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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

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Premier Klein Wins American Award 

See this December 31st article By Joel Connelly in the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

Our Premier has certainly impressed our American neighbours this year winning the coveted Foot in Mouth Prize. Here is a quote from the article.

After a heifer in Alberta turned up with mad cow disease, and the United States cut off Canadian beef exports, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said that any 'self-respecting' rancher would have taken three steps to deal with an ill animal: 'Shoot, shovel and shut up!'

Six months later, with another mad cow scare triggered by an animal imported into Washington from Alberta, Klein had learned restraint. 'I'm saying, 'Let cooler heads prevail.' Let's do the investigating and let's deal with the problem,' he said Monday.

Do we trust this guy? No way!"


What can you say. Ralph may have learned restraint now but the damage was done when "Shoot, shovel and shut up" slipped over his lips into the minds of a skittish American and Japanese public. He represented Alberta to them and to the detriment of our cattle producers, many of them don't trust us anymore when it comes to how we handle BSE. This provides them with all the excuses they need to slow down exports of Alberta beef.

It would be better in the future if our Agriculture Minister Shirley McClellan spoke for Albertans on this critical matter as Premier Klein has lost all credibility with our most important customers.

Click here to see previous related postings.

Monday, December 29, 2003

State of Alert in Calgary Health Region  

This creative idea just in from a Calgary reader.

The US has a state of alert based on 5 levels. Currently the alert is at orange signaling that it is one colour away from severe.

I think that the premier should adopt a 5 tier alert system indicating the state of alert with regard to health care in each of the regions of Alberta.

Rather than colours I propose the use of pies. For example crab apple pie might be the lowest level followed by Saskatoon berry pie and strawberry pie (when in season). As things deteriorate the condition could move to pumpkin pie, (much like orange alert south of the border) signaling that things are getting progressively more serious.

Finally when patients in distress need to be airlifted out of the province from major urban areas, well . . . .I think that that deserves a richly appointed banana cream pie which signifies a severe problem.

Premier Klein's View of Advocacy 

Report by Lyle Aspinall, Editor, Lacombe Globe, December 23, 2003: Have a look at this story concerning an 18,000 hog operation South of Bentley and how the Farmer's Advocate, a Klein appointee, "represents" the views of citizens in Alberta. Hint: Their views are ignored.

Can we expect the same from our new Utilities Consumer Advocate?

The Job Description for a Klein-Appointed Advocate in Alberta seems to be:

1. Must be able to absorb calls from irate citizens with cheerful but non-commital response.

2. Provide confidential information to the appropriate Minister and Premier Klein using the following feedback form:

Instructions for use - please rate the citizen's irateness on a scale from 1-4 as follows:

1 - Mildly upset - can be appeased with promise that government might do something.
2 - Nasty - uses inappropriate language when refering to the parentage of Ministers responsible.
3 - Livid - is planning a march on the legislature.
4 - Apoplectic - might not vote for Ralph next time - regardless of the size of the rebate.


3. Provide public reports which tell the citizens they are happy as larks with the government and any concerns they might have is because they don't understand. In other words, everyone else is happy; if you're not you're stupid.

The Klein-appointed advocates and their staff costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually to protect the ministers from having to deal with the citizens of this Province directly. There are better ways to spend this money.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

PEACE AND GOOD WILL 

I can't recall a year since World War 2 when the words "PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN" so clearly expressed the most deeply felt and highest needs of the human world.

That message - the real theme of the Christmas carols - has several times this season been central to the sound in the Francis Winspear Centre for Music. A place, having no outward identification with organized religion, has figuratively been bursting at the seams from the pouring forth of music from choirs, bands, orchestras and audiences expressing precisely those desires for mankind.

Against the ugly forebodinbg clouds of condemnation, criticism, and outright hatred the media carries hourly to the world it seemed especially meaningful that it was the Universities and the "media" including the Edmonton Journal, who were giving support to some of these occasions.

