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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

Sunday, February 29, 2004

A BADTIME STORY FOR GROWN UPS AND KIDS 

This was submitted to Ralph's World by a budding Albertan author.

Gather ye round all youse leedle kidlets ‘cause your uncle Jazbow’s gonna tell another funny badtime story. This one’s ‘bout a rollie pollie emperor called Emperor Klein. Emperor ‘sjus another way of saying a great big King – yaa!

Well, this here Emperor Klein one day says to his first minister, Mar, hey Mar!, I need a new set of spiffy clothes to brighten up my wardrobe for all dos pipples oouh reelee luf me. (They talked funny in those days). You – Mar, go get me the most bestest weaver in all da kingdom who’ll make me a new set of clothes so I ‘ll be outstanding in my field.

So kidlets, minister Mar jumps on his horse, so to speak, and finds him a weaver of horses tails and such, and tells him to make a set of duds for Emperor Klein that will make him outstanding in his field, an this here weaver, name of Maz, says he’s got a super duper type of golden thread spun by spiders, but is now made from goat’s milk(1). The Wizard Suzuki taught him how to make this magic thread. It’s so fine that when you spin it from Wizard Suzuki’s machine it’s invisible, but when you weave it into fabric and make it into clothes, it gives off a golden glow, and besides this, it’s also bullet-proof.

Well, Minister Mar was overjoyed, so he asked the weaver Maz how much do you charge to make Emperor Klein a whole new set of duds from this magic thread? And weaver Maz said – well, I charge thirty pieces of silver(2), but there are some special conditions. Oh says minister Mar and what would they be?
First I need a special room with a very large lock on the door, and I must not be disturbed while I’m making these clothes, except to bring me food and drink which you must leave outside the door. Next, when I’m finished making the clothes, and Emperor Klein is praised by all his loving subjects, I must have a Grande castle to live in, and it must be built in the Wizard’s west field, and the castle will be called the Great West castle(3).

So kidlets, minister Mar said – all will be done as you have asked, and great preparations were begun. First, weaver Mar had to measure Emperor Klein , and that wasn’t very easy because he was so rollie pollie, and sometimes couldn’t stand up from his drinking the elixir of life. But very soon all measurements were completed and Wizard Suzuki’s machine was installed, and one hundred goats were brought into the largest room of Emperor Klein’s domed castle(4), and weaver Maz began spinning and weaving and cutting and sewing. Bye and bye the new set of clothes were ready. Then a team of cabinet makers(5) helped weaver Maz and minister Mar to dress Emperor Klein in his new set of clothes.

When they had finished they all stood back admiring Emperor Klein and the new set of clothes. They all oooed and aawhed saying aren’t the new clothes beautiful. and don’t they give off such a bright golden glow. Oh yes, to be sure said weaver Maz, and don’t forget they are bullet proof, so I think we should show Emperor Klein how strong this material is. OK says minister Mar, but how can we do that? Well, says weaver Maz, since we haven’t yet invented bullets I suggest that one of your guards should try to puncture his clothes with a spear. So minister Mar commanded his guardsman Medi to puncture Emperor Klein’s new clothes – but don’t hurt him. And because of the magic thread, and Emperor Klein’s protective ego, it was impossible for guardsman Medi to penetrate the new clothes. In fact the new suit was so strong that guardsman Medi’s spear was broken into a million pieces. (Just like our medicare will be).

Now came the day when Emperor Klein was to show his new clothes to all the people of his kingdom. All of the nine kings from the other nine kingdoms were lined up, as well as Minister Anne, and King Cretien of the Ottawa fiefdom. As this huge entourage with Emperor Klein out in front in his splendid new clothes, marching down the corridor between the Great West castle and Wizard Suzuki’s castle, everyone cheered and said, yes Emperor Klein is outstanding in his field. (hum a few bars of Peter and the wolf).

As the parade continued marching down the long corridor they finally came to a high slender pillar that marked the grave of the long dead, but dearly beloved king of the Saskwatch, Douglas of the tribe of Tommyhawks(6). Suddenly, there began a mighty swirling of wind, and a roar of sound, and to the amazement and horror of all the people and all the courtiers and Emperor Klein, a huge transparent figure emerged from the clouds. It was the ghost of Douglas of the tribe of Tommyhawks. The ghostly figure began to speak. It was like a roar of thunder, and the crowd trembled in fear. The ghost, rising in a cloud above their heads, said in a booming voice “people of this kingdom of the Great Albert(7), who lived long ago and far away, you must lift the veil from your eyes and see that your king, Emperor Klein, is wearing an invisible suit of clothes. Because you are good and honest people you will be able to look beyond these golden but invisible clothes to see into Emperor Klein’s heart. You will see there a man who only cares for himself and his cronies. You must rid yourself of this king if you are to live and prosper and be healthy. And thus, so they did. They saw into the heart of Emperor Klein and they knew that they must find a better king in order to stay healthy.

THE END.

1.Nexia Biotechnology Inc of Montreal is developing a super strong thread, stronger than steel, from goat’s milk. which may be made into bullet proof vests.
2. Jesus was betrayed by 30 pieces of silver.
3. Don Mazinkowski author of the Mazinkowski Report is a member of the board of Great West Life Insurance that provides Health Care Insurance.
4. The “domed castle” is the Alberta Legislature Building.
5. Cabinet Makers - refers to members of the government’s cabinet.
6. Douglas of the Tommyhawks refers to Tommy Douglas, the father of healthcare in the province of Saskatchewan.
7. Great Albert – The province of Alberta named after Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria of England.


ANON

DOES OLE BILL SEE TWO BULLIES? 

Klein said Wednesday he sort of likes scaring people, who are afraid of change, with his talk about health-care reform (Journal Feb. 26/04 Page A3)

Been looking into bullying. Big problem on playgrounds these days. Seems that bullies get their kicks out of shouting at, threatening and even physically attacking kids less equipped for defending themselves.

Bullies attract followers who are also turned on by feelings of power when they go around acting dangerous and scaring everybody they figure is either alone or has no one to help fight back.

Bullies are always on the look out for an excuse to use their arsenals of word and muscle weapons to prove to smaller kids how dangerous they are. A bully never takes responsibility but always claims, when pounding down a smaller kid, that the little kid threatened him first.

Got to wondering if, in Ralph’s World, being in the Legislature hasn’t become more like watching the leader of a gang operating in a skid road neighborhood than a place where responsible adults are sent by citizens to do the work of Democracy.

The smaller gang’s members ask questions on behalf of hungry kids in crowded school rooms, unattended inmates in nursing homes, stroke victims not seen for hours by a doctor in hospital emergency wards.

Big gang leader blows his stack for daring to even suggest that victims are getting hurt by the big gang’s actions.

Gets even madder when one of them asks him how come he spends so much citizens’ money on lavish entertainment.

So he treats the small gang’s questions with derision, mockery and even personal name calling - belittles their concerns - all the while his buddies cheer and desk-bang and shout put downs.

Sounds an awful lot like egging on a playground bully - don’t it?

And now that the gang leader has his old hit man back he’s even more arrogant and rages across the room “we will see their (the Liberals) rear ends pucker.”

Could all the members of the big gang really be getting sadistic pleasure out of watching their leader dump on those who care about vulnerable old men and women with canes and crutches and wheel chairs?

Do they actually enjoy knowing that hungry children are sitting in overcrowded classrooms, could they like thinking of folks with heart conditions waiting dangerously long for help, are they turned on imagining widows with no family alone and unattended in nursing homes?

Do 70% of Alberta’s citizens, as Ralph claims they do, really cheer him on as he threatens the security of all except the rich and politically powerful by cheering for his rip up and tear down policies in health, education and elderly care?

Will Ralph’s gang never be satisfied until they have ridden rough shod over even the Raging Grannies and the Friends of Medicare who dare to question their blind faith in the godless, poor-victimizing forces of the market?

Just wonderin’ - Bill Barley, Abnormal Albertan





Saturday, February 28, 2004

STRENGTHENING ALBERTA’S ROLE IN CONFEDERATION 

This presentation was given by Brian Staples, Chair of the Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) to the Government MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation at its hearing in Edmonton on Friday, February 27, 2004.

There are many things we could do to strengthen our role in Confederation, such as emphasizing the “progressive” side of our Progressive Conservative Government. This would mean we would be in the forefront of advancing, rather than resisting, such Canadian initiatives as public health care, Kyoto, the Wheat Board, and the firearms registry. There are three salient things we can and should do as a priority. Having successfully accomplished these initiatives, we would astound our fellow citizens in our country, and be a powerful role model for all other Canadian governments in advancing an equitable, just, sustainable and civil society. We would also set an example for the world.

