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 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

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