Like a break in the clouds during a threatening storm these words still come through like the sunlight, reminding us that there is a higher order of relationships possible for mankind if only we were listening and learning.

By Sandy

Friday, December 19, 2003

Deregulation - Dismantling the Alberta Advantage in Utility Costs 

The folks at SALT (Senior's Action and Liason Team) have an excellent position paper on Electricity Deregulation. Click here to have a look at it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Blowin' In The Wind 

Our conventional oil and gas reserves are on the downswing. For the first time in our history, the demand for natural gas is exceeding added reserves from new discoveries. There are forecasts that Alberta will soon have to run its economy without dependence on revenues from these resources. In desperation, we are now looking at coal bed methane as an energy resource. The disastrous experience in Wyoming documented by CBC TV shows the dangers of that approach. Regardless of the validity of the application of the Wyoming experience to Alberta, global warming is no joke. We simply must stop burning hydrocarbons of any sort for energy consumption. Yet, energy consumption is directly related to standard of living.

The irony is that the answer to our energy future is blowin' in the wind. Alberta has two of the best wind power generating sites anywhere in the world at the Crow's Nest and Waterton. In fact, the southern one third of the province is a perfect site for the installation of tens of thousands of new generation wind turbines. The new, large, gearless turbines turn slowly, are very quiet, and last for decades with minimal maintenance. Also, the wind, as an energy source, is not subject to price manipulation by speculators or price increases because of declining supply, as is the case with oil.

Before it is too late, we should be using the taxes and royalties from our hydrocarbons to harness this vast reservoir of nonpolluting, renewable energy. Rather that squandering these revenues on rebates, we, as a community, should be investing heavily in wind power, energy conservation, and research into storage of wind energy such as through compressed air. (For certain, we should not be importing the tens of thousands of wind turbines we need. Rather, we should be building them here in
Alberta.) Developments in France of compressed air cars and compressed air engines that have many applications are most encouraging. Click here for more on the air car.

With foresight, and courageous leadership, we can set an example for the world. To quote Maggie Thatcher, "There is no alternative" that is both desirable and feasible.


Tory MLAs Strangely Silent 

Over the last six weeks I have sent a number of questions via e-mail to some of our elected members including two to the Premier Himself . I've kept track of when I sent them, when they were responded to, and what the responses were. You can click here for a summary.

Now the Premier Himself is the Minister in charge of the Public Affairs Bureau and he has set a stringent target response time for responses to e-mail questions from citizens to the government. It is as follows, pulled from the Public Affairs Bureau 2002-2003 Annual Report.

The second new measure tracks the number of Alberta Connects e-mail questions answered within the 72-hour target response time. Alberta Connects provides Albertans with a way to ask an e-mail question about any Alberta Government program or service. Questions vary widely in length and degree of complexity. The measure shows that 94 per cent of questions were answered within 72 hours, just below the target of 95 per cent.

Well that is a pretty good response time but it doesn't jibe with my experience. Here's my experience to date.

1. E-mail to Tory MLA Rob Renner November 2, 2003. No acknowledgement, no response.
2. E-mail to Tory Premier Klein November 19, 2003. No acknowledgement, no response.
3. E-mail to Tory Premier Klein December 5, 2003. No acknowledgement, no response.
4. E-mail to Liberal Leader Ken Nicol December 5, 2003. Reply 4 days later.
5. E-mail to NDP Leader Raj Pannu December 5, 2003. Acknowledgement 12 days later with promise of a reply.

Now I understand that Mr. Renner is a busy man what with the Auto Insurance fiasco and I also realize that Premier Klein is busy what with practicing for his annual horse race and then the race itself. But you would think with all that staff they have in the Public Affairs Bureau they could at least acknowledge receipt of an e-mail even if they don't want to provide an answer.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Is the Free Market the Answer to Everything? 

So what about Alberta and the free market? The Progressive Conservative mantra seems to be that the market takes care of most everything. In some areas this can be true, and I have to applaud the government for privatization of services, like liquor stores and vehicle registries, which seem to be positive steps. Few people would argue that less government involvement in the daily life of most Albertans is a healthy thing.