1. Alberta as a Learning and Participatory Province. In 1970, Alberta had the lowest rate of community based learning in Canada, tied with Newfoundland at ten percent. Two initiatives were undertaken by the Province to attempt to change that. The first was the implementation of the Alberta Further Education Policy, which established eighty-two interagency Further Education Councils across Alberta. The second was the creation of the Alberta Interdepartmental Community School Programme. The result of this was the establishment of sixty-six Designated Community Schools in the province. These schools became community learning and participation centres in their communities. In some cases, community based learning rates increased ten fold in the community school catchment areas. This was accomplished even though Further Education Councils was already operating in many of the school catchment areas.

By 1984, a Statistics Canada study indicated Alberta had the highest rate of community based learning in Canada. The Canadian Association for Adult Education declared Alberta “Canada’s Learning Province.” The OECD carried out a study in 1992 to determine the best learning cities in the world. Seven were identified. They were Gothenburg, Vienna, Bologna, Pittsburgh, Adelaide, Kakagawa, and…Edmonton.

Both of these programmes had limited funding on their establishment. Each had a budget of about two million dollars annually. Even at that, they proved a success. The goal of the programmes was to get to a twenty-five percent participation rate in community based learning in Alberta. This was achieved in 1984, but that success was relative. The model country in the world for community based learning at the time we began to develop these programmes in 1970 was Sweden. They had a participation rate in community based learning of twenty-five percent. By 1984, the rate in Sweden had grown to fifty percent, while we achieved twenty-five. Since 1992, Alberta’s rate has declined by about twenty percent. The Community school programme was eliminated in 1993, and the Further Education Council Programme is a pale shadow of itself.

We need Alberta and Canada to be models of learning and participatory societies. This has economic, ecological, health and fitness, poverty, social, and many other benefits. An educated and learning population better understands the complexity of issues facing a society. Such a society can also devise more elegant resolutions of those issues.

Both of these programmes utilized existing institutions, were very economical and generated a very high rate of return on investment. They are both highly desirable and highly feasible.

2. Alberta as a Democratic Super Force. There is a growing concern in our country and province that people have given up on the political process. Voter turnouts at each level of governance are falling and approaching the 50% mark. Young people seem particularly disinterested, and their voting rate is markedly lower than for seniors. There is a serious need for action on the breakdown of meaningful democracy in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada.

There is a surprising initiative in governmental renewal in British Columbia. The Province of British Columbia has set up a Citizens’ Assembly on Election Reform. One hundred sixty citizens (half women, half men) from across BC have been selected at random to be in the Assembly. Two come from each riding, and there are two ensuring representation from native people.

Starting in January, the Assembly is studing electoral reform, i.e., different forms of voting systems. Later they will get input from BC citizens. Then they will write a report, due in December, 2004. Their findings will be put to a binding referendum in 2005, during their May election. If passed, the new arrangement will come into force in 2009. Sadly, the BC initiative does not address the critical financing of public governance.

It is very strange and highly ironic that, around the world, in nearly all democracies, government, supposedly to be for, by and of the people, is financed largely by the wealthy, and by corporate and business interests. We need to change this at all levels of government, everywhere in Canada. Provincially, Alberta must join Canada in adding to Mr. Chretien’s initiative to publicly finance Federal public governance. We can, and must make our Province a shinning example of a publicly financed, democratic super force.

3. Alberta as an Ecological Marvel. We are destroying our own nest, our planet, by pollution. The greatest threat to our survival as a species is global warming. Most of the damage is coming from the burning of hydrocarbons. Alberta has more hydrocarbons than possibly any other place on the planet. Certainly, on a per capita basis, we burn more hydrocarbons than any other place on the planet. Bear in mind there is a direct correlation between energy use and standard of living. What, then, must we do if we wish to keep some semblance of our standard of living?

We simply must stop burning hydrocarbons. Fortunately, Alberta has two of the best wind energy generation sites in the world at Pincher and Waterton. In fact, the whole southern one-third of the province is highly suited to energy production from the wind day and night, year round.

We need to have our provincial government invest every cent of our hydrocarbon wealth it can possibly find or generate into energy conservation and the new gearless wind turbines. We need to erect tens of thousands of them. We need to become a world leader in generating electricity from wind energy. We need to become a world leader in wind turbine manufacture. We need to become a world leader in storing wind generated energy. The most desirable and feasible way of doing that is through compressing air. Compressed air is portable and does not freeze at ambient temperatures. We need to become a world leader in storage, transport and utilization of compressed air as an energy source. And we need to become a world leader in developing transportation vehicles using compressed air. We need only to look to France where they have developed an auto that runs on compressed air. Interestingly enough, the engine of such a car also provides heating and air conditioning from the very process of operating. How elegant is that? If the air is compressed through wind energy, such modes of transport produce zero pollution.

Conclusion. With the huge economic advantage we would gain from being a world leader as a learning and participatory society, in democratic reform, and in non-polluting energy production and conservation, we can tackle all sorts of social, ecological and economic problems that cry out for attention.

Each of the above initiatives is essential, desirable and feasible! And, because we have been endowed with such wealth, we have an ethical responsibility to our younger generations and to the world to set an example in demonstrating that these things can be done.

Brian Staples, SALT Chair

Did they get the message? 

The following is one of three presentations made by members of SALT to the Government MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation at its hearing in Edmonton on Friday, February 27, 2004. Neither of the three PC MLAs at the hearing had any questions of the presenter. Does that mean they got the message?

Mr. Chair and members of the committee:

I speak in support of Strengthening Alberta’s role in Confederation.

I was encouraged to read your Chair’s comments as reported in the Edmonton Journal on February 13th. He noted that the committee is not about separation or building firewalls or isolating Alberta from the rest of Canada but rather about “…issues that will strengthen the provinces and the country.” I want to suggest that, if we are to build that strength, we need to discontinue those actions that undermine it, and end the mixed messages that call our credibility into question.

A case in point is Alberta’s decision not to participate in the National Health Council. All other provinces and territories except Quebec have opted in and even Quebec has indicated that it will cooperate with the Council.

Alberta, with its innovative programs in primary care and the recently established centres of excellence in medical research, has a great deal to contribute to such a Council. Further, Alberta has participated very productively in other national councils such as the School Achievement Indicators Program that established public educational standards. So why not participate in a National Health Council? Surely we are not so arrogant as to believe that we cannot learn something from our other partners in Confederation who have also been struggling to make their health care systems work more effectively.

Further, one has to wonder why our Premier chose to heap such derision on the Health Council. He said the Council was only of interest to Friends of Medicare and people whom he labeled as “health care junkies”. I don’t mind being called a health care junkie because, as the Premier defines that term, it applies to the majority of Canadians who believe that a comprehensive, universal, accessible, portable and publicly administered health care system is a defining feature of our national identity.

If our government sees nothing of interest in a National Health Council, one has to wonder whether it is really committed to the Canada Health Act. Yes, I am aware that the Premier asserts that he wants to uphold the principles of the CHA but his actions and the actions of his government constantly belie those assertions.

Beyond dismissing the National Health Council, the Alberta government has made numerous moves that suggest it really wants to distance itself from the problems associated with the operation of a public health care system. Apparently, it would rather turn these problems over to private interests, be they:
- private-for-profit surgical facilities,
- public-private partnerships to build hospitals, or
- private-for-profit insurance companies.
Apparently our Premier thinks there is something “unfair” about Blue Cross offering affordable health insurance coverage to Albertans. Perhaps he believes the escalating costs associated with private, for-profit auto insurance would somehow benefit health care.

Rejection of the National Health Council suggests that the government doesn’t want any fettering or even scrutiny of its actions from outside Alberta. It seems similarly averse to transparency within the province. The elimination of elected members on Regional Health Authorities before they had even completed their first term in office made that perfectly clear and seems totally inconsistent with Alberta’s opposition to an appointed senate.

Perhaps the most confusing mixed message of all comes from the Premier’s recent suggestion that Alberta might actually give up $1.2 billion in federal transfer payments if these interfere with the hitherto unspecified changes he wants to make to our health care system. How does one square that with a commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act or, for that matter, with concern for sustainability?

Nor are Alberta’s mixed messages restricted to the field of health care. We have seen similar posturing erupt in relation to utility deregulation, education funding, regressive tax measures and user fees, environmental issues and, most particularly, the Kyoto Accord.

As a so-called ‘health care junkie’ I have to tell you that ‘power junkie’ politicians with their chest thumping and turf wars are an increasing source of worry to many Albertans. What we are looking for is statesmanship, not gamesmanship. We do not want an unfettered provincial government any more than we want an unfettered federal government but I have to tell you that, at present, many of us view the federal government as a much-needed bulwark against the ideological excesses of the provincial government.

With respect, I would suggest that eliminating these mixed messages and excesses is a first and necessary step to strengthening Alberta’s role in confederation.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 5 

The clampdown on the Canadian poor is only possible because the Chretien government withdrew a key federal program in 1995 that had forced the provinces to provide basic welfare rights in order to receive federal money. Paul Martin, then finance minister, brought in a new program with no such requirement, thereby opening the door for provinces to gut their welfare systems as Ontario and Alberta promptly did. February 8, 2004, Linda McQuaig, EJ.

