outfits then everybody would get good healthcare services on an equal footing with everyone else? But aren’t there some conditions that no private profit-making insurance company would insure you for?

NEIGHBOR: Well then, of course, there would be the government to fall back on. Like in one of the states in the US where the government will pay for those who are so poor they simply can’t afford insurance - Massachusetts I think.

ME: Sounds to me like your mind’s really made up and you’d vote for Klein’s Third Way just because he’s a Conservative and you think anyone who disagrees with him must be a Liberal.

N: Yep that just about sums it up. Conservative is good: Liberal is bad.

ME: Well good neighbor, you and I both have a democratic right to be wrong; but I hope my belief in universal medicare, paid for by the whole of society, proves to be better grounded in reality and more humane than your faith in the good will and fair mindedness of the market place.

Blair McPherson

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Who Sucks Best at the Public Teat? 


I don't know which Tory I admire more when it comes to extracting taxpayer money for their own personal use. There are so many worthy candidates to choose from.

Admittedly the Klein government has set things up so it is pretty easy for Tories to get at our money. Performing government contracts where the deliverables are strictly oral in nature ala Rod Love and Kelly Charlebois is but one example of this. (Hmmm. What exactly is an oral deliverable; - but I digress).

Tory leadership contender Mark "It's deductible!" Norris has also dreamed up a fine scheme. His boys set up a company called GLG Consulting Ltd., that pays Mark $10,000 a month for, - you guessed it, consulting. The company's major customers are well-heeled Tories who ponied up $10,000 to GLC. (These big shooters like to work in nice round $10,000 chunks.) They then claim these contributions as a business expense which means they get a tax deduction. Neat eh! The taxpayer doesn't pay for this directly, just indirectly. This makes it nicer.

Good as these schemes are, they don't top my favorite which was implemented by the old master himself, our beloved Ralph Klein. In the recent cabinet shuffle, Ralph appointed a few of his long time loyal Tory MLAs to cabinet positions. Two guys named Denis, a George and a Barry somebody. As cabinet ministers they get $58,000 above and beyond the $71,000 they earn as an MLAs. But the real genius in this scheme is that this gift from their leader is one that keeps on giving. These guys are all long time MLAs and the pension plan is based on years of service plus the best two years of salary. If they can hang around for a couple of years that extra $58,000 a year is going to pay off in spades in their pension plans.

If you ever wonder why the Tories call the health care system unsustainable it just might be because they have to spend too much sustaining themselves.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Alberta Health Care and Unlucky #13 

For those Ralph's World readers interested in "Third Way" discussions have a look at this article by Terilyn Paulgaard.

Unlucky #13 refers to Iris & Ralph's private health insurance initiatives. This is what the Tories, including the new leadership contenders, think will make health care sustainable in this province of ours.

Read the article and you be the judge.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 10 

RALPH’S WORLD WITHOUT RALPH EQUALS HOPE FOR HEALTH CARE?

A HEALTHY AND SENSIBLE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM STANDS ON A FOUNDATION OF TWO ESSENTIAL HUMAN QUALITIES: EMPATHY AND RESPONSIBILITY.

The first foundation , EMPATHY, is the basis of all civilization, society and community. Empathy is simply our name for allowing ourselves to feel, in imagination if not in reality, at least something of what another person is experiencing.

Persons without the decency to be moved by the joys and sorrows of fellow mortals become less than human. All humans have some capacity for empathy and some of those with a genuine ability to empathize with others enter the helping professions.

RESPONSIBILITY, follows from empathy. It is the behavior seen every day among the people in our societies who care, not only about themselves and their needs, but who also work to share burdens and ease the pains of others.

It is at least arguably true that no other health care system (our Canadain system) in the world came into being more directly founded on empathy for those who suffer from economic depression and an acceptance of responsibility by all of society to provide care for each other.

The stream of conservatism now sweeping through North American society and being fed into Canada by political leaders pretends to be human and socially concerned but conservative behavior is that of cold calculating commercialism.

Ralph's World boasts of money and power exercised with heartless disregard for the experience of any segment of society except those already healthy, getting rich and adding to government coffers.

