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

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

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Monday, March 08, 2004

Where's the Progressive in Progressive Conservative? 

Below is a letter sent to Premier Klein from Albertan Michael Marlowe with a copy to Ralph's World. We have entered the letter into our state-of-the-art Politician's Response and Tracking System, better known as PRATS. Click here to see how our politicians are faring.

To :premier@gov.ab.ca
CC :dave.hancock@gov.ab.ca, sharee.mastre@gov.ab.ca
Sent :March 6, 2004

Subject :Health Care Premiums, Senior Support Programs , Minimum Wages & Corporate Subsidies

Dear Premier Klein and all Caucus Members,

One individual, in his recent presentation to the Government MLA Committee on Strengthening Alberta's Role in Confederation, referred to emphasizing the 'progressive side of our Progressive Conservative Government'.

This reference and the response of the Hon. Clint Dunford to our constant question involving the minimum wage in Alberta, prompted this letter to you and caucus members. It appears to many that no change will take place in the following areas until there is a change in governance in our province.

1. The Minimum Wage
Minister Dunford indicated that the minimum wage is a first step in Alberta's labour market that offers job and wage opportunities. He claims our province prides itself in focusing to insure Albertans have skills to meet the demands of a strong labour market and yet our government actually turns its back on
those employees, albeit only 1.2% of the labour force who receive the lowest minimum wage in Canada - $5.90 an hour for the services such workers provide. By not increasing the minimum wage, even though the Mayors and Councillors/Aldermen representing well over 80% of Alberta's population last
fall at their annual Urban Municipal Association's meeting passed a motion encouraging your government increase the minimum wage in two stages to $6.90 an hour since they believe it would be economically good for all concerned, your government Mr. Premier vetoed such thought and continues to do so.

Is it because, even though many caucus members may have supported increasing the minimum wage, your comments publicly had an affect on their decision that although you personally do not support increasing the minimum wage, you would go along with what caucus members decide. Did you really believe caucus members would approve an increase knowing you made your personal feelings in
this regards publicly? After all Mr. Premier, you also did state publicly that only one voice counted in caucus and that was your voice, and with such a comment, surely, even though there was support for an increased minimum wage by the Mayors and Councillors/Aldermen, your voice publicly took precedence with caucus members.

It appears your government would rather have low-income Albertans apply to the government for low-income support than allowing them to enjoy a reasonable minimum wage for the services they provide. A reasonable minimum wage would no doubt reduce the number of such applications for support.

2. Health Care Premiums:
How can emphasize the progressive side of your government when your government imposes a regressive tax - Health Care Premium tax - which tax doesn't exist is most other provinces in our country. That tax was even increased not too many years ago.

With progressiveness usually come equality in treatment of all Albertans. Do you believe this occurs in Alberta?

We have many seniors as one example, similar to many other Albertans, whose incomes are barely over $27 thousand annually. They are required to pay full Health Care Premiums and even though at least 45% of their income are spent on one form of tax or another, they find their tax dollars subsidize in part or in full Premium Costs for our MLAs, municipal elected officials, teachers, nurses and all other public sector workers. This, in spite of the fact that all of these latter individuals have double and quadruple the incomes these individuals have. Is this an equitable situation for any progressive Conservative
Gov't to have?

3. Have we really gotten out of business of being in business?
Or has our government developed a way to provide grant dollars or subsidies indirectly in corporate welfare to Corporations, when our government not so many years ago stated they would stay out of business.

When oil was only $10 a barrel several years ago, companies in the oil-sands were making ends meet and made a few dollars. Now that oil has been over $25 a barrel for a number of years and over $30 a barrel for over a year, newspaper reports of profits of over $1 billion dollars are becoming more common every month. And yet, our government has been granting some of these corporations royalty holidays in excess of $330 million annually, Albertans rightfully owned royalty dollars. These royalty holiday dollars would go a long way in providing Health Care Premiums for all Albertans.

4. Seniors Eliminated Support Programs
In 1995, Mr. Premier, you at that time were quoted as saying your government would review the drastically reduced senior support programs that had taken place. This review has carried on for almost 10 years with further reduced senior support programs taking place. We recently received a letter from the Seniors' Minister that these programs are under review. Still?

Your failure to respond personally as requested in our letter to you early in December or even invite seniors to meet with you gives many seniors the impression your government has no intentions to return in part or in full any of the universal senior support programs that your government eliminated and you are not prepared to assure seniors publicly that no further reductions will take place in what support programs remain.

Your government, like no other government in Canada, has been blessed with resource revenues the envy of all other governments. But, the only ones who have benefited are those primarily in the public sector, teachers, doctors, nurses, and those Alberta with more than reasonable average incomes through the flat tax system. Public sector salaries a few decades ago averaged 10% below comparable work in the private sector because of the benefits including pensions provided them. Today, public sector benefits have increased over the years and their salaries are now averaging 15% higher than in the private sector.

Today, minimum wage earners and seniors who have lost their support programs and are on fixed incomes, are the only ones not benefiting from the Alberta Advantage and the blessings of the increased revenues pouring into government coffers.

It appears Mr. Premier that many of us will have to look to supporting change in governance as your government continues to cater to corporations and those Albertans who have continuously enjoyed incomes in the higher income brackets.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Marlowe

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