As of Jan 1st 1995, the ceiling on room and board at all government lodges was removed. Steve West made the announcement of the "deregulation."(a word that will forever be synonymous with Tory). As long as the senior was left with $265 a month, rates could raise high enough to take the rest of their income whatever that might be.

Province wide there was 59 foundations managing 142 lodges and 527 cottage units. 6% of seniors living in these lodges were living on $7 000 or less per year. Ralph Klein said the move of taking the ceiling off rents would make lodges competitive. Liberal MLA, Bettie Hewes said this means open season on seniors. Dec. 21/94, Calgary Herald.

A Dec 31/94 article states "The province's reduced assistance to Alberta's prosperous seniors is defensible." In Alberta prosperous mean: 6% of seniors with incomes below $7 000. 50% of the senior population's income is under $15 000, which is below the poverty line ($15,500). 23% with income from $15 000 - $24 000 and 12% with income at $24 000 - $39 000. Only 9% have income of over $40,000. Ralph Klein and his Ministers will fall into the last category when they retire because of the pensions and benefits that we the people, including seniors, provide for them.

62% of Albertans poled wanted the Klein government to maintain seniors' benefits at the, 'then' current levels. The province gained 14-19 million when Ottawa cut out the federal tax credit for older people with incomes more than $26,000. December 31/94 EJ. Did seniors see any of that windfall?

In Jan. 95, EJ, Ralph Klein finally acknowledged the government received lots of angry mail and phone calls from seniors.(This was news because they had denied any senior was angry or upset up to this point). He said he would not be reconsidering the cut from 1.2 billion to 918 million because of concerns about voting power of the provinces' 230 000 seniors. "If I was trying to appease seniors as a voting block, we wouldn't have done anything …"

That was10 years ago. Ralph Klein is fond of saying "that was then, this is now" This is now! By latest count we now are around 312 000 seniors in Alberta who have endured 10 years of the Klein government not caring, not listening, sneering, and showing signs of positively enjoying the grief and fright they have caused seniors, notice Steve West is back. Every once in awhile they cause seniors more pain and worry for example the Blue Cross issue and the increase by 40/48% in extended care. These facilities are making more profit than ever before while giving less value to seniors.

In 1994, a lot of Albertans believed the propaganda that seniors were prosperous, fat cats. Now they know different. Many of those who mistakenly thought that are now seniors themselves and many more people have parents who are seniors. Now we have the 9 factor, which means that every senior in Alberta today also influences 8 other voting individuals. This means that our 312,000 seniors in Alberta actually influence 2,303,000 votes. Positive change for a better future begins with repairing the 10 years of damage done by Klein and his government. That can only be done at the polls. How will you vote at the next election?

Robert Gibson of Sherwood Park says…we are all guilty, I suppose, for standing by while this man systematically dismantles our hospitals, school systems, social services and health care. He also has a particular vendetta against senior citizens for some reason. In Alberta, our slogan must be, "Don't get sick, don't get old -----get mad. January 95

Premier Ralph Klein's e-mail address is: premier@gov.ab.ca You might want to drop a note to the premier regarding his plan of taxing Blue Cross, a Non-profit organization. If you are a non profit organization, where do you think the money will come from to pay the Klein TAX?????

Heeeee's Back! 


Click here for the National Post story by Don Martin heralding the triumphant return of Steve West

Here's a recent picture of Steve.
























In my opinion, Ralph is distorting the facts. 

These comments were provided to Ralph's World by an Albertan after listening to the recent throne speech.

We had a Throne Speech in Alberta on February 17th, 2004. It is available at the Alberta Government web site by clicking here.

Item One Quoted from the throne speech

Alberta needs to continue pursuing meaningful health reform so the system remains affordable and accessible to future Albertans. . . .
Alberta also pledges to work with other provinces and the federal government on a program of national health reform, because every government, regardless of ideology or party, has acknowledged that the system is not sustainable unless meaningful reform is made.


Ralph Klein must have delighted in having Lois Hole deliver his distortions for him. Note the emphasis I have placed on his words in the Throne Speech. Of course the real tragedy is not that Ralph makes the distortions; he has been doing that for years. The tragedy is that no one appears to be asking just how Ralph can prove that the health system is not sustainable. Certainly no one in the media will challenge Ralph on this. Why should the voters?

I bet that the media didn't even look in the Appendix of the Mazankowski Report where they buried the statistics indicating that health care is not out of control.

Does anyone want to know just what Ralph's definition of meaningful reform is? Probably not! We will likely only learn after the next election when Ralph says that has have a mandate to do whatever he then defines to be in the public interest (ie the interest of his corporate cronies).

The every government quote is also pretty sweeping, what? Every government must want Ralph's solution of private for profit also, eh? Sure.



Item Two Quoted from the throne speech

Quality of patient care will be further strengthened through a new mandate for the Health Services Utilization and Outcomes Commission. This year, the Commission, which will be renamed the Health Quality Council of Alberta, will take on an expanded mandate for patient safety. This builds on its current role of monitoring and reporting on the performance of Alberta's health system.

Is this not a brilliant counter the National Health Council proposed by the Romanow Commission. Now Ralph can thumb his nose at the feds, control what the monitoring body will say and he did not even need to create a new body; he just renames an old one.

In the meantime. Ralph, whose biggest problem is hiding money, will continue to advocate that we unplug our mothers, that people should just get healthy and that healthcare money is just going down a "black hole". The man has no difficulty communicating; he has difficulty communicating the truth.

Submitted by Kevan Rhead

Thursday, February 26, 2004

More Deregulation Problems 

Today I received a copy of a letter that Allan Dane, a retired power transmission engineer, sent to Murray Smith, our Minister of Energy. That letter is reproduced here and as is our custom here at Ralph’s World, we will publish Minister Smith’s response when it is received. This government has never responded to any of our letters yet but hope springs eternal. Click here to see their response record.

Mr. Dane points out a couple of problems with deregulation which he asks the Minister to address.

Co-generation power plants are generation facilities built by private industry primarily to supply their own electrical energy needs but they sell the excess into the Alberta Interconnected System (AIS). This leftover power is available for residential and commercial users. The questions posed by Mr. Dane are these.

As these co-generation owners need more power to supply their expanding industries (oil sands, chemical plants etc.) the leftover power needed by the rest of us will become in short supply. Short supply leads to both high prices and increased risk of power outages. So two of the supposed features of de-regulation, lower cost and more reliable supply actually result in higher costs to consumers and a less stable supply. Could you please explain how this benefits Albertans?

The second issue addresses a lack of planning in the transmission facilities. Co-generators typically build near their own industry so they don’t need to care about transmission facilities as long as they can supply their own industry. How does the de-regulated electrical power industry address this problem?

Good questions.

Here is Mr. Dane’s letter.


February 18, 2004

Hon. Murray Smith
Minister of Energy
404 Legislature Building
Edmonton, Alberta, T5K 2B6

Dear Mr. Smith:

I received your letter to me of February 11, 2004 and I have carefully reviewed the attachments.

I notice that most of the larger generating units that were added to the AIS in the 1998-2002 period were co-generation. I presume that these co-generation units were larger than the owner needed for his facilities at the time they were placed in service so the owner could sell power and energy to the AIS until the owner needed to expand his facilities at which time the initial excess capacity would no longer be available to the AIS.

It is of great interest to me to know how much power is available now to the AIS from each of the co-generation units which have installed capacity 100 megawatts or more, and what fuels they use. For example I suspect that TransAlta’s 120 megawatt unit at Fort Saskatchewan may soon become unavailable to the AIS and its 360 megawatt unit at Fort McMurray definitely will become unavailable in the future if the expansions of the oil sands projects occur.

The point I make in regard to power generation needed by the petroleum and natural gas industry is that it mostly leaves the Province of Alberta in the form of chemical energy and only a small portion will be available for manufacturing industries that will be constructed here or are already here.

The untutored person might be greatly impressed with a total new generation of 2,307 megawatts on line in 1998 - 2002 but I do not draw the conclusion that 2,307 megawatts of new power was made available to the AIS because most of that power is co-generation and I suspect that most of it is fuelled with natural gas which will increase in cost as the years pass. In other words, I very much doubt that the AIS will have access to much of that 2,307 megawatts in the year 2010.

Of the new generation additions of first quarter 2003 only 200 megawatts, in my opinion, likely will be available to the AIS in 2010 and, even then, I may be optimistic.

Hydro power, particularly in Southern Alberta, is a “sometimes” thing as is wind. When they are available use them but don’t rely on them.

The most encouraging features of your projections in the 2003 - 2006 time-frame are EPCOR’s Genesee III, Fording’s 1,000 megawatt powerplant near Brooks and TransAlta’s Keephills III.

I was aware that EPCOR was actually constructing Genesee III but I was unaware that TransAlta had started construction of that huge 900 megawatt unit at Keephills! That is very good news, if true.

