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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

Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Alberta Social Credit Party 

Ralph's World received an e-mail from the Alberta Social Credit Party this morning. Below is the text of that e-mail. We have also added the Alberta Social Credit Party to our links at the right. Click away to have a look at their website.

Here's the e-mail.

Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 09:33:42 -0700

I'm writing to let you know that Alberta's Social Credit Party endorses a
higher minimum wage and the elimination of health care premiums.

Please refer to our website's platform at:
http://www.socialcredit.com/platform.htm

Ken Shipka
Executive Director
www.socialcredit.com


This is in support of two letters (click here and then here) that Alberta citizens have sent to the Premier.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Elimination of HealthCare Premiums for All Albertans 

Dear Mr. Klein:

As a follow-up to an earlier e-mail, as retired Albertans and on behalf of the Seniors Action and Liaison Team, we wish to suggest ten reasons why Albertans deserve meaningful tax relief through the elimination of Health Care Premiums:

1. Albertans will then join those Canadians resident in eight other provinces and the territories where Health Care Premiums do not exist.

2. As you have acknowledged publicly, Alberta is in a net debt-free financial position. Statistics Canada recently confirmed this and further reported that, as of March 31, 2003, Alberta is the only province enjoying a net-worth per capita financial position of $2,942.

3. Government estimates of a surplus of well over $2 billion for the first quarter of the current fiscal year could well result in a surplus in excess of $5 billion by the end of this fiscal year. Further, the Sustainability Fund would not be at risk as recently released figures show that fund is well ahead of schedule and will require fewer resources in future years.

4. Eliminating Health Care Premiums will also eliminate the costs of collecting those premiums – costs that have been estimated at $19 million annually.

5. Elimination of the current $4 billion plus debt, which may take place during our centennial year, will result in future savings of the 3% of budgetary expenditures for interest costs.

6. Eliminating Health Care Premiums will provide the most visible tax relief and will benefit every Albertan. Seniors, who lost many of their universal support programs, will rejoice in no longer having to pay Health Care Premiums.

7. Eliminating Health Care Premiums eliminates a regressive tax, one that particularly impacts low and middle-income Albertans. It will also yield significant benefits with respect to employment, savings and investments that will ultimately result in higher rates of economic growth.

8. Eliminating Health Care Premiums will also eliminate the inequitable situation in which some Albertans pay these premiums from their earnings and also contribute to the taxes that pay the premiums of Alberta’s provincial employees including nurses, teachers, Members of the Legislative Assembly, along with municipal employees and elected officials.

9. Eliminating Health Care Premiums will win your government as many or more votes as the electricity rebates before the 2001 election.

10. Historians will record the elimination of Health Care Premiums as a pre-centennial tax relief affecting every Albertan, a significant legacy of your government in its centennial celebrations.

Mr. Premier, can we count on your government eliminating this highly visible tax? We believe such action makes sense economically, politically and in the interests of fairness.

We are sending copies of this letter to other seniors groups and will post this letter and your response on the Ralph's World website.

We look forward to your early reply.

Most sincerely,

Michael Marlowe
John Mathewson
Seniors Action and Liaison Team

This is a copy of our letter sent to Premier Klein January 30, 2004. As is our custom we will publish the Premier's response when it is received. For a review of the Premier's responses to our previous communications click here.

Klein Abandons Privatized Healthcare - I Don't Think So  

Gillian Steward in the Globe and Mail: "For 10 years, Ralph tried to convince us that a U.S.-style health-care system was the way to go. But he has finally thrown in the towel."

Have a click on this article in today's Globe & Mail which gives a good summary of the last ten years of Healthcare wars in Alberta. The Premier and his privitization supporters vs. the Citizens of Alberta. Ralph's challange is daunting. He has to figure out a way to make the citizens pay more for healthcare through user fees and increased Healthcare premiums, give them less services by delisting, provide sufficient profit to his backers in the health industry, and still get the citizens to vote for him. Gillian Steward in her article thinks he has given up.

I'm not so sure. Ralph's slogan is "Ralph Listens - Ralph Cares". I agree 100% with half the slogan. He listens.