In so many ways those who care about real democracy are asking the biblical question, “What does it profit a man (province) to gain the whole world and lose his (its) own soul?”

Empathy and responsibility have been notably absent from Ralph’s World and the Ralph who was sold on the pretext of listening and caring, still clings to power as if his world weren’t exploding like the hospitals he destroyed.

The “SAVE HEALTHCARE” drive is our greatest hope of holding off more conservatism at this time and in the immediate future. It's the best hope of preventing an extension of Ralph's World into a society more and more under the control of morally bereft corporations rather than governed by socially responsible servants of the people.

Work toward instilling a greater sense of empathy and responsibility into government will still have to go on after Ralph's World is a memory. But nothing in democracy is more worth working for.

Blair McPherson

Friday, March 31, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE #9 

POLITICAL MYTHS ARE REALLY LIES

* Please note: - This posting builds on two books introduced in a previous posting:“THE BOTTOM LINE” by Diana Gibson & Colleen Fuller and “DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT” by George Lakoff.

IF Mark Twain had written “The Bottom Line” he would have named it “LIES, LIES, AND DAMN LIES.”

A bold faced lie becomes a political myth when it is repeated over and over again by the most oratorically persuasive political figurehead and fed by the media to the public as if it were the truth.

“The Bottom Line” exposes the lie of “unsustainability” (MYTH 5 p.54) with evidence that our Premier and his sales staff are attempting to keep hidden.

Hiring former Mulroney crony Mazankowski and bringing in AON consulting to assess health care in Alberta is no more credible than bringing in a demolition company to tell you whether to repair or demolish a building you want to buy as cheaply as possible.

Why, then, is our Premier’s most vocal minister doggedly pressing on toward “Third Way” legislation?

There are two widely known Alberta happenings that clearly illuminate George Lakoff’s (“Don’t think of an elephant”) insight into the kind of authoritarian, morally self righteous and punitive political power that conservatism is exercising more and more in our so-called democratic world.

One happening has the man, who represents everything conservatism means in this province, pushing a plunger into the cylinder that triggers off explosives totally destroying a public hospital.

The other has the same man, with the varnish off, late at night in a men’s shelter shouting angrily at down-and-out fellow humans, for whom he has no empathy or understanding, and walking off in disgust throwing money at them.

Lakoff’s discovery is that, in practice most people do not gather information, consider the issues and vote rationally for a political leader.

In actuality they vote for the man or woman who most successfully portrays himself as the strongest, most morally righteous, and most resentful-of-resistance head of the family he dominates.

This powerful, controlling political figurehead and those who support him make a virtue out of forcing legislation through despite the fact that they have no intention of listening to those most likely to be affected by their actions.

We, with progressive values, must not falter in the process of making our demand to be heard as pressing as possiblein in the cause of responsible and sensible health care.

Why? Because to state it plainly:

USING POLITICAL POWER TO DESTROY PUBLIC PROPERTY IS A BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC TRUST

WIELDING GOVERNMENT POWER IN A WAY THAT CAUSES INJURY RATHER THAN PROMOTING HEALING IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE.

Heath Care in Alberta is public property, it does not belong to a premier fronting for corporate powers calling themselves private enterprisers.

Blair McPherson

Monday, March 27, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE # 8 

INVESTING WISELY IS NOT SPENDING FOOLISHLY

*Note, this posting refers to two books highly relevant to the Premier’s posturing about the “Third Way” that threatens Alberta’s health care.

Putting public money into health is not SPENDING, it is “INVESTING WISELY” in one of Alberta’s most valuable assets.

BUT ALBERTA’S PREMIER CALLS IT “SPENDING TAXPAYERS’ MONEY,”

HE NATTERS INCESSANTLY ABOUT “COSTS” AND THEN PROCEEDS TO ACT AS IF HEALTHCARE WERE HIS OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY TO BE DOLED OUT TO THE AVERAGE CITIZEN BUT SOLD, FOR PROFIT, TO HIS CORPORATE SUPPORTERS.

BOOK # 1, “THE BOTTOM LINE” is the title of a neat little book full to the brim with information and perspectives that the Premier and his apologists are desperately trying to keep out of the general public’s sight and snowed under by his sales department.