If a total of 1390 megawatts is added to the Genesee - Keephills area, as an electric power transmission engineer I can tell you that you will have more than your share of grief in getting that additional power to the market unless you manage to get the transmission lines in that region upgraded to 500 kilovolts before those units start spinning! Actually, 1390 megawatts would justify 765 kilovolts but, unfortunately, those circuits were not constructed for 765 kilovolt operation...

I have reliable information from Fording that it has sold all of its heating coal properties to Sherritt. I knew, of course, that Fording had wanted permission to construct a powerplant, near Brooks, as early as 1992, a time when Alberta’s electric utilities operated in a regulated environment. Deregulation probably had nothing to do with the sale of their heating coal interests to Sherritt but it certainly cannot be argued that deregulation had increased their interest!

Please make sure that a 500 kilovolt circuit is constructed from the proposed site to the switchyard at East Calgary and please make sure that it is available before the powerplant at Brooks is ready to spin! That powerplant would relieve considerable congestion in the Edmonton - Calgary corridor even if it were only 800 megawatts which was the capacity that Fording wished to construct.

Did Fording increase its plans or does your staff confuse MVA with MW? 800 MW at 80% powerfactor would mean 1000 MVA and most alternators are designed for 80% powerfactor.

May I suggest that you check that TransAlta is constructing that 900 MW unit at Keephills and that Sherritt is constructing that 1,000 MW powerplant near Brooks? The last news I had received with regard to Keephills III indicated that TransAlta was unwilling to commit to future environmental requirements and had decided not to construct. If these two plans are not actually in the construction phase at this moment, your estimates of powerplant capacity for 2006 will be in excess of reality by at least 1,900 MW.

Yours very truly,

K. Allan Dane, M.Sc. (EE)
copies:
Premier Klein
Mr. Hugh McDonald
Dr. Kevin Taft.
Dr. Brian Staples
Dr. Raj Pannu
Mr. Brian Mason
Paula Simons

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

DOES OLE BILL SMELL ANOTHER RAT? 

Last week Ralph was making his World tremble by thundering against the Canada Health Act. A Journal headline last week said something like “KLEIN THREATENS TO DUMP CANADA HEALTH ACT” Ralph says it keeps him and his boys from being “flexible and innovative.” Which really means selling out to profit hungry investors all over North America. Even threatened to send down a bolt of lightening and start a “firestorm.”

This week he says he’s going to fix it so we can, if we’ve got lots of money, get our knees done and then spend a while drinking wine in a nice hotel room.

Could Ralph have been a bit petulant because some Liberals were making him squirm by uncovering a bit of a “black hole” in his expense accounts?

Or could this just be another one of those “privatization” rats biting his toes and providing another excuse for him to blame the “feds”?

Or is the time coming soon when Ralph will cry wolf once too often and real Alberta citizens will just ignore him?

Just wonderin - Bill Barley, Abnormal Albertan

Monday, February 23, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 4 

Before the June election on May 1st 1993, Ralph Klein promised, "We will continue our support of those people who built today's Alberta." Ten years later, after stripping seniors benefits away from all but seniors with incomes below poverty levels, Ralph Klein is talking about forfeiting 1.2 billion in Health Care transfer payments. There has been ten years of well documented cuts to seniors benefit programs in this province to prove that Klein's comments were meant despite any back peddling being done in the media. Every Albertan will pay the cost of such a move, including seniors who are already struggling from 10 years of cut backs.
10 years ago, Betty Finch, president of the Society for Retired and Semi Retired said, "Ralph isn't listening and he isn't caring so we have to prove to him that his cuts are hurting people." (It was true then and it is true today.) Based on finances they have seen, the Society has found cuts of 15 and 20 per cent. Neil Reimer, the head of the Council on Aging, with 450 affiliated seniors' organizations and 5 000 individual members, said it was an approach to destroy the middle class seniors. (April 9, 94).
Gary Mar said he might raise the threshold. "We want to be sure he does, that is why we are holding the rally," said Finch. They did in fact raise the threshold by $1 000 for singles to $18,200 and $2 000 for couples to $27,600. Gary Mar said they could not afford to raise the level higher.
A number of groups were asked by the government to give reports regarding the cuts to seniors' programs. Report from the Inter-agency Council on Aging said the cuts are too much and too fast. The Council, which represents all seniors' groups in Alberta, said that instead of cuts, "the funding envelope for all seniors' programs needs to be increased.
Don Achilles from the Retired and Semi-retired said the cuts were forcing seniors to give up 15% of their income while the government is only taking 5% from civil servants. A group was formed May 14, 94 called the Seniors Action Liaison Team. Their plan was to fight a three-year war leading up to the next election in 2001. That battle has waged now for 10 years with no end in sight.
July 1st 1994, was D-Day for seniors. All of the dreadful cuts took place on that day. Seniors were outraged and they expressed their rage by writing letters, marching on the legislature and having rallies, still the Klein government took every opportunity to tell the world that seniors were happy with the cuts and changes they had made to seniors' benefits.
Julius Yankowsky, MLA, Alberta Liberal Critic for Seniors Issues wrote August, 94:
While the government hoped that ramming Bill 35: Alberta seniors' Benefit Act, through the Legislature would solve its problems with seniors, this is not the case. The outrage of seniors over the Alberta Seniors' Benefit will continue, not subside, over the coming years.
This is because Bill 35 has given the government the power to change the Senior's Benefit at will, at any time in the future. There is no requirement to consult with seniors or come back to the Legislature if the Klein government decides it wants to cut the Seniors' Benefit or eliminate any component. Changes can now be made through regulation by the Premier or the Minister.
Seniors should also know that by passing Bill 34: Social Housing Act, the government has deregulated seniors housing rents and forced seniors lodge to turn a profit. This will mean rent increase shocks for many seniors and could even force some seniors out of their lodges.
The Seniors Benefit form contains a requirement that seniors allow the provincial government to check their old income tax records and many are worried that this is a precursor to a means test. Given the fact that Alberta is following the New Zealand model of government cuts and New Zealand instituted a means test. I think this is worth getting worried about.

November 10, 94, Neil Reimer suggested that in two or three years a couple with an income of $32,000 can expect to pay up to $7,200 more per year. That would bring that couple's income down to $24,800. Several seniors at the Nov. 10 meeting feared that eye and dental services are next in line to be chopped from senior benefits.
December 14, 94, Bill Daly of Canadian Pensioners Concerned. Low-income seniors will be hard hit by $13 million in provincial cuts to eye care and dental programs that take effect Jan 1, 95. The cuts are the latest in a long line that have chopped seniors' benefits by more than 15% this year said Bill Daly. Health Minister Shirley McClellan announced cuts to the Extended Health Benefit Program will cut almost $17 million. Helen Wilson said another $30 million cut would be made from the Blue Cross drug benefit plan early in the new year. Coverage for eyeglasses were cut from the current maximum of $164 every three years to $93.50.
Today 40% of single women and 30% of single men over 65 are living at or below the poverty line. The poverty line for a single person in a major city was $15,500 after taxes in 2001, EJ
Feb. 15, 2004 (Liane Faulder) Over the past decade, the province has slashed funding for seniors' programs, says Liberal critic Laurie Blakeman. This makes it hard for people to plan for retirement because they don't know what extra costs government will eventually pass on to them. What I see happening is there is a level of middle income seniors who are becoming impoverished because they pay full freight for everything, says Blakeman, "They get no breaks."
This government has more than enough proof as to how their cuts are hurting the seniors of this province. If they cared, they would have long since rectified their cut and slash action. The only recourse we have is to elect a new government. It is said that 95% of seniors vote, let that be true. If we want to repair the damage the Conservatives have caused to our great province over these last 10 years we need to vote this destructive government OUT!

Friday, February 20, 2004

PR "OPTICS" or FALSE ADVERTISING? 

(Third in series on propaganda in Ralph's World)

The web site of the Department of Learning contains a whole series of statements using “per cent” to sell the impression that the number of students in Alberta Schools class rooms is almost perfect.

Here’s a sample of what the Government of Alberta tells the public:- “99 per cent of K-3 classes had 30 or fewer students and 79 per cent had 25 or fewer; 94 per cent of 4-6 classes had 30 or fewer students and 25 per cent had 25 or fewer. 94 per cent of 4-6 classes had 30 or fewer students and 52 per cent had 25 or fewer......”

Yet those words contain as little of the truth about Alberta’s schools as the report of a helicopter pilot who has just flown over the Arctic tundra and now tells everyone that there are five herds of caribou and all but 1% of them are really healthy.

Did he land and walk among the animals? Did he examine the food supply conditions they were facing? No! But he saw that 99% of them were in herds of average size.

The word percent is constantly used by politicians, marketers and sales campaigners to conjure up images that hide as much, and often more, truth than they convey to citizens.

In Ralph’s World no politicians employ the word percent more regularly than the Minister of Learning and his department.