It is not at all clear for whom he cares.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

IGNORANT, MISINFORMED OR JUST PLAIN DISHONEST? 

(First of a series on propaganda in Ralph’s World)

There really is no difference between brazenly telling lies to the public and constantly releasing financial information in a manner designed to create illusions in the minds of a poorly-informed populace.

Ralph’s dealing with public education is the clearest case in point.

On Sept. 20/03 the Edmonton Journal proclaimed in 3/4 inch high headlines “Klein vows $500M for schooling”.

Tiny print on the flimsy paper below reveals that not one penny of that money could possibly reach a real Alberta classroom until more than a year later. In fact, that amount of money may never even be put into the Provincial budget.

But that doesn’t matter to Ralph. His illusion-creating Public Relations department has guaranteed him that the vast majority of ill-informed readers will never see the rest of the article anyway.

Spin doctors knew from experience that the market crowd would almost all move on to another headline carrying with them a mental image of buckets of dollars piled high on the desks of school Principals.

In the mass mind that money would be seen as piled so high on school Principals desks that it overflows and runs down the hallways and straight into the classrooms of our schools.

Now, on Sept. 20/03 the fine print also told us that Ralph hadn’t even read the report from Alberta’s Commission on Learning.

But that didn’t matter to Ralph either. When the Legislature went into session later in November he took off to far away places confident that the public was still under the illusion that “Ralph listens, Ralph cares and Ralph has put everything back in that he took away from our kid’s schools.”

In fact Ralph said, as he waved good bye, that all the Opposition would do anyway was to ask “stupid questions.” Actually what he was doing for education was to leave his well trained agent Lyle who knows very well how to avoid ever giving a straight answer to an honest request for information.

No one knows better than Lyle how to foster the illusion that the Klein government is actually going to do what the people of Alberta had told the Learning Commission needs doing.

In next articles let’s see how Minister Lyle is carrying on Ralph’s masterful manipulations. So let’s keep asking “Are Ralph and Lyle ignorant and misinformed? Are they purposely acting dumb or are they just plain dishonest?”

Submitted by Sandy

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Max's Edmonton Food Basket - January 26th 

Click here for Max's latest price comparisons. We can't afford electricity, natural gas, car insurance and healthcare premiums but maybe we can save a few pennies on food.

Monday, January 26, 2004

King Ralph’s Feel Good TV Happy Hour of Fun! Spin the wheel, Alberta! 

Live from the Province formerly known as Alberta… it's King Ralph’s Feel Good TV Happy Hour of Fun! And it’s brought to you by…you! $85,000 of your hard earned tax dollars are being spent so you can see your favorite Premier in your own living room! You can hear him tell you that things are not only good, but they are about to get even better!

Why you ask? Well, it's almost election time! And you know what that means…things are looking up! After three years of deregulation flu, education cutbacks, and Mad Cow…it’s time to start spending!!

It only comes once every four years, folks, so take advantage of the plethora of great deals!

The next year may include…
- Re-Promised Tax Cuts!
- Energy Rebates!
- Ottawa bashing!
- Short-term funding boosts for Health Care and Education!
- Old ideas!
- Warm fuzzy feelings For a Positive Future!*

But it is only for a limited time! So sell sell sell your vote!

Listen to Ralph and see if your number is drawn at 6:40pm on February 4th on CFRN in Northern Alberta and CFCN in Southern Alberta.

*Promises pending Tory Re-election…maybe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Minimum Wage Workers Shut Out of The Alberta Advantage 

Dear Premier Klein,

With your recent announcement that our province was in a net debt-free position and with Statistics Canada reporting that, as of March 31, 2003, Alberta was the only province in Canada in a net-worth per capita financial position of $2,942, how can your government justify refusing to increase the minimum wage, one of the lowest at $5.90 an hour, which rate has been in effect since October 1, 1999? Factoring in the erosion of this minimum rate in the past four years, the purchasing power of this rate has dropped at least 15%.