Authored by two diligent researchers, Diana Gibson and Colleen Fuller, this book should be spread around and read as soon as possible.

BOOK # 2, the other book, is entitled “DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT.” The link is a PDF sample of this book. It will take considerably more time and effort to integrate into your thinking and speaking.

But it has the potential of being of more long lasting help for those who are working toward genuine change in the political, social and democratic spheres of human endeavor.

Authored by George Lakoff, a professional researcher into communication process, it is an antidote for the frustration, disappointment and discouragement that endangers the spirits of those of us who believe in the democratic responsibility of communicating with our government.

“Don’t Think of an Elephant” is subtitled “KNOW YOUR VALUES AND FRAME THE DEBATE.”
Lakoff’s central teaching clearly exposes the way conservatives are succeeding in what he calls “framing” the debate.

In other words they are ahead of other more progressive and rational thinkers in the game of appealing to the public’s emotional response to images of power.

The conservative power image turns out to be that of the strong, authoritarian head of the family who knows right from wrong and tells his inferiors, including his wife, what to think and how to behave. He does not listen to them, and if he does, he only pretends to do so.

Opposition to this power figure results in expulsion from the family or punishment for bad behaviors. Having empathy for fellow humans, for example, by supporting social programs brings down his moral outrage at bad behavior.

But Lakoff sees that there is another image of power, really more integral to the democracies of North America, and that is, a head of the family who is equally strong but also a nurturer of the whole community of care and social responsibility.

It is this empathetic and responsibility based concept of power that Lakoff believes can and should be made real using the same, only more honest, communication methods upholding genuine and positive social an political values

To see the authoritarian “father” at work, you need only to consider George W. Bush’s preemptive use of force, his punitive response to those who don’t support him and his agenda for lowering corporate taxes so there will be an excuse to cut social programs.

Here at home, Ralph Klein has played the big authoritarian daddy for well over a decade now, he seems to last by appearing at the same time to be a bumbling bumpkin who most people mistake for “being one of us.”

Stephen Harper now plays the powerful head of family figure as he claims he will be changing government from a “culture of entitlement” to a “culture of accountability.” Those who suspect he’s beginning to sound like George W. Bush are on the right track.

Read “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and you will soon see where these images of power are coming from and how there’s hope of changing the tone of public discourse.

Blair McPherson

See other articles in this series below:
Sensible Health Care #1
Sensible Health Care #2
Sensible Health Care #3
Sensible Health Care #4
Sensible Health Care #5
Sensible Health Care #6
Sensible Health Care #7
Sensible Health Care #8

Sunday, March 19, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE #7 

OPINIONS CLASH AND CONFUSE
INFORMATION CALMS AND CLARIFIES

*Please note:- This posting builds on, and is supportive to, the previous one entitled, "TWO SIDES TO THE THIRD WAY DEBATE." That attractively presented article vividly illustrates he vast chasm between superficial, uninformed opinion, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the presentation of conclusions based on research and rational analysis.

Paul Jackson's Calgary Sun column is obviously based on little more than a belly full of irrational responses to political leaders and a head full of emotion loaded smear language intended to cut down Liberals and NDPers while proposing to give Klein license to do as he will.

The other presentation of Ten reasons against two tier medicine, by probably the most informed researchers in Canada today, represents what is, arguably, the result of the broadest and deepest search for information about health care available.

Why is it so hard for Alberta citizens to learn the truth about Medicare in this province?

The answer is that Alberta's Klein government has, from day one, dealt in highly suspect and unsubstantiated opinions devoid of complete and accurate information. Klein still chooses to retail emotion loaded, propaganda-spun opinions rather than come clean with unbiased information for the public at large.

The result is a politically controlled, big business driven, decision making process designed to undercut and dismantle one of the greatest public services in Canada today.

Unless? Unless we, the public, can shame, demand or force the government into opening up with their numbers and their motives.

By far the most sensible way to move a group of people through a problem solving process is to start by gathering and widely disseminating all of the relevant information possible.