These cold calculations give no answer to questions like, how many children are there in Kindergarten? If even 1% of Kindergarten children are in classes larger than 30 how many flesh and blood precious humans does that amount to?

How many K-3 children in the 99% of classes under 30 are new Canadians who don’t even speak the language? How man are physically and mentally handicapped? How many come from a broken or troubled home? How many beginning children are there in classes far above the manageable size of 17?

These, dehumanizing numbers from the Department of Learning serve no other purpose than that of promoting the illusion that children all over the province are comfortably seated with their teachers happily learning the lessons prescribed for them by a benevolent government.

Such language is designed to impress the seventy percent of the province’s voters who haven’t a clue what the teachers and students are really facing in many, many Public Schools particularly in Edmonton and Calgary where the largest portion of our students live.

Perhaps the Minister of Learning doesn't mean to mislead the public? In Ralph’s World surely he wouldn’t want to lead us astray. After all his government boasts about enabling every young person “to achieve their dreams and realize their full potential. Nothing could be more important.” (Speech from the throne Feb. 17/04.

Come on let’s get real. Even as a student in Elementary School I already knew how number concepts may be used to create false impressions designed to mislead others into believing what is far from the whole of reality.

In grade five I reported one morning to my teacher that we had lost fifty per cent of the calves on our family farm. 50% or our young bovines had died the night before.

Her response was, as I intended it to be, one of shock and sympathy. At the depth of Great Depression she knew that losing half a farmer’s herd was comparable to a mad cow devastation today.

What I told her was true as far as it went, but when she asked me how many calves we’d had on our farm, the hidden reality came out. In fact fifty percent of our calves was only one small creature.

Now I knew exactly what I was doing and when my teacher caught on we both laughed and she thanked me for showing her I’d learned a valuable lesson.

But I see no twinkle in the eye of the Department of Learning. This is dead serious stuff they are selling. The well-being of flesh and blood, feeling and thinking humans lies hidden from public view behind these percentages.

No part of the learning that children do in a Democratic society is more important than coming to know how to see through the emotion-loaded language of politicians and public relations experts. And yet here are men using cold statistical concepts to control their education.

In order to confront the misleading and often false conclusions desired by so-called great communicators, students need teachers who can enable them to distinguish clearly between deceptive language and the truthful reporting of information

Even if, as is almost certainly seriously underdetermined, only 1% of K-3 children are in classes larger than 30; are they simply write-offs fin Ralph’s World?

Those of us who are parents and grandparents see each child born to us as a precious gift entrusted to our care. And when we don’t have the money to nurture them intellectually as well as physically we get busy and find it.

Shouldn’t we, as citizens of the real Alberta (as distinct from Ralph’s World), have the right to demand that the department responsible for our children’s growth into citizenship begin again to put our money where their mouths are and stop using the baffle gab of statistics to hide more truth than it conveys?

If the Minister of Learning could also get it through his head that children are precious persons and not statistical digits the money being stashed away in Ralph’s World for buying future votes would soon be used for children’s needs rather than political sales programs.

Blair McPherson

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ralph's World's First Contest 

Premier and Staff Spend Big at Home as well as Abroad

Public Accounts Chair Hugh MacDonald of The Alberta Liberals has released some tantalizing expense account information regarding spending habits of Premier Klein, his wife and various Tory ministers and staff as they travel the world seeking truth, wisdom and business on our behalf. Details of the various expense items tend to be like the Tories themselves when it comes to spending of our tax dollars; - a little on the vague side. For example, during a trip to Mexico in September 2002, the Premier and his sidekick Mark Norris paid $1097.00 in gratuities to the concierge and maid at the Four Season's Hotel. I want to a little more detail on what the maid and the concierge did for our boys that occasioned such generosity. Cleaned toilet bowl 8 times at $25 per clean. Smiled, bowed and said "Welcome Premier and Honorable Sidekick" 12 times at $15 per suck up. That's the kind of detail I want.

So here's the contest.

We'll provide the real expense account items just as Ralph and his folks submitted them. Not much detail. Your job is to speculate in detail on how just how that money was spent. Use your creativity just like the Tories. Points will be awarded for innovation, innuendo, and imagination.

Send in your submissions to johnnyslow@hotmail.com and we'll announce the winners at the end of the current legislative session. We'll publish your works on Ralph's World under your name or anon. Just let us know.

Here is the background material you have to work with as extracted by the Liberals from the government under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act (FOIPP).

BACKGROUNDER

1. GOVERNMENT TRIPS

Between the last election (March 12, 2001) and January 24, 2004, the government has publicly released information on 122 trips taken out of province by ministers and MLAs. The actual number of trips may be higher. (These are trips paid for by government ministries, not the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.) The total reported cost of all trips was $1,114,355 but the government did not publicly provide costs for 26 of the trips, so the actual total is much higher. The government failed to provide itineraries for 79 of the trips. That means taxpayers do not know specifically what business was conducted during these trips. 21 out of 24 Cabinet Ministers (including the Premier) took trips out of province. 20 MLAs took trips out of province. Government members visited every continent except South America and Antarctica.

10 top travelers (ministers):

Murray Smith, Energy 22 trips
Ralph Klein, Premier 17 trips
Mark Norris, Economic Development 16 trips
Halvar Jonson, International and Intergovernmental Affairs 11 trips
Lyle Oberg, Learning 7 trips
Iris Evans, Children's Services 6 trips
Ron Stevens, Gaming 6 trips
Heather Forsyth, Solicitor General 6 trips
Gene Zwozdesky, Community Development 5 trips
Pat Nelson, Finance 4 trips
(tied) Victor Doerksen 4 trips

2. EXPENSES

This information, obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP), provides more detail on the cost of particular government trips, including trips where little or no information on costs was provided publicly. In some cases, expenses have been charged by individuals who were NOT publicly reported as being on the trip in question. All amounts shown are in Canadian dollars. Where necessary, foreign currencies were converted according to the exchange rates on the date expenses were charged.

The Mission to New York

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Mark Norris (Economic Development Minister), Premier Ralph Klein, Murray Smith (Energy Minister)
Dates: approximately December 7 to December 10, 2002
Reported cost: Costs not reported
Reported business: meetings aimed at increasing investment in Alberta. No itinerary was provided.
Details uncovered through FOIPP: $14,316 charged in expenses by Gordon Olsen (Executive Director for the Southern Alberta Office of the Premier until March 1, 2003) and Cal Lawinger (lawyer) Including:$8320 spent on car service in Manhattan, $5996 spent on accommodation, food and the mini-bar at the Sheraton Hotel. These are costs charged by Executive Council members only and so the actual total cost of this trip was probably much higher.

The Team Canada Mission to the UK and Ukraine

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Colleen Klein (wife), Gene Zwozkesky (Community Development Minister), Dave Broda, MLA, and three staff members
Dates: May 14 to May 22, 2002
Reported cost: $88,000
Reported business: In the UK, meetings with British Petroleum and Centrica. In Ukraine, "Expanding Alberta's deep and historic connections to Ukraine and establishing relations with top Ukrainian government leaders" (news release).
Details uncovered through FOIPP: $15,720 charged in expenses by Chris Heseltine in London only Including:$4,922 spent on accommodation at the Millennium Mayfair Hotel in London, $1,451 spent on one lunch at the Marriott Hotel, London, May 17 2002, $4,511 spent on car service in London, $248.58 paid to bell boys, check-in staff and other staff in gratuities

The Mexico Trip

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Minister Mark Norris
Dates: approximately September 19 to October 2, 2002
Reported cost: Costs not reported
Reported business: Opening a trade office. No itinerary provided.
Details uncovered through FOIPP:$15,526 charged in expenses by Douglas Lane, Collin Jeffares, Jack Davis Including:$3,601 spent on the Premier's accommodation at the Four Season's Hotel, $1,097 paid to the concierge and maid in gratuities, $2,624 spent on a dinner for 12 people, September 22, 2002

The Team Canada Mission to Asia, Russia and Germany

Who went: (according to gov't news release): Premier Ralph Klein, Colleen Klein (wife) Mark Norris (Economic Development Minister), unnamed staff member
Dates: February 5 to February 22, 2002
Reported cost: $32,000
Reported business: meetings with investors, trade partners and government officials
Details uncovered through FOIPP:The itinerary stated the budget for this trip was $32,000 but the final budget was higher. $38,076 charged in expenses by Doug Brower, Jamie Davis, Ralph Klein, Mark Norris Including:$1,475 spent on 3 nights' accommodation at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo for Premier Klein and Colleen Klein, $1,152 spent on 3 nights' accommodation at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo for Jamie Davies and his wife

3. ALBERTA'S FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LEGISLATION

Alberta passed its Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in 1995. It requires the government to disclose information that is in the public interest. However, certain sections of the act specifically exempt members of the Executive Council, which includes the Premier and his staff:Section 4(1)(o) * The Act does not apply to a personal record or constituency record of a member of the Executive Council Section 4(1)(q) * The Act does not apply to a record created by or for a member of the Executive Council, that has been sent or is to be sent to a member of the Executive Council*For Executive Council members, the only information that is not considered "an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy" is a person's "classification, salary range, discretionary benefits or employment responsibilities*" (Section 17)