The Alberta Advantage enjoyed by the business community indeed can support a reasonable minimum wage so workers would not have to rely on a government-supported dole for financial assistance to even maintain a basic minimum standard of living.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which Canada is a member, has shown in its studies and research that minimum wages at reasonable levels counter poverty and inequity with little impact on adult employment. The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands also have shown that higher minimum wages did not cost the poor their jobs and that it was possible to have both high employment and a high wage floor enjoyed by workers, thus eliminating the need for government support programs to assist such workers and their families.

In September of 1999, the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives of
Vancouver B.C. conducted a study and I would like to share some of its findings with you and your caucus members, Mr. Premier, involving the minimum wage question in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. You can read this report online by clicking here.

THE CASE FOR INCREASING THE MINIMUM WAGE
1. Minimum wage workers are primarily adults and women.
A popular misconception is that the majority of minimum wage workers are teenagers living at home in middle class families. This was found not to be the case as 61% were found to be adults, 19 years of age or over, and 64% were women. Minimum wage work is also an important income for many students seeking to finance post-secondary education. The vast majority of teenage minimum-wage workers, over half of the young minimum-wage workers, and 12% of adult minimum wage workers were full time students at some time during the year.

2. Minimum Wage Disproportionately Benefits Low-Income Families.
The evidence clearly showed that minimum wage earners were disproportionately represented among families with low-incomes. Thus, increases in the minimum wage will disproportionately benefit low-income families.

3. Real Minimum Wages Have Fallen.
The real value of minimum wages (after inflation) in the four provinces studied has fallen dramatically from its peak in the mid-1970s. Minimum wage increases in the l1990s in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have provided some restoration to the purchasing power of the minimum wage, while Alberta remains far behind the other provinces.

4. Increasing the Minimum Wage Has Only a Marginal Effect on Employment.
In-depth analysis clearly disputes that minimum wages are a major "killer of jobs". Over the past two decades, large increases in the minimum wages where they occurred have been followed by both increases and decreases in employment, demonstrating that other trends in the economy influence employment levels to a much greater extent than do minimum wages. Studies looking at employment effect of minimum changes typically find very small negative or even positive impacts. Economics regression analysis conducted by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in full, found that a 10% increase in the minimum wage produces declines in the employment -to-population ratio in the range of 0 to 2 percent depending on the age and gender group. This is generally interpreted as a very small disemployment factor (and does not necessarily imply actual layoffs).

5. Increasing the Minimum Wage Increases the Total Wages of Low-income Workers.
Even in taking into account "worse case scenarios" disemployment effects, an increase in the minimum wage generates an increase in the total money (the wage bill) going to low-wage workers (and this holds true for all age and gender groups). Even given the conservative assumptions, increasing the minimum wage from $6 to $7 an hour was estimated to generate an estimate 7% increase in total wages of low-wage earners.

6. Minimum Wages Should be set at the Poverty Level.
The minimum wage is an important tool in raising the floor for low-income workers. Together with other policy instruments (such as Employment Insurance, child tax benefits, social assistance and job creation initiatives) increasing the minimum wage will help in the battle against poverty and excessive inequality that exists today.

Mr. Premier, your government needs clear criteria in setting the minimum wage, so that both workers and businesses know the rules and can plan increases. The minimum wage should be high enough in our province to ensure that individuals working full time not find themselves in poverty. Legislation should also be enacted so that the minimum wage would be indexed to prevent further erosion by inflation.

It is interesting to note that strong support from mayors, councilors and aldermen attending the annual convention of The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association last fall resulted in a resolution being passed encouraging your government to increase the minimum wage with consideration in the $6.95 an hour level. This support from elected officials from our cities and towns representing over 85% of Alberta's population in whose jurisdictions over 85% of Alberta's businesses operate, should be justification in itself for your government to not only increase the minimum wage to a reasonable level but to also legislate indexing to keep pace with inflationary rises in our province.

Raising the minimum wage to a reasonable level would 'make work pay' and also leave more government resources to allow for more generous income supports for lower-income families with children, persons with disabilities and so on.