The most senseless (a.k.a. stupid) place to start into group decision making is to call for expressions of opinion from a people who are ill informed, propagandized or almost totally ignorant about the nature of the problem or problems to be solved.

We have come to the point where the Klein government treats a person or group seeking accurate information as if they were an enemy to be put down and kept in the dark rather than persons with a legitimate right to the numbers that reveal the reality of the situation faced by those providing health care services.

HERE IS THE KIND OF THING WE'RE FACING

OPINION: "Unsustainable" is nothing more than an emotionally loaded and aggressive opinion: Klein and Evans offer no solid information. Instead Klein calls Taft a liar and Mason a socialist ideologue. He and Iris Evans bluster on about health costs absorbing the whole budget by the year 2030 when they are asked for honest information ( See Hansard )

INFORMATION: According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2001 the Alberta government spent $2,081.83 per capita on health care -- slightly below the national average of $2,089.72. " As a percentage of the gross domestic product, Alberta's health care spending is 4.7 percent and this has changed very little in the last 15 years" - (Phillip H. Walker Edmonton Journal 5/03/06)

Why, then, is the Klein government suddenly claiming to foresee disaster unless we sell our system to privateers?

Maybe it's time to address the Premier by the name he uses so freely on those who challenge him for information, i.e. by the legislative equivalent of "liar".

"TEN TOP REASONS AGAINST TWO-TIER MEDICINE IN CANADA" by contrast with Paul Jackson's purely opinionated Sun article, is based on real research and honest analysis by highly qualified and objective professionals.

The Klein government undoubtedly loves to hear mindless opinions like those of Paul Jackson.

What they really need to hear is what Dr. Colleen Flood, Dr. Tom Noseworthy and other informed professionals prescribe as an antidote to the kind of democratically poisonous and opinionated conflict that this government engenders by its refusal to make the truth known to the citizens of Alberta.

Blair McPherson

See other articles in this series below:
Sensible Health Care #1
Sensible Health Care #2
Sensible Health Care #3
Sensible Health Care #4
Sensible Health Care #5
Sensible Health Care #6
Sensible Health Care #7

Friday, March 17, 2006

SALT Presentation to Iris Evans 


The Seniors Action Liaison Team had the opportunity to present to Alberta Health Minister Iris Evans for half an hour on March 13, 2006.

This is a copy of the presentation they delivered. To provide feedback to SALT please click here and we will forward your comments to them.


Submission

To

The Honourable Iris Evans
Minister of Health and Wellness

As part of the consultation on the
Health Policy Framework



Respectfully submitted by
Noel Somerville
On behalf of:
The Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT)
and
Public Interest Alberta



Madam Minister,

My name is Noel Somerville. I am a Vice Chair of the Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) and a member of the board of Public Interest Alberta. This presentation is made on behalf of both organizations. There are several points we want to make about the Health Policy Framework.

First, we reject the premise that public health care costs are unsustainable. The dramatic growth rates that have occurred following the radical cutbacks of the mid nineties create a misleading picture. Yes, these costs are growing and will continue to grow, but when growth patterns are viewed over the longer term, we believe they remain a relatively stable percentage of the provincial GDP and in that respect are quite sustainable. In the interest of a meaningful consultation on the proposed health care reforms, we request that your department publish information on Alberta’s annual public health care expenditures as a percentage of Alberta’s GDP for each of the past twenty-five years.

What we do believe to be unsustainable is the ideology that government should get smaller and smaller, tax cuts should get larger and larger, and that privatization is the means to accomplish these ends. In our view, privatization is a major part of the problem, not the solution, to controlling costs in the health care system. The areas in which costs have grown most steeply are those that are almost exclusively in the hands of private and corporate interests – pharmaceuticals and technology. With respect, Madam Minister, we do not believe that your government has a mandate to preside over the dissolution by privatization of our most cherished social services.

Secondly, we reject any reform of our health care system that allows access to necessary medical services on the basis of ability to pay rather than on the basis of need. Our health care system represents a huge investment of public money in the institutions to train doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, in the cost of building and maintaining our hospitals and equipping them with the latest technology, and in the cost of government-funded medical research. Having collectively paid for this system, we are all entitled to access on the basis of need. It violates any standard of fairness that preferential access should be granted to the wealthy or those fortunate enough to qualify for individual or group health insurance plans.