4. ALBERTA AUDITOR GENERAL'S MANDATE

Alberta's Auditor General has a significantly difference mandate from Canada's Auditor General. The Federal Auditor General Act states the Auditor General must report "money that has been expended without due regard to economy or efficiency" (section 7d).The Auditor General of Alberta Act is far less focused. It states that Alberta's Auditor General must report accounting systems and management control systems, including those systems designed to ensure economy and efficiency, that relate to revenue, disbursements, the preservation of assets or the determination of liabilities were not in existence, were inadequate or had not been complied with" (section 19 (2) (d)). In other words, the federal Auditor General tracks expenditures whereas the Alberta Auditor General tracks accounting and management systems. The goal of Alberta's Auditor General would seem to be to help the government improve its systems, whereas the Federal Auditor General seems to be a more direct advocate for taxpayers. The Auditor General of Alberta's main publication is the Annual Report. It does not provide detailed information on the results of the Auditor General's investigations. Instead, its main focus is on recommending how the government can improve its accounting as well as updating the status of the government's compliance to previous years' recommendations. Unless the mandate of Alberta's Auditor General is changed, Alberta's finances will be subjected to far less scrutiny than those of the Federal Government.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

OLE BILL SEES A MIRAGE? 

I hear that folks who’ve traveled across the desert for days with barely enough food and water to sustain life begin to see images of trees and water and a place to rest a while.

But as they drag themselves forward that vision turns out to be a mirage that either disappears or simply keeps moving ahead so they can’t reach it before it’s too late.

Yesterday in Ralph’s world we heard the words “....beginning in 2005, every child born in Alberta will receive a $500 contribution toward an established registered education savings plan.....”

Just wondering how this image does any good for the kids alive today whose whose educational resources have been impoverished almost to the point of deprivation for ten years already.

Just wonderin’ - Bill Barley Abnormal Albertan

Monday, February 16, 2004

OLE BILL WONDERS 

So in Ralph’s World the latest increase in taxes is a charge on Alberta Blue Cross. That’s because it’s an outfit that puts service to citizens people ahead of making themselves rich.

Why tax a non-profit organization? Well, Ralph says its’ so insurance companies who exist to make money for people as far away as New York and Chicago can make more money for people who already have lots. Doesn't seem to matter that they exploit peoples’ misfortunes and illnesses.

Doesn’t it seem kinda funny that Ralph sells himself to the public as a man of the people and then goes and handicaps organizations that put service to the people ahead of making massive profits?

If being non-profit makes an outfit a target for higher taxes who could be next? “Meals-on-Wheels”? Or, come to think of it, maybe that’s why Ralph makes us older people pay health care premiums. After all we’re non-profit people.

Just wonderin’ - Bill Barley, Abnormal Albertan

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 3 - February 15, 2004 

During the Lougheed and Getty years, seniors were honored, admired, appreciated and courted for their votes. According to political scientist Paul Johnston, seniors made up 15% of the voting population (1994). Historically 95% go to the ballot box. Johnston says he can't understand why the Klein government would run the risk of going after seniors. Hazel Wilson, Vice- President with Alberta Council on Aging, said that the portrayal of "greedy seniors" is unfair. Especially since only 9% of Canadians earn more than $40,000/yr (Stats Canada in 1991). Risk was taken out of the equation, by propaganda.

It must have been very confusing for seniors in 1994 to make any sense out of all the publications aimed at them regarding benefit cutbacks. The government attempted to convince seniors that they were gaining benefits not having benefits taken away. The eight-page booklet that was sent out in February mentioned the word 'benefit' 75 times, however, it did not once mention the reality of a sliding scale for cut off figures. Single seniors thought they would still get benefits if their income was $17 000 and couples $25 000. There was no notice that only those with income of less than $10 432 for singles and $16 608 for couples would get full benefits. The sliding scale would be used up to $17 000 and $25 000 income. Above that level of income benefits would be cut off completely. Laurence Decore asked Klein at the legislature why he was taking money away from seniors earning $10,400 when the poverty line in Edmonton and Calgary was $15,500.

Neil Reimer from the Council on Aging was the first senior to publish the correct figures for which Gary Mar accused him of pursuing "a personal political agenda." Neil Reimer said the real numbers were not revealed at any of the government sessions he attended. The Klein government clearly was intending to mislead the seniors.

There was many different financial figures mentioned which would serve to confuse seniors more. Klein and his ministers know the truth. No matter which figures you look at the fact is that between 15% and 20% was taken from seniors benefits and programs. The figure that seems to be likely is they intended to cut 1.1 billion from their total budget. One fifth of that would come from seniors or $918 million. Every time the government was questioned about their justification for their actions, their favorite comment was "That was then, this is now." They are still taking dollars from seniors in spite of the fact that 56% earn incomes below $15 000, 23% between $15 and $24 000 and 12 % between $25 000 a d $39 000.

Seniors were outraged at the massive cuts to their benefits. They marched 3000 strong to the legislative building demanding to be heard. They wrote letters to the Premier, MLAs and the Edmonton Journal was constantly filled with letters to the editor telling all who would listen that most seniors could not afford to loose their benefits. They were even talking about divorce because 2 single people could gain more benefits than one couple. Gary Mar was booed, scolded, screamed at and called heartless. Seniors hit him with impossible questions; "I've paid my taxes all my life. I've been to war. What have you done for your country?" Gary Mar said, "In my observation there are people with a negative attitude toward aging and they are very very vocal. These are the people who when you go to a meeting they berate you and they are rude and nasty." He also said it was his observation that people don't like the government cuts because they don't want to get old. I wonder how rude and nasty he would be if he realized his income would be cut by 20%? (EJ, Mar./94)

Garnet Burnstad, from Tofield, pointed out, that what politicians get for housing allowance is more than what seniors get to qualify for assistance. Premier Klein reacted by pointing out that he had already given up his MLA pension and taken a five% pay cut--to $111,000--in addition to giving up a $5 000 clothing allowance. "That's why we are saying to seniors, if we take our five% rollback, if we eliminate our pensions and if we sacrifice, are you willing to do a little bit yourself? (EJ, Mar./94)
Isn't that interesting? MLAs and all public servants have long since had their 5% rollback returned and the government officials have long since regained their pensions, plus they have had how many increases in income since then? Seniors, after 10 years, have received nothing back. As a matter of fact the Klein government is still using Alberta seniors as their Cash Cows.

Seniors are not cows, nor are we sheep to be led around and fed garbage by Klein and his crew. We are quite able to use the power of our vote and the power of our voice to influences our family and friends. Come hell or high water we will be at the poles to vote for the party that cares about our welfare and the welfare of our children and grandchildren. Alberta needs us now more than ever before.
Rose Bradley

Friday, February 13, 2004

WONDERIN' by Ole BILL 

In Ralph’s World doesn’t it seem strange that a study is described by the government as too small to draw conclusions from when, like the one done recently for the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, it indicates that Ralph’s policies are likely promoting addictions (see Globe and Mail Feb. 13/04 p. A7) ?

Yet, when Alberta Learning does a very questionable study on class sizes in Alberta classrooms, it’s used as proof that no child in the Province is being shortchanged by government policy. Just wonderin’ - is Ralph’s world is really that full of wonders?

Bill Barley, Abnormal Albertan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

MISINFORMED, ACTING DUMB or PURPOSELY MISLEADING 

(Second in series on propaganda in Ralph's World)
Average is a “weasel word” often used by politicians to keep more truth hidden than it actually reveals.

Dr. Lyle Oberg, in the subtitle to an article on school class sizes, August 26/03 in the Edmonton Journal, is said to have “released figures that show the average class size in Alberta schools ranges from 19.5 students to 25.5 students.” Four months later, January 2004, attempting to bully down and belittle those parents protesting the size of their children’s classes his news release stated “Average class size remains relatively steady.”

Now, Minister Oberg speaks for a department that boasts how it provides an opportunity for every single Alberta child to benefit from as full an education as possible.

Shouldn’t we expect that in his use of the word “average” he would be telling ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’

Yet, even as those words were broadcast across the province last August, thousands of children and parents already knew how far away from the whole truth and reality those statements were.

To treat children as impersonal statistics that can be averaged across a whole province and stuffed into classrooms is nothing better than a distortion of reality designed for sale to the market place of public opinion.

The word average alone contains far more misleading impressions than any of the numbers attributed to Dr. Oberg.

The image makers in Ralph’s World obviously have assured him that the word average in the mental imagery of the careless reader would conjure up scenes of children all being cared for in rooms with desks for everyone and ample space to work on projects.