But any student in grade 9 social studies will be able to tell you that the market economy doesn’t necessarily take care of everyone, and that, at times, the market can be quite brutal on those it serves. A strong argument can be made that with an "inner city" in every urban center in North America, that the market economy doesn’t always serve everyone. I know the old response that says, “ these people should get jobs.” Hmmm…sounds like an easy solution…I’m sure that’s why there still exists an "inner city" in every city. What about when free market forces run companies out of business due to a shift in the global market? What about when those at the top of corporations are corrupt, and all of the shareholders go bankrupt?

If this is the case, do we really want the market to take care of health, education and transportation? There have been repeated looks at privatizing these key areas of our province…. I know, I know, “The market will take care of it, and it will be profitable.” But as we see, the market doesn’t take care of everything, and doesn’t always discriminate between what we need and what it dictates. The goal of a market economy is to create wealth. Wealth is good, but when I go to the doctor, I want him thinking of my health, not how many patients he can see so he can afford a new Lexus.

What about education? Should I have to pay privately for my child’s quality education? If the main goal of schools is to create wealth, then are they focusing on my child’s education, or how many dollars, (oops!) I mean kids, they can get through a program?

What about transportation? Private roadways provide government with an opportunity to get out of spending our tax money on building the road, but aren’t roads in the interest of everyone? What if the owner of the road decides he wants to make unaffordable increases? Don’t I have a right to movement under the constitution?

The simple fact is that when you have governments investing tax dollars in key areas, it is supposed to be in the interest of all citizens, and allows our public servants to directly control the things we value, like education, like healthcare, like transportation. If we leave it to the market, we lose direct control and our focus becomes money, which isn’t in all cases in the best interests of all people.

The fundamental question is, how much control do we wish to give up to the free market? When it comes to the basics of what keep our population healthy, educated, and moving, we need to be careful how far we go.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Kiss up to Bush - it's good for business. 

See Edmonton Journal Story by Kelly Cryderman: Lack of support for Iraq war costing Canada now, premier says

Premier Klein's approach is do what it takes to help business in this Province. If this means sending our troops to war in Iraq well so be it. We have to stay on the good side of George Bush or he'll hurt us economically.

I won't even touch the moral or ethical side of Klein's US Foreign Policy but it doesn't even work on the business side of things. True, the Premier did get 20 minutes of time this summer with US Vice-President Dick Cheney to discuss Mad Cow and whatever else they could fit into 20 minutes. The result of this was (how to say this delicately) absolutely nothing. Then there is the softwood lumber issue. We seem to be lurching to a resolution based on quotas that would permanently put many Alberta forestry workers out of work in order to allow a few of the larger companies to just survive. I don't think anyone, business people or workers, could call this a success.

President Bush and his administration could care less about Canada between now and the next U.S. election. If keeping the border closed to Canadian shipments of beef swing enough Republican votes in the Midwest states , the border stays closed. If tariffs and quotas on softwood lumber buy enough Republican votes in the southern states, then tariffs and quotas stay on. Premier Klein should understand this dynamic better than anyone.

Mr. Premier. Save your wooing of the U.S. until after the next election in November 2004. George isn't looking North these days. If you really want to help Alberta business why don't you turn you affections to Paul Martin. He's a Liberal but you could always put a bag over his head.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

No Room at the Inn 

As Christmas approaches, Martha and Henry, in Calgary are facing the same problems that Mary and Joseph encountered a little over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. Everywhere they turn the signs say there’s “no room” at the inn.

Although the province has received close to seven billion dollars in oil and gas royalties this year alone, the trickle down effect has yet to reach Calgary. The flu season is still considered to be weeks away and all the hospital beds are full. There is not only no room at the inn but the CHR is facing an operational deficit of more than fifty million dollars.