Third, we reject the proposal that allows doctors to practice in both the public and private systems. To do so creates a conflict-of-interest in the doctor/patient relationship, makes queue-jumping inevitable and may encourage doctors to perform lucrative but unnecessary procedures. If doctors have two sets of patients, one paying and one not paying, preference will obviously go to the paying patients and the non-paying will face longer wait times and second-class status in the system that we have all funded. People weakened by severe pain or ill health are extremely vulnerable to manipulation; what such people are interested in is not ’choice’ but treatment and a cure.

The Health Policy Framework places great emphasis on choice. Choice is a great thing when shopping for a car or a pair of shoes. But the fact is that a great deal of choice already exists in the health care system. Doctors are free to opt-out of the system and set up whatever type of practice they want. People with money are free to seek treatment wherever and whenever they want. One has to wonder, however, about those who are old, frail, ill, have pre-existing conditions or even genetic pre-disposition to illness. These people don’t have choice, and private insurance will not give them choice because they can’t qualify for coverage nor afford the premiums.

Fourth, we reject reforms that undercut the huge economies of the single-payer national health insurance system by introducing private insurance for medically necessary services. Such a move is counter-productive to the primary objective of improving the efficiency and sustainability of our health care system. It will lead to massive, non-productive expenditures by private insurers in advertising and claims adjudication and will impose huge additional costs on hospitals and clinics that have to employ bean-counters to track every service to know which insurer to bill. A recent statistic from the Harper Index quotes a study by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who estimated that, if the USA adopted a single-payer health care system, the annual saving on paperwork alone would amount to $161 billion.

Again, it would really promote a meaningful consultation if your government were to estimate the costs resulting from the proposed health care reforms on the following:

Finally, we oppose any framework for change that sidesteps the democratic process and provides for the health care system to be governed and reformed by regulation rather than by legislation. Substantive changes to regulations can and have been implemented by Orders-in Council, completely circumventing the accepted principles of parliamentary democracy.

We do not, however, oppose genuine reforms in health care delivery:

What we want is a continuation of initiatives such as these that will make the public health care system more efficient and cost-effective.

What we want was neatly summarized in the undertakings that Premier Klein made in his television address to the province on November 16, 1999 when he said:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Two Sides to the Third Way Debate 


With so much written about Ralph Klein's Third Way for providing health care in Alberta, the staff at Ralph's World has combed the media reports to bring you the two articles that we feel best represent the opposing sides of this issue.

In order to appeal to all Albertans, and not just those interested in health care, we have chosen to display the picture at left. It is our hope that those of you attracted by the picture may also read the articles. For those that take offence, we apologize for our crude methods.

Supporting Premier Klein and the Progressive Conservative party is:
Paul Jackson - Calgary Sun Columnist with his well-reasoned article entitled Freedom healthy.

Supporting Kevin Taft and Brian Mason and the Opposition parties are:
Colleen M. Flood, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, University of Toronto
Terrence Sullivan, President Cancer Care Ontario
Steven Lewis, President, Access Consulting Limited, Saskatoon
Noralou Roos, Canada Research Chair in Population Health Research, University of Manitoba
Dr. Tom Noseworthy, Director, Centre for Health and Policy Studies, Calgary
Their opinion piece is Top ten reasons against two-tier medicine in Canada.

Have a look at both and see what makes the most sense to you. Let us know what you think by dropping us a line.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTHCARE #6 

(SUPERFICIAL DIAGNOSIS/SHODDY TREATMENT)

The most sensible thing a responsible health practitioner does when preparing to treat a patient is to listen with great care to what the ill person is experiencing.

In Ralph Klein’s Alberta, unprofessional politicians prescribed treatment for our health care system over a decade ago. That politically prescribed treatment was forced on this province’s health care professionals and all supporting services despite being based on a shamefully superficial pretense at listening to the patient.

Today, after a decade of treatment by the Klein government, the prognosis is bleak. Impossible burdens placed on health care workers make it increasingly difficult for them to provide quality care to the very citizens they are trying to serve.