Mr. Premier, will your government take the necessary steps to correct this inequity affecting low-income Albertans who should also be able to realize a reasonable standard of living which most other Albertans enjoy under the Alberta Advantage?

Mr. Premier, this letter, along with your response will be published on the Ralph's World website. I trust you will indicate your government's intent to correct this inequitable situation. It will be appreciated and looked for by those affected and concerned Albertans.

Michael Marlowe

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Hormones for Prostate Cancer 

TO: Hon. Gary Mar, Minister of Health and Wellness

Is it true that the Alberta Cancer Board or someone in your department has signed an exclusive contract with a drug firm to use one hormone for the treatment of prostate cancer?

There are several different grades of prostate cancer and different treatments for each; it is not a case of one size fits all. The specialists in consultation with their patients should be able to choose the most appropriate drug or combination of drugs, To economize by eliminating choice is neither democratic nor in the best interests of patients.

After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer I went on a clinical trial that use two hormones for three months to check the effect on my cancer. My urologist, Dr, Chetner, told me the combination had reduced the size of the cancer and the prostate by the time I had my surgery. Will that therapy be available for patients awaiting radiation or surgery?

Many patients with advanced prostate cancer can go off hormones for up to a year or more until their PSA counts become elevated and they have to resume this therapy. Such intermittent use might be an effective way to economize and give patients some relief from side effects. Such a procedure is recommended in the book “New Guidelines for Surviving Prostate Cancer” by Lewis & Berger, 1997. Combination hormone therapy is also discussed frequently in this book.

Another concern I have as a cancer patient is that when Premier Klein took office, there were seven interns in urology in Edmonton; now there are only three. These specialists do the surgery for prostate cancer. Further, the number of oncologists who look after radiation has also declined resulting in longer waits for new patients

Prostate cancer is one of the three most common types of cancer in Canada. Alberta’s rate of incidence and death from this disease is well above the Canadian average. I have challenged three Health Ministers and Premier Klein to do something about it. It seems, however, that far from improving, the situation is only deteriorating. Now, apparently, we are to losing any choice in the type of hormones to be used in our treatment. This does not bode well for the survival rate from PCa in the future.

George

Friday, January 16, 2004

Government Response to E-mail Communications  

Here at Ralph's World we have a dedicated team of trolls keeping track of the Alberta government's responsiveness to our e-mails. The Klein Government has set a stringent target for themselves in responding to e-mails from concerned citizens. They aim for a response back within 72 hours. Please click here for details of government policy.

My first e-mail to Premier Klein was on November 19th, 2003. I received a response back January 14, 2004. This is 61 days or 1464 hours after I sent my first e-mail. Seems a little tardy to me. Perhaps things have slowed down a bit what with the holidays and that trip to India. What is more bothersome is the response itself which in effect said. We won't answer your questions until we know where you live.

So . . . . .

I have dispatched another e-mail which is as follows:

Dear Ms. Nelson and Premier Klein:

I have had e-mail communication with both of you recently on various issues where I have requested a response. You have replied as follows:

From The Minister of Finance

Mr. Slow,

Thank you for your comments, the Minister appreciates them. Mrs.
Nelson prefers to respond in writing. Could you please send us your
mailing address?

Thank you,

Colleen M. Potter
Constituency Assistant
Calgary Foothills


From The Premier:

Thank you for your recent e-mail addressed to Premier Klein. Please be
advised that the Premier's office requires your mailing address in order to
provide you with a further response.


It is not clear to me why you need to know where I live in order to correspond with me. You have my e-mail address which is all that should be required. As my intention is to post your responses to Ralph's World as they are received, it would be much easier if I received your answers in electronic form. This would save me considerable effort in re-typing your responses and it would save you the cost of a stamp.

Please rest assured that I am a concerned Albertan as are all others who contribute to Ralph's World. When we correspond with you publicly we do so in the belief that our questions are worthy of a public answer. If you believe our questions to be trite or naive please bear with us. We are not experts. We are just citizens looking for answers to questions that greatly affect us and our children.

I look forward to your response.