There is no room in the classroom. The Learning Commission had already come to the undeniable conclusion that the overcrowding experienced in Calgary classrooms was above the provincial norm and that was before another two hundred and fifty teachers were released in addition to care-taking and support staff. To date the CBE has received six million dollars of the additional six hundred million dollars a year province wide that the commission believed was necessary to restore public education.

There’s no room at the University of Calgary due in part to the fact that the U of C receives fifteen hundred dollars less per student in provincial grants than the University of Alberta, located in Edmonton. As a result those students who can afford the tuition that has more than doubled in the past decade are crowded into not so temporary portables.

There is no room in the budget for seniors on fixed incomes. Their provincially covered health care premiums and medications were taken away ten years ago. They can ill afford their “fair assessment” inner city property taxes and dread the notion of being forced to enter long term care facilities where rents have risen by over forty percent without any proportional improvement in the number of care givers.

There is no room in the courthouses to hear the additional cases which arise as the result of an unprecedented advantage seeking population boom of over one hundred thousand in the past decade.

There is no room in the shelters that are forced to go cap in hand to the province every month for the funding necessary to provide a mat on an overcrowded floor. The churches with their “In from the Cold” programs have attempted to bridge the gap, but they too have been forced to turn away single men in search of shelter because of the overwhelming number of homeless families. A warm hay filled stall would look pretty attractive to a person trying to survive the winter’s cold on Calgary’s streets.

This Christmas there is no room in Calgary.

Harry B. Chase

DEMOCRACY EMASCULATED 

Don Massey speaking: (LEGISLATURE Nov. 24/03)
“..... when can parents expect to see a plan to implement class size reduction in this province?”

Lyle Oberg responding:
(After 50 words avoiding the question) “..we have just received that (Learning Commission report) ...we have our processes that we will be going through and we are on line for the date that I initially suggested which is the first part of December.....”

Edmonton Journal Headline Dec. 10/03

SCHOOL FUNDING INCREASES DELAYED

ELK ISLAND PUBLIC BOARD CHAIRWOMAN SPEAKING

Even when they do get their portion of the $37 million, many schools probably won’t be able to hire many more teachers. If - (notice the “if”) - the money was divided equally each student in Alberta would garner about $62 now... a school with 150 students would get $9,300 not enough to hire another staff member...

Bart Johnson spokesman for Alberta Learning:-

“I’m fairly sure the fact that this has taken three weeks to determine exactly what each board should get will not affect students or parents in any way.”

Susan O’Neil, parent advocate:-

“It’s survival of the fittest in a class of thirty, there’s a huge amount of frustration out there.”

So the patient sits in the waiting room getting sicker by the hour while the doctor pretends he has no medicine and asks us all to pretend we don’t know what’s going on.
By Sandy

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Learning Commission Report 

The Learning Commission has made a valuable contribution to any discussion about K - 12 education in this province. Because it is useful, its limitations should be noted.

The Commission was appointed by the Provincial Goverrnment, which was solely responsible for setting out the mandate of the Commission. School boards, parents, and the general public did not have a hand in determining the mandate.

The mandate of the Commission is to make recommendations to the Provincial Government, which means that the Commission focused on what the provincial government could/should do. In some cases the Commission misdirected its recommendations. It would not be prudent -- good for education -- to have the provincial government do all the things which it has the power/money to do. For example, the Learning Commission recommends that the provincial government should require every school to be a learning community. Such a recommendation is a little like a parent requiring a child to be a good student. Not only does it not work; it usually provokes rebellion that is actually counterproductive.

The weakest part of the Commission's report deals with governance.
From the province's perspective, locally elected trustees are not accountable to the local electorate; they are responsible to the Minister. This is why provincially mandated accountability statements have to be sent to the Department, not published in local newspapers. Similarly, the view of the government is that trustees should be the agent of the provincial government to the local community, not the agents of the community to the provincial government.