Instead of accepting responsibility for a cheap diagnosis leading to a “crappy” treatment outcome, the Premier’s propaganda machine types up press releases and rehearses sound bites designed to sell more of the same medicine to an under informed and emotionally overwhelmed public.

They manipulate numbers, distort Supreme Court’s decisions, ignore the massive research behind the Romanow and Kirby reports in favor of their own flimsy Mazankowski report that tells them what they told him to tell them.

The only way to understand how our Premier and Minister of Health continue to behave as if findings like those of the Romanow and Kirby reports,, are “crap” is to look again at Klein’s politically created myth about the nature of “severely normal Albertans”.

A recent book by a teacher named George Lakoff and entitled simply, “don’t think of an elephant,” provides great insight.

Once enough people, many of them highly intelligent, begin to believe the half truths embodied in a myth (he calls it a frame) they become unwilling or unable to allow in any evidence that challenges what they believe to be true, no matter how illogical and poorly researched their myth is.

IN KLEIN’S POLITICALLY CREATED MYTH, TRUE ALBERTANS ARE RUGGED INDIVIDUALS WHO WORK HARD TO PUSH THEMSELVES FINANCIALLY UPWARD TO THE POINT WHERE THEY NEED NOT DEPEND ON ANYONE ELSE AND ARE ENTITLED TO USE THEIR MONEY TO BUY PRIVILEGES THAT OTHERS CAN’T AFFORD.

Conversely, TRUE ALBERTANS RESENT PAYING MONEY TO THEIR GOVERNMENT TO FUND PROGRAMS THAT ARE THERE TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE UNABLE TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES; THESE ARE NOT ENTITLED TO THE SAME PRIVILEGES.

Strangely, however, according to this myth, true Albertans believe every corporation whether small or large is entitled to make a profit so they willingly pay, or have their government pay, more to a corporation for the same service their government really owes them and could provide more efficiently.

One possible way of exploding this myth and exposing the lies it contains is to replace the label “Albertan” with language that speaks of people as fellow humans with minds of their own.

The Albertan myth teaches teaches that we belong to a tribe who band together for protection against whatever enemy our political leaders decide we need to battle against.

The Albertan myth teaches that the government always knows more than we do about what “Albertans” think. So, when we protest to them, they pretend to appreciate our questions and then go on to flood us with propaganda designed to prove how great they are and how small our concern us in the light of their largess.

We need language that describes us as CITIZENS of a democracy capable of seeing through the sham and pretense of politicians who actually look down on us and treat us with contempt when we don’t swallow their cheap diagnoses and “crappy” treatment plans.

Thinking CITIZENS won’t buy the Klein government’s phony pretense of providing us with choices when, in fact, they simply want to sell what belongs to us to corporations and enterprises. Then we will have no option but to pay the money they demand for the services, and services won’t be offered unless they can make a profit.

Probably there are better words besides CITIZEN to encourage others to reject the politically created myth that Klein and his sales force have used to silence dissent and elicit unthinking and irrational support from too many for far too long.


Blair McPherson

Sunday, March 05, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTH CARE #5 

(EXPLODING KLEIN'S POLITICAL MYTH)

Politically created myths can be very powerful and are often socially destructive forces when widely disseminated and unquestioningly believed.

By far the most sensible way to provide timely access to medical services on an equal basis to all of Alberta’s people is by strengthening the public system financially and by increasing its efficiency.

Significant steps are already being taken in that direction within the public system even while attempts are being made at syphoning off resources into private facilities.

Progress is being made by essentially undoing practices like overloading operating rooms and understaffing hospital wards, practices that the Klein government, through its short sighted and irrational obsession with saving money, has forced health care workers into doing.

Why, then, are the Premier and his Minister of health now so obsessed with selling the public system even more short by manipulating numbers, distorting findings, mouthing half-truths, withholding information and accusing everyone who questions them of telling lies or talking “crap?”

The answer is: that this government’s propaganda machine (a.k.a. Public Information Bureau reporting only to the Premier), has created a political myth that they’ve repeated so often they seem to actually believe it themselves .