Yours truly

John Slow

Please click here to review the correspondence that we have had with the Alberta Government.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Letter to Premier Klein re Senior's Benefits 

Dear Premier Klein:

Many seniors and baby boomers are becoming increasingly concerned that our government is planning further cuts to senior benefits. One persistent rumour involves the imposing of an income test for the drug prescription support program like that for health care premium subsidies.

This, notwithstanding that in factoring in the assets of the Heritage Trust Fund, our government in reality enjoys a healthy surplus, in excess of $5 billion, together with the $2 billion surplus realized during the fiscal year ending March 31.

The loss of dental, hearing and visual support programs and the exorbitant increases in energy costs, because of a flawed deregulation system that only puts more money into the pockets of the energy companies, are having a harsh impact on many seniors who are on fixed incomes. Mr. Premier, you know that 75 per cent of Alberta seniors have incomes of under $25,000 annually.

Our government seems intent on plundering still further the senior programs introduced by the previous thoughtful and caring Lougheed and Getty governments. The most recent example is the increased costs to seniors in longterm care facilities, up more than 40 per cent.

During the campaign preceding the last elections, the Tories broadly used the slogan, “Ralph Listens – Ralph Cares”. Is the continuous plundering of public benefit support programs for seniors who have contributed their tax dollars to such programs all of their working years the sign of a caring government?

The angry venting of many in the overflow crowd at the Seniors United Now rally held earlier this year attests to the discontent that has been smouldering in seniors for many years now.

Mr. Premier, we look forward to a response to this letter informing seniors whether or not the rumours that are worrying them are true. We also urge your government to assure the seniors of today and tomorrow that there will be no more reductions of support programs and that seniors can start looking forward to the restoration of some, if not all, of the support programs that have been taken away from them.

A copy of this letter has being posted at Ralph's World. In the interest of seniors in Alberta, we will be pleased to post your response as soon as it is received.

Yours truly

Lois Argue, George Daly, Michael Marlowe
Seniors Action and Liason Team - SALT




Reign of Error 

The provincial government’s rejection of the poll proving that 60% of Albertans favour public insurance when combined with the fact that the government buried the results for six months shows just how far removed provincial politicians are from carrying out Albertans’ wishes. The province prefers to prop up private insurance companies at the expense of the Alberta public. Click here for more on the government polling process.

This is just the latest example of the government ignoring its citizens. Back in 1994, Albertans told the government in forum after forum not to cut the budgets of public education, public healthcare and social programs but our pleas were ignored. The drastic cuts made then have lead to the current lack of services that Albertans are now facing with reduced public personnel, programs and facilities despite having to pay increased premiums.

The Alberta government’s latest justification for ignoring the electorate is its false claim that it’s no longer “ in the business of being in business.” The truth is that conflict of interest continues unabated. This government has been propping private business with our public money throughout its decade long reign of fiscal error. Had the Klein government not reduced by two-thirds the royalties that energy companies were required to pay for doing business in Alberta, the provincial debt would have been eliminated years ago. Instead the provincial government continues to subsidize at Albertans’ expense private insurance, private education and private healthcare.

The province’s biggest economic blunder, deregulation, which resulted in not only the initial loss of publicly paid for electricity generation and transmission but in the one time pre-election payout of four and a half billion dollars of blunder softening rebates continues to haunt Albertans. However this ongoing mistake will seem like chicken feed compared to the provinces pursuit of cost hiding P3s, public/private partnerships. What a sweet deal for private company friends of the government; no public scrutiny into the non-bidding process; specific cost and maintenance details hidden from public transparency in a FOIPed bundle in return for no debt showing on the government ledger. Depending on what side of the transaction you’re on it’s either the gift horse that keeps on giving or taking, with no money down and years to pay, just long enough for a government pension supported MLA getaway.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Klein Committee to address alienation, but will they listen to what they hear? 