Write a letter to your M.L.A. Ask him to put in writing to you a commitment that he considers local government representatives (school trustees and municipal councillors) to be accountable, first and foremost to the people who elected them. Ask her to put in writing to you that she considers it the job of locally elected representatives to speak as forcefully as possible to the provincial government on behalf of the local community. Ask your M.L.A. for an assurance that the government would never bully local government into silence.

Party Money - Ken Nicol's Response 

On December 5th I sent an e-mail to Premier Klein and the leaders of the Alberta Liberal Party and the Alberta NDP asking them some questions regarding Party Money for their leader's pleasure. To see that e-mail, click here.

Here is the response from Ken Nicol, the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

Dear John:

Thank you for your inquiry. As far as I know there has never been a
party fund set aside for the Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. In
fact, most Leader's even pay to attend their own Leader's dinner. I
certainly have never had a fund that I could use.

Regards,

Ken Nicol

Ken Nicol, MLA Lethbridge-East
Leader, Official Opposition
ph. (403) 320-1011
fx. (403) 328-6613
ken.nicol@assembly.ab.ca
www.liberalopposition.com


As always, I will post responses to my e-mails as I receive them. Click here to see how the responses are pouring in.

Monday, December 08, 2003

An Alberta Christmas 2003 

Twere mere weeks before Christmas.

The legislature was finally sitting,

Except for our Premier who

Appeared to be missing.

As usual, questions were asked,

But no answers were given.

Albertans were in turmoil.

To distraction, they’d been driven.

Ever since the declaration

Of the World of Ralph,

Democracy had been relegated

To gathering dust on a shelf.

Promises had been made.

Band-aid solutions spoken.

Seniors’ long-term rents had risen;

Their Christmas spirit broken.

While pleading for help,

They were told don’t disrupt.

My answer to all problems

Is “shoot, shovel and shut up!”

Martha and Henry lost their house.

Now they’re living on the street.

The Alberta Advantage is a myth,

When you can’t afford insurance, electricity or heat!



Harry B. Chase

STUPID QUESTIONS OR STUPID ANSWERS? 

Ralph Klein Speaking; Edmonton Journal Nov. 19/03:-

"Their whole performance depends on
whether they can grill me and try to embarrass
me and to ask me stupid questions to which
I'm supposed to give intelligent answers."

Martha and Henry react:-
Henry:- "Now just a darn minute, Mr. Klein, you are bad-mouthing men and women who speak out for the thousands of us who didn't vote for you or your buddies."

Martha:- "Yeah Ralph, we've been reading Hansard while you were out of town and all we've seen are questions from intelligent, well educated men and women who have done research and are well informed."

Henry: - "And what's more those questions are being asked on behalf of all the people of Alberta and they deserve the kind of respectful and informative answers you and your boys are not giving."

Martha:- "Over and over again we read questions that are designed to have you or your colleagues come clean and prove to us you have considered the consequences of what is being pushed through the Legislature."

Henry:- "You see Ralph Forrest Gump had it right when he said 'stupid is as stupid does' in the movie of the same name."

Martha:- "Stupid is when you dive head first into a swimming pool without first finding out how deep the water is."

Henry:- " Even more stupid, is when you totally ignore and mock the people who inform you the water is a lot deeper than you think."

Martha:- "Yeah and then, when you not only dive in without knowing what you're doing you pull all the rest of us in with you now that's really stupid."

Henry: "Like when you threw the whole Province into deregulating the essential utilities on the basis of some totally unproved sales campaign claiming that competition would bring prices down."

Martha: "In fact all too much of what you've done since gaining power ten years ago has been blindly following what one of your advisers before you even got elected called 'the stupid way.'"

Henry:- "Which has meant taking actions like blowing up a Calgary hospital and only now ten years later facing the reality of needing to build another one."

Henry:- "So now you are ready to bully through the Legislature another blind dive into what you call the P3 pool where hospitals, highways and school buildings will no longer belong to the citizens and yet we'll end up paying all the costs plus a profit for already rich investors."