No classroom in these fantasy schools would have more than twenty-five-and-a-half students and none would have fewer than nineteen-and-one-half. (Where you put that half child is a bit of a mystery) Every child in this imaginary school has average ability to benefit from instruction. All lessons are suited to each child’s need.

But in the real Alberta, (not Ralph’s self-created one), reality destroys illusion. Even the most elementary student of statistics knows, or should learn, that a real statistical average among humans contains only about half of whatever is being measured.

When the results of any fair and accurate measure of human needs or characteristics is plotted on a graph there is a huge bulge in the middle of a bell-like curve that tapers off to almost nothing toward the higher and lower ends of the scale.

Responsible interpreters of this bell curve know that almost half or fifty% of the humans being assessed fall outside of the center or average category.

In the 2002-2003 school year the truth about the size of Alberta school classes would therefore more likely be that as many as half or fifty% of the school rooms in the Province already had either more or fewer students than the high and lows released in these headlines.

More importantly, at the very moment Dr. Oberg was reporting these findings, school Principals in cities like Edmonton and Calgary were already working with fewer teachers and having to put more and more students into their classrooms simply because they had fewer resources.

There are at least three deceptive omissions in the information Ralph’s agent Oberg released to the widest circulation paper in northern Alberta late in the summer of 2003.

First, Dr. Oberg clearly did not tell the public that those numbers were taken from schools all over the province reporting on the previous year’s attendance.

Second, a statistic he didn’t mention had been known to parents and teachers since before the summer break. Edmonton schools alone knew at least three months earlier that they were being forced to lay off 450 teachers. Calgary, like Edmonton, had made it public at least by the end of May 2003 there would be increased numbers in their classrooms when September came.

Third, Dr. Oberg in August 2003 obviously didn’t mention that his numbers on class sizes were being released just before the impact from his own government’s refusal to fund the salary increases awarded by arbitration was to hit the schools.

Within days of this first report it became evident that Edmonton children in schools all over the city were being squeezed into rooms where even the most qualified and professional of teachers could not possibly meet all of their needs.

So out came his use of averages to once more attempt to deny government responsibility for seriously jeopardizing the educational future of all those children who don’t happen to be average and don’t happen to be in average classes.

When releasing those numbers under the claim that they were Average, was Dr. Oberg uninformed, poorly educated in human measurement or purposely misleading the public into imagining that class sizes were not going to be affected by his government’s latest undermining of their resources?

Blair McPherson, Edmonton.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Freddies Diary - Article 2 - February 9, 2004 

The PC governments promised the seniors of Alberta a Safety Net that would included the following:
1. Alberta Assured Income Plan
2. Property Tax Reduction Benefit
3. Seniors' Renters Assistance
4. Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan
5. Alberta Blue Cross
6. Extended Health Benefits Program
7. Long Term Care Centers
8. Seniors Emergency Medical Alert
9. Seniors Independent Living Program
10. Self contained apartment for seniors
11. Lodge Program
12. Home Care
13. Aids to Daily Living Program
14. Family and Community Support Services
15. Transportation Grants

Shortly after Klein's Government came to power in 1993, there was an announcement that five old seniors' benefit programs would be canceled and replaced by a new Program called "Alberta Seniors Benefit". Klein's propaganda machine gave the public the impression that before any cuts would be made to seniors' programs, the government would consult with seniors, and listen and act upon whatever information they obtained from the meetings.

After two years of meetings and $250,000 of taxpayer money, it appears their plans for the cuts were already in place ready to be implemented regardless of the input from seniors. Neil Reimer, the president of the Alberta Council on Aging at the time said of these meetings, "Seniors were mislead. Seniors groups were chastised for telling the truth."

Community Development Minister, Gary Mar, told reporters: "If the threshold needs to be raised, we are prepared to do that. But at the end of the day, we will have to move the money around within programs." This was the first clue that any information gathered at the meetings would make little difference.

The claw back to the seniors' benefit programs began with the February, 1994 budget that called for a cutback of $918 million from the 1993 budget and $185 million of the total would come from five old seniors' benefit programs. The old seniors' benefit programs included the following:

1. The Home Adaptation Program, provided grants of up to $5000 to modify housing for wheelchairs - phased out
2. Seniors independent living program - phased out
3. Seniors with incomes under $25,000 were eligible for up to $4000 for home improvements - phased out.
4. 43% of all seniors had to start paying health insurance premiums.
5. The senior's $650 property tax rebate was phased out partially on July 1/94 and was totally phased our January 1, 1995.
Under the new plan, only seniors earning less than $10,432 received full seniors' benefits. Others with incomes up to $18,400 received some benefit. Income of more than $18,400 received zero benefit. Couples receiving more than $25,000 income were also exempt. These cutbacks came into effect on July 1, 1994.

Senior benefits and programs as promised and delivered prior to 1991 were the corner stone of retirement plans of the majority of Alberta Seniors who had little opportunity to recoup the loss of their promised benefits.
This news printed in 'the Journal' dated February 1994, could assist you with your voting decision at the next election.

Health Care Premiums Make No Sense 

The following letter to our Premier was sent February 6, 2004 by COSA (see below). It supports the position of the Senior’s Action and Liaison Team as expressed in this letter to the Premier of January 30, 2004. If any of these letters to the Premier are answered by the Premier or one of his staff they will be posted here.

February 6, 2004

Hon. Ralph Klein, Premier
Government of Alberta
#307 – 10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B7

Dear Mr. Klein:

It is disappointing to the Coalition of Seniors’ Advocates Association (COSA) Board, members and supporters that your January 4, 2004 speech did not recognize the financial, social and health plight that seniors on fixed incomes are coping with because of the too far, too fast budget cuts to excellent pre 1993/94 seniors programs. Without going into detail, the 1993/94 and subsequent budget cuts have negatively affected the wellbeing of Alberta seniors. Fifty-seven percent of seniors have a gross annual income of $20,000 or less, many below $15,000. Only eight percent of seniors have a gross annual income of $40,000 or more.

The Alberta Seniors and Special Needs Assistance programs are a detriment and do not begin to match the basic financial needs of low income seniors. The ASB Program, which is income tested, discriminates because if a senior’s income is even $10.00 over the threshold amount, he/she does not qualify. Meanwhile, medium income seniors are falling between the cracks. The Alberta Advantage is the Alberta seniors’ disadvantage. As you may recall, before the 1993/94 budget cuts, you personally stated that seniors would not be affected.

To begin repaying the financial shortfalls affecting seniors, we ask that you start by eliminating Alberta Health Care Premiums for all Albertans.

Rationale:

1. Only Alberta and British Columbia residents pay health care premiums that are in reality a tax. Alberta does not have a sales tax, however, Albertans pay an increasing number of user fees in lieu of taxes.

2. One of the reasons that senior’s financial benefits were cut was to help eliminate the annual deficits. The deficits have been eliminated and the Government’s estimated surplus for the first quarter of 2004 is well over $2 billion. It is time to partially reimburse seniors directly by eliminating AHC premiums. This would be a truly visible tax relief.

3. AHC premiums are a regressive tax that particularly affects low and middle income Albertans.

4. AHC premiums are inequitable whereby some Albertans pay, some do not. Keep in mind that Albertans contribute to the taxes that pay the premiums of Members of the Legislative Assembly, provincial employees, etc.

5. Within the framework of the Canada Health Act, Albertans must receive comprehensive, universal, portable and accessible health care even if they do not pay premiums.

6. Elimination of AHC premiums would signify a legacy of your government in next year’s centennial celebration.

Finally, plan ahead for the future retirees. Rather than cutting support for education, health and seniors’ programs, consider increasing revenue. One superb source would be to increase the oil and gas royalties which you, when Energy Minister, cut the levels under the Lougheed and Getty governments.

We look forward to your personal written reply.


Yours sincerely,

Jerry Pitts
Chairman, COSA

Cc: Dr. Raj Pannu, MLA
Dr. Ken Nicol, MLA
Ralph’s World Website
COSA Website

"...we are not Nova Scotia, thank God." - Klein 

Dr. Ken Nicol: "Mr. Speaker, the average premium in Alberta is higher than it is in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or B. C.
If the Conservative government in Nova Scotia can roll back
insurance rates, why can’t you roll back insurance rates in Alberta?"

Premier Klein: "Mr. Speaker, we are not Nova Scotia, thank God. We’re a province where we have no deficit, where we’ve almost eliminated our gross debt, where we have no net debt, where we have the highest standard of living in the country. We are not Nova Scotia. We are Alberta, a have province, a proud province."


Premier Klein, not quite answering the question...at least he knows that Alberta isn't part of Nova Scotia. Thanks for clearing that up, Ralph!!
(From Alberta Hansard, November 18, 2003)

From the horse's mouth... 

"Mr. Speaker, there is no crisis in education."

Premier Klein, responding to then Liberal Leader Ken Nicol's question on the crisis in Alberta's Post-Secondary Education System.