Just before the Christmas break; Ralph Klein’s Government formed MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation. The issue of Alberta’s role in Canada is drawn from the wide spread alienation that many Albertans feel from Ottawa. Many issues like Gun Control, wheat board, and the unelected Senate have led to the feelings that the federal government is unreceptive to Albertans. (On the other hand, Alberta is not that receptive to Ottawa either…)

But, aside of the seriousness of this issue, I can’t help but be a little suspicious of the motives behind the creation of this committee. This committee is made up of only PC MLA’s (surprise, surprise…). Non-partisan legal experts headed a similar committee in Newfoundland.

If the committee is serious, it will honestly attempt to address the issues surrounding Alberta’s place in Canada. If it is simply a political make-work project for the over inflated and under worked PC Caucus, then it will most likely fan the firewall flames of Albertan resentment.

I say, lets work together. Let’s find a solution, or at least lay down the foundations for a stronger Alberta within Canada, and a stronger Canada within Alberta. With a new Prime Minister in Ottawa, who has acknowledged that this issue is a problem, Ralph Klein’s Kingdom has an opportunity to lay down its pitchfork of confrontation and seriously address the alienation felt by many Albertans.

Lets hope for the best.

The Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation MLA Committee will be holding hearings across Alberta starting in January of 2004. Click here for location and dates.

You can let the Committee know your opinion online by clicking here at www.gov.ab.ca.

W.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Premier Klein. They don't DO cows in India 

Story by Graham Thomson - Edmonton Journal - January 10, 2004: "What about the trade mission? Why was Klein leaving the province in the middle of the mad cow crisis? Klein wasn't coming out of his office. Several reporters and at least one camera crew camped outside the premier's headquarters for hours."

Have a look at this article. Graham Thomson thinks that our Premier should cancel his $64,500 trip to India and Hong Kong and stay home to handle the BSE crisis that is crippling our Province's beef industry.

Mr. Thomson, I humbly disagree.

Mr. Klein should go to India and stay there until some sort of rational solution is found for the BSE crisis. He does not help by staying at home. He does not understand the problem scientifically, statistically or politically. His latest musings call for a 100% testing of all animals slaughtered in Provincial facilities. This would guarantee that none of these animals had BSE or if they did they would not enter the food chain. So far so good. Unfortunately, none of the animals slaughtered in Provincial facilities can be exported outside of the Province. So the message Ralph sends is: "We are going to produce a supply of beef that is guaranteed to be 100% BSE free. Unfortunately it will be available only to Albertans".

As usual, a host of people (Alberta Agriculture Minister Shirley McLennan, Canadian Agriculture Minister Bob Speller, Dwayne Landals, Registrar for the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Marilyn Jahnke, President of the Saskatchewan Stockgrowers Association to name a few) all disagree and moved quickly to damage control mode. See this and this. But the damage is done and cannot be undone, just like the "Shoot shovel and shut up" damage could not be undone.

So Mr. Premier, take as long as you want in India. Run those tax-payer credit cards up to the max. Visit the Taj Mahal. You might even throw a pancake breakfast next to the reflecting pool. That'll impress them thar Indians. Just don't try to sell them beef Mr. Premier the way Lyle Oberg did in Vietnam (see related posting) . You see Mr. Premier, they don't do cows in India.

Bon voyage.

For more on Mad Cow from Ralph's World click here.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Health-care Junkies 

It appears that Mr. Klein thinks I am a "health-care junkie" because I am one of many Albertans who know and care about the health council proposed in the Romanow Report (Klein blasts health council - Journal, November 20,2003). Our Premier is quoted as saying, "Outside of the Friends of Medicare and maybe some of the health-care junkies, who knows about a health council?"

Well, I do. I know that every province except Alberta now supports it. I know that Mr. Romanow suggested it to ensure compliance with the principle of universality in the Canada Health Act. He did it to ensure some consistency in health care services across this country rather than the patchwork that will result if every province is allowed to go its own way ­as our Premier apparently wants Alberta to do.

Nor do I accept that this knowledge makes me a health-care junkie. In fact it seems to me that the term "junkie" is more appropriately applied to those who reject ideas because they came from someone else or because the idea might inhibit their freedom to do as they please on their own turf (i.e. power junkies).