Martha:- "You see Ralph we read your non-response to a very well researched and intelligent question. Remember Kevin Taft asking: 'When the Premier met with the officials at the Great Western hospital in Swindon (England) did they tell you the cost of this P3 hospital soared from 45 million pounds to 90 million pounds and ultimately to 148 million pounds...'"?

Henry:- "Quite frankly we are not impressed by your answer to that question. Remember how you tried to put him down by saying:- 'Now I don't know where the honorable member gets his information, but maybe he should travel to Swindon to find out for himself.'"?

Martha:- "You know Ralph a man who uses the word "stupid" is really very much like the playground bully who tries to morally degrade another student by calling him names."

Henry:- "So in labeling them stupid questions we figure you are not just demeaning our representatives but you are degrading every one of us who want to have your government listen to realty before dragging us all into one more privatization swamp."

Martha:- "Frankly Ralph, Henry and I don't think the word stupid belongs in the vocabulary of a civil and democratic society."

Henry:- "But since you've used it, it just might be that stupid more appropriately applies to the answers that were given rather than to the questions being asked in this last session of the Alberta Legislature."

By Sandy

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Time to Fish 

A few of us have been working on this project for a few months now trying to create a place for political discussion in Alberta. We thought we might have an official announcement of this site in the New Year after we got things working a little better but, like politics, things don’t always get better. So here we are, for better or for worse. It was time to fish or cut bait and we have decided to fish. We'll work on the glitches as we go.

To find out more about us and how you can contribute click here or on the link at the top right of this page. If you want to look at some of the past commentary they are organized by topic (click here) or by date (see right side). New links of interest will be added as we hear about them.

This government spends millions of dollars annually collecting input from Albertans and millions more telling us what we told them. We will happily provide the input part of that for free here at Ralph’s World.

Enjoy.

Moral Support or Financial Support? 

Yesterday, one day after session ended, Minister Oberg announced that the government was "in support of" 84 of the 95 recommendations in the Learning Commission Report. Parents held their breath in anticipation . . . could it be? Could this government finally be doing the right thing for children? What is the catch?

The catch, it turns out, is that, while the government "supports" the recommendations, it is not prepared to invest the MONEY that it would take to implement them. When asked what his message to parents was around the money issue, Oberg said "Wait for the budget". This clearly means that nothing will happen, if it does at all, until the next school year.

Once again, we watch and wait . . . and so do our children.

WHEN is the next election????????????

Friday, December 05, 2003

Party Money for Leader's Pleasure 

I read with interest an article in today's Edmonton Journal in which Premier Klein talked about a special fund for his pleasure. Click here to read the article. The premier said and I quote "It's my money," he said. "I mean, it's the party's money for my pleasure. But it's my money."

My feeling is that some clarification of the size and use of these funds would be in the public interest. Consequently I have sent the following e-mail addressed to the leaders of our three main parties; - Premier Klein, Ken Nicol, and Raj Pannu.

To: Leaders of the Alberta PC, Liberal and NDP Parties

Subject: Party Money for use at the Leader's Pleasure

To further assist me in understanding the ways of politics in Alberta could you please answer the following questions regarding the use of your party's funds for use by your leader. This question was prompted by Premier Klein's recent discussion regarding his acceptance of private flights for personal use. The Premier is quoted as saying "It's my money," he said. "I mean, it's the party's money for my pleasure. But it's my money."

The questions I have are:

1. What is the current size of your party's fund set aside for this purpose and how much typically is spent per year from this fund?

2. Specifically, what types of transactions is the money used for? Could you provide some recent examples with their associated costs?

3. Does your fund come from political contributions which are eligible for an income tax credit for political contributions? If the answer is yes, is this not equivalent to the Alberta Tax Payer subsidizing this fund? If this is not the source of funds, could you please say what is?

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this issue. I look forward to your response. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours truly

John Slow
johnnyslow@hotmail.com

As always, I will post any responses if and when I receive them.
Click here to see responses to letters that have been sent to MLAs.

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