(From Alberta Hansard, November 18, 2003)

Friday, February 06, 2004

A Response -- of sorts 

Dear Mr. Marlowe,
On behalf of Premier Klein, I wish to acknowledge receipt of your recent e-mails. The Premier appreciates you taking the time to share your views with him.

Please be advised that the Premier has had the opportunity to review
your correspondence and has taken the liberty of sharing a copy of your
comments with the Honourable Stan Woloshyn, Minister of Seniors, for his further review as well.

Thank you again for writing.
Sincerely,
James Davis
Deputy Chief of Staff

Above is the only response received so far to "A Letter to Premier Klein re Seniors Benefits" which was originally sent as an e-mail on December 2, 2003 and followed up with a letter which was also published in Ralph's World on January 13, 2004 (see archives).

The letter asked the Premier to publically assure seniors that there would be no further reduction in universal support programs for seniors and to inform them when they can expect the government to start returning, in-part or in-full, the support benefits that were taken from them.

By referring the matter to the Minister of Seniors, who supports the government's move away from universal support programs, it is clear that the Premier wants to avoid dealing with the request without actually saying 'NO'.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Taxed to Death 

Low Taxes a Myth, Except for the Rich - Catherine Ford - Calgary Herald - February 1, 2004

Have a look (click here) at this column by Catherine Ford then read my response.

Catherine, I enjoyed your Sunday column on supposedly low Alberta taxes. Will you be doing a follow up on the additional hidden and not so hidden taxes like the so-called provincial government initiated "fair assessment" property taxes which unfairly target seniors living in what were once considered suburbs but are now taxed as inner city gold mines? Their houses haven't improved but their property value has sky rocketed which may help their children if they bulldoze the family home but it sure doesn't help the senior trying to hold out as long as they can prior to being forced to move into a long term care facility where rents have recently jumped by over 50% to quickly suck up the remainder of their life's savings.

Hopefully if you do a follow up article on taxes you will also add on the not so hidden health care premiums which are worse than the flat tax because with very few bureaucratic triplicate form filling exemptions, they are the same for those on fixed income as they are for Alberta's wealthy elite. This promise breaking tax grab at the expense of the poor and middle classes adds $900 million annually to the provincial general revenue pot which is a much more untraceable " black hole" than our Premier's recent summation of national health care sustainability costs.

Please also include in your hidden taxes category P3 leases which conveniently never show up on government debt ledgers but require Albertans to pay long term rents such as the soon to open South Link Health Centre for which we will be forced to pay an initial upgrading and equipping $10 million fee for a privately owned facility as well as an additional $10 million rent after ten years for a facility we could have built and owned as a sustainable investment for the same $20 million dollars that we're paying in upgrades and rent. Rather than investing for the future the Klein government is forcing Albertans to prop up private for profit companies with our hard earned public dollars in a rent but never own money pit.

Harry B. Chase

Monday, February 02, 2004

Calm Before the Storm? 

Lately, it seems as though I am seeing a little less of the provincial Tories in the news. I know, I know, many of them have just returned from vacation after the fall sitting of the legislature. But I always get a little curious when I don't hear much from them. Are they busy cooking up the next wave of cuts to key areas of our education system? Are they thinking up new ways to sell us the old product - public private partnerships? Are they wanting to keep things quiet (in the hope we will forget) over electricity deregulation and insurance rates hikes? Oops! almost forgot! They froze the rates on insurance increases... that is, after the rates had already jumped significantly for many people.

It could be a bit of all of the above, but usually the third year of a mandate is a bit slower when it comes to anything controversial. I am betting that they are thinking toward the next election cycle, and they can't have any of us mad enough to want to vote for someone else. Aha! I know...could it be that they are thinking of how to make us happy and put us in voter friendly mode? Tax cuts maybe? insurance rebates? electricity rate cuts?

Whatever it is, I'm sure there will be lots of attention and a lot of cheering for the good old boys!

No one knows for sure if this is the calm before the storm, so stay tuned. Regardless of what comes next, I'll keep a raincoat handy.

Freddie's Diary - Article 1 

Welcome to the first installment of Freddie's Diary. Please click here to find out who Freddie is and why Freddie's Diary came into existence.

Prior to 1993, seniors trusted and believed in the of the P.C. Government. The promises were many. Quotes from Ministers such as:

"Programs for seniors emphasizes the government's commitment to meet the crucial needs of our elderly citizens to acknowledge their contributions."
and
"We would like to recognize Alberta's older generation for what they have given so generously over the past years."

Up until 1992/93 all ages of the population looked upon seniors as a valued segment of society. That was before the Klein government's propaganda machine went into warp drive.

It became important for Klein's Government to convince the Alberta population that the cost of seniors' benefits was leaching the life's blood out of Alberta. It was the fault of seniors that children were living in poverty. The propaganda machine attacked teachers, hospital workers, welfare recipients and disabled Albertans. It appeared that seniors were at fault on all counts. Seniors began to believe the lie themselves, certainly younger people did. This propaganda was also coming out of Ottawa, i.e.; "Pensions drain the Social Policy Pool." By Carol Goar - Toronto Star. The federal government wanted to change seniors' programs. Thanks to C.A.R.P., Canada's Association for the FiftyPlus, they did not succeed.

Suddenly seniors were painted as free loaders. Seniors used health care dollars at the expense of younger Albertans. How many times did you personally have this conversation with your younger brethren?

The attitude was that CPP and OAS was a gift paid for by working people not by the seniors themselves. That is the way of propaganda. It sneaks into the belief system and converts the masses before they know what is happening. Once a lie is believed it is very hard to change it and you have to remember the Klein propaganda machine is the best that money can buy.

Wake up Alberta! Seniors paid for their CPP monthly until retirement and are still paying for OAS through their tax dollars the same as non-seniors. Seniors still pay income and property tax, plus GST. Seniors use to get a well-deserved break on their property tax. This quickly ended with the propaganda that the education system was failing because of the seniors' tax break. Seniors paying the education tax portion has not stopped teachers being laid off, the infrastructure of the schools deteriorating or the quality of the education being flushed.

By reading Freddie's Diary, I will show you how Klein and his BIG MACHINE siphoned dollars from seniors' pockets. If you keep voting for these people, you are going to keep getting what you have been getting. Less and less!

Black Health Hole 

When Premier Klein, at the first ministers’ conference, metaphorically referred to the lack of fiscal sustainability of our current health care system as a ‘black hole’, he was actually literally and figuratively summarizing his government’s dismantling and destruction of Alberta’s public system during the past decade.

The black hole metaphor literally describes what was left of the General Hospital that contained newer wings than the Foothills when it was imploded. With every replay of the footage the lack of foresight should cause government supporters to wince. Not content with the loss of one hospital, Calgary’s Conservative MLAs held fire sales for the Holy Cross that was sold for $9 million shortly after a $32 million upgrade and the Grace hospital which ranked among the best specialty service providing hospitals for women in Western Canada was practically given away to private interests. The current cost to replace just one of these prematurely closed facilities in South East Calgary is estimated to be in the $500 million range. To add further insult to injury this hospital is not scheduled to open until 2008. Prior to the most unnecessary closure of these hospitals the bed to patient ratio was 2.4/1000. Today the ratio sits at 1.7/1000, which is among the lowest of Canadian cities.

The closure of the hospitals, like the implosion of the General, produced a tremor or ripple effect. Diagnostic laboratories closed. With the closure of hospitals and labs, medical specialists were forced to look elsewhere for employment while the working conditions for those that remained became more frequently intolerable as the case loads increased. With half of the hospitals gone, ambulances took twice as long to pick up and deliver their patients. Yellow ambulance alerts have now become the norm in Calgary.

Instead of supporting the highly accountable and formerly transparent public system, the Alberta government increased its health care delivery costs by contracting out more expensive services and leasing rather than building needed facilities, which placed further strain on the budget. Despite promises to the contrary the Alberta government increased health care premiums by 30% resulting in an additional annual tax grab of $900 million. The most vulnerable Albertans, our fixed income seniors not only were forced to forfeit their medical coverage but saw what was left of their savings disappear when their long term care rent was increased by over 50%.

With all this additional income you would think that line-ups would be reduced, facilities upgraded, health care professionals would be attracted back by the booming Alberta economy but that has not been the case. Despite the 20% population growth in the past decade more hospitals and schools for that matter, have been closed than opened. Delaying renovations and repairs will ultimately lead to more costs to be borne in the future.

With a budget surplus rumoured to be approaching $7 billion by the end of this fiscal year as well as the $200 million transfer from the Federal government announced on Friday, January 30,2004 the Klein government has been given the chance to correct its past costly mistakes and reinvest in universal, transparent, accountable and sustainable public health care. If on the other hand it continues to undermine the system through further privatization in the form of contracting out or expensive P3 leases which the next generation will continue to pay for without ever owning, then Albertans should cut their losses in the next provincial election before the rest of their public investments disappear down that black hole of secrecy and mismanagement that Premier Klein described.

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