KLEIN’S POLITICAL MYTH TEACHES THAT: IF YOU ARE A TRUE “ALBERTAN” YOU DEEPLY RESENT AND HEARTILY DISLIKE PAYING TAXES TO YOUR GOVERNMENT.

Aided and abetted by a major portion of a subservient media this, irresponsible and unproven half truth, goes on to preach that, EVEN IF IT COSTS MORE, TRUE “ALBERTANS” WOULD, IF GIVEN THE CHOICE, MUCH PREFER TO PAY MONEY TO SOME MULTINATIONAL COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE THAT CLAIMS IT WILL INSURE YOU AGAINST HAVING TO WAIT FOR MEDICAL SERVICES.

This myth is being imprinted on the unthinking and poorly informed public by the constant repetition of fear-loaded language; incessantly repeating words like “unsustainable”; “spiraling costs”; “out of control spending” at every opportunity.

Our Premier even claims that the health districts are demanding “billions” (once he had it up to $100.6 billion). That, he claims, threatens to soon use up the whole provincial budget because all the health authorities know how to do is "spend,spend, spend".

We must somehow rescue the language of public discourse from the conservative think tanks, the senseless right wing radio talk shows and the newspaper columnists who are often little more than irrational rabble rousers.

For starters, let’s begin talking about what we contribute to governments, not as taxes but as INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC SERVICES; not as tax burdens to be shirked if possible but AS SHARED CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE NEEDS OF ALL CITIZENS WHETHER RICH OR POOR.

The truth is that we, the citizens of Alberta, already INVEST handsomely, in the finest kind of medical insurance a society can provide for meeting the medical needs of its people.

We, for example as one family, willingly INVEST more in what the medical services our health system provides us than we do for car insurance, fire insurance and theft insurance for our property.

In turn we have a right to expect that our government will invest the millions we, as a people, place at their disposal in hospitals, training programs for doctors, nurses and all necessary support staff.

We have a right to be genuinely angry, disgusted and critical, instead of proud and pleased when this government guts our hospitals, understaffs them, withdraws support for some services and then tries to get us to throw our system open to exploiters and opportunists in the commercial world.

Time we blew the myth Klein has created to justify undermining public health care out of the waters. Eh?

Blair McPherson

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Furnace Replacement Subsidy - An Interesting Tale 


This classic Catch-22 was sent in by a Ralph's World reader from St. Albert. The following is from a letter that she sent to her MLA looking for advice.

Now that my gas bills are running around $300 per month, this warmest winter ever in the Province of Alberta, I am motivated to quit dithering and try to wrestle a furnace replacement subsidy out of the (unwilling?) hands of the Government of Alberta.

To that end I just called gov-ab seniors' information- to ask if there were any new twists-and-turns in the application procedure. Well, there's a dandy. And I need your advice.

I spoke with an advisor (no sense in asking for a name for they're "not required to provide that information"). My question was: "What is the procedure for applying?". The answer: get a form; fill it in; get quotations, provide copies; and "provide a copy of a letter from the gas company saying that your furnace is unfit"; mail it all in to us. *EEEK!*

As I am sure you know, gas-appliance inspection requires a gas-fitters' ticket. And for some years now, there has been a regulation in Alberta that a gas-fitter who finds that a gas furnace is in any way a possible danger is required to turn the furnace off, and also to lock it down in such a way that the owner cannot restart it.

So, do you see the picture? The poor senior, eaten alive by gas bills who only wanted a letter, is standing in a cooling house. By tomorrow, her house may be frozen solid. Nothing to do but call for (frightfully expensive) emergency action.

So I explained that to the advisor. Then the schpiel changed substantially. Quoting from her "answer-book", she said that..well, we'll need a letter saying your furnace is unfit either from the gas company or from a contractor. I told her thanks and rang off.

So you see, they're fooling with us again (still?). And I have no idea how to proceed.

Will you please suggest how a senior is supposed to navigate this minefield?

Deane Doucette,
St-Albert

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Online "Third Way" Consultation Process Enhanced 


Dateline March 3, 2006 - RW NewsWire - Edmonton

Stung by opposition criticism that one month was not enough time for Albertans to provide input to the new Third Way" health initiatives, Premier Klein has ordered Health Minister Iris Evans to implement major enhancements to Alberta Health's Online Public Consultation System.