I don't think Alberta has anything to fear from a national health council. We can certainly contribute some innovative ideas and, who knows, we might even learn something from other provinces. Accordingly, I invite our Premier to do the right thing and support the health council idea. After all, what is there to lose?

Noel Somerville

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Government Policy on Polling Results 

To: The Hon. Patricia L. Nelson
Minister of Finance
Government of Alberta

Dear Ms. Minister:

This correspondence is in regard to the poll conducted in June by Environics West regarding auto insurance. My questions are based on an article by Tom Barrett in The Edmonton Journal on January 8, 2004. The article states that the poll results to the question "Should a government auto insurance system be adopted" was 59.1% in favor of a government plan being implemented. The article then quotes you as saying "Clearly they (the respondents) were not as concerned about who was delivering the insurance package as to what the product was and did it service their needs of accessibility and affordability".

While it may be clear to yourself and others in Alberta Finance how 59.1% in favor of a government plan can be interpreted as "Clearly not being concerned about who was delivering the package", it is not clear to me. My simple interpretation would be that 59.1% would like the government to deliver auto insurance. However, I realize that I do not have access to all the information that you have.

I would gratefully appreciate answers to the following questions in order to clarify in my own mind the government approach on this issue.

1. Would you please publish all the survey questions and their results on your government website so that I can make my own judgment as to how Albertans feel about auto insurance? My assumption is that the survey was conducted using tax payer dollars as opposed to PC Party dollars and consequently this information belongs to the citizens. If I am wrong in this assumption, please let me know.

2. Would you please tell me what your government's general policy is regarding the publication of survey questions and results when polls are commissioned and paid for using tax payer dollars? It would seem to me that all polling questions and results should be made part of the public record. This would allow Albertans to make up their own minds as to what the polling results mean. This would go a long way toward strengthening democracy in this Province and would indicate your government's trust in the common sense of Albertans.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this request. I will be publishing a copy of this letter on the political discussion website know as Ralph's World and will be happy to publish your response upon receipt.

Yours truly

John Slow

Click here for status of MLA responsiveness to this and previous letters.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Democracy's Great Flaw 

With the possible exception of the Nordic countries, democracies around the world are crippled by a debilitating flaw. Public governance is financed by private donors. In most instances, the lion's share of money to elect people to public office comes from large private corporations, wealthy individuals or families and, to some extent, from large labour unions. The end result of all this is that our governments are controlled by the few, those who are very wealthy, and, therefore, powerful. Elected people are beholden to those with enough money to finance election campaigns. He who pays the piper calls the tune. In Canada, this phenomenon applies to all levels of government.

But, in democracies, government is supposed to be of, for, and by all the people. Mr. Chretien has made a breakthrough with his recent federal electoral reform act. However, it has many flaws, i.e., it still concentrates wealth in the party with the largest majority, giving that party an advantage at the ensuing election. At the provincial level, here in Alberta, the PC's have a huge war chest for the next election. Opposition parties have serious debts, or are greatly underfunded. And, our first-past-the-post electoral system tends to grossly disort the number of seats gained relative to the number of votes cast for the party that wins an election. In the last election, with less than a sixty percent voter turnout, the winning party had about twice the vote of the opposition parties, but gained a nearly ten to one advantage in seats. (Graham Thompson, The Edmonton Journal, 2003/12/27.) Furthermore, the public is becoming more and more disillusioned by our governmental systems as voter participation rates continue to drop. In Alberta, we really need electoral reform of the way our political parties are financed so, for example, public governance is publicly financed, and in how our our electoral system works so that each vote has meaning.

In British Columbia, an astounding thing has happened in regard to these kinds of issues. They have established a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. It is made up of citizens selected at random (two from each of its seventy-nine ridings) to study these issues, to get public input on them, and to make recommendations. Those recommendations will go to a public, binding, referendum in the spring of 2005. If passed, the new form of governance will come into effect in the spring of 2009. We desperately need such a Citizens' Assembly here in Alberta. Learn more about the B.C. initiative, then talk to your friends, your MLA and to Mr. Klein. To learn more about the Citizens' Assembly click here.

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