"The system has to provide instant feedback to those Albertan that take the time to help me build a better and brighter health care system" the Premier said. "We only have a month to get this done so we need to get on with it."

We are pleased to announce that Ralph's World Political Polling Systems, a division of Ralph's World International, has been awarded this important contract.

The picture at left shows Health Minister Evans walking the Premeir through a prototype of the new system.

We are asking all Albertans to try out the new prototype using the following link.

"Third Way" On-line Consultation System

Please provide any feedback you may have to Ralph's World Political Polling Systems, Health Minister Iris Evans, or Premier Ralph Klein.

A Wink and a Grin - The "Third Way" is In. 


Premier Klein and his faithful sidekick Iris Evans have together conceived a new 18-page white paper entitled Health Policy Framework along with a spanking new webpage to explain it all to us rubes.

This is the legendary "Third Way" for Alberta health care that the Premier has been teasing us with for the last few years.

For an overview of what it's all about you might want to read "Klein moves to gut medicare" - an article by Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star.


The Premier's happy face took a distinct downturn in the legislature yesterday as he hurled a copy of the Liberal Health policy booklet back in the face of the 17 year old female page who had just delivered it from the Liberal benches. The Premier had asked for their input. When it was provided it he had his tantrum and called it crap. Don't believe that the Premier of our Province could be that childish; that out of control? Read all about it here.

You have to hope that the Tory faithful will do the right thing at their upcoming leadership review.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

SENSIBLE HEALTHCARE #4 

The “THIRD WAY” is NONSENSE
By far the most socially sensible thing Canada has ever done was when the Federal Government finally legislated the only possible way for all citizens to share equally in the benefits of modern medicine was that those services be paid for by the whole of society.

Socially and morally and, likely illegally, the most insensitive and irrational thing a province of Canada can do today is what Alberta’s Klein government (a.k.a. the PC party) is now proposing.

In 2002 the Senate committee, chaired by Michael Kirby, had as its goal “ To ensure that all Canadians have timely access to medically necessary health services regardless of their ability to pay for these services.”

The principles of universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility and portability were also upheld as equally essential with timely access.

What the Klein government now proposes is that “TIMELY” access be translated as “INSTANT” access for those who have the most money.

Ever since the Klein government centralized power and authority in the Premier’s office a determined, politically connected and financially powerful lobby has been pushing the Premier to use his propaganda power to sell the idea that you can get a quicker and cheaper deal by buying your health care in some privately operated facility designed for paying dividends to elite investors.

That sales pitch, used during his whole rise to power, has promoted irrational fears that some colossal disaster will happen unless the public falls into line and, denying their own perceptions of reality, allow him to turn government responsibility over to opportunists whose merchandising skill are only surpassed by his own.

Like a man, so obsessed with having his own way that he will distort and manipulate facts, our Premier has been shouting “unsustainability” as if Alberta’s health system were a house on fire when, in fact, there is only a small blaze in the basement and the firemen are already on the way.

I’m making this up? Well read what our Premier is telling the Legislature. (cross reference) . Or read Mark Lisac’s book “ALBERTA POLITICS UNCOVERED” page. 51 where it tells of how Klein’s revolution cut the health budget down from $4.3 billion in 1992-93 to $3.77 billion in 1995-96 and ever since has been shouting about health costs ‘spiraling out of control’ .

The Premier’s most recent sales pitch for the third way includes keeping health costs in line with inflation. Was he doing that when comparing rising costs with the all time low budget for health in 1995-96. Inflation doesn’t even come near accounting for the massive increase in population, especially that of aging boomers, now does it?

Our Premier, using his most Churchillian public voice, solemnly pronounces health care must change and that that this proposed change is so we can pass healthcare on to our children.

Whose children is he talking about? Those of an elite few or every citizen’s child?

Could it be that it’s this government that needs changing into one that sees money as the servant of people and their needs? Right now they obviously see people as the servant of the Klein government’s obsession with money.

Blair McPherson

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