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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

Friday, April 30, 2004

A Virtual Trip with Premier Klein 

Premier Klein has taken a lot of heat recently from Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft on his use of government aircraft. Click here and here for details. The premier has made it quite clear that he needs the fleet of four aircraft, eighteen staff, and a $4.3 million dollar a year budget because a) they won't let him smoke on commercial flights and he likes to smoke and b) they make him wait in lines at commercial airports and he doesn't like to wait in lines. Seems reasonable to me.

However, the Premier also realizes that this is one of those Alberta Advantages that only he and his close friends get to benefit from so he has asked the folks at Ralph's World if they can create a sort of virtual Alberta Advantage on the web that will enable all Albertans to share with the premier, the joys of having your own fleet of airplanes which is paid for by the taxpayer.

We have gladly obliged.

What we have decided to do is take you on a number of virtual business trips that the Premier makes with the Premier acting as your guide and mentor. That way, when you come in after a hard day on the tractor, or after finishing the late shift of your second minimum wage job, you can log on to Ralph's World and relax as Premier Klein takes you on an exciting trip on one of our aircraft. If you find your blood boiling at the thought of $4.3 million a year being spent on the Premier's planes it helps to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and pretend that they are your planes. And they are sort of. You pay for them; you just don't get to use them. And that's why the Premier wants you to come along with him on these virtual trips. It's his way of sharing.

For our very first trip we are going to fly to the beautiful Nova Scotia Resort of Fox Harb'r. You can click here if you want to see their website. This was a place that the Premier recently visited and he likes it very much, particularly because it has it's own airstrip and he can almost fly right to his suite.

All set? Buckle up! Here we go! Hint. Use your mouse to pretend you are
actually flying the plane! Scroll down to start your trip.

Hi there Albertans. My name is Ralph Klein and I am the Premier of Alberta. I'm going to take you flying with me on one of my our planes. You can call me Captain Ralph, King Ralph, Mr. Premier, or Mr. Klein. Just don't call me Ralph.This is going to be a real trip for me and a virtual trip for you. I know I'm going to have fun and I bet you do too.See all those French fried potatoes? Well I ordered two plates of them. A real one for me and a virtual one for you. We need to eat a lot of food on our important business trips but I think that's part of the fun. Don't you think it's fun too?Enjoy!

Private Tours

Today we are going to take my favourite aircraft. I park it in the reflecting pool just north of the legislature buildings. You know, where people have those demonstration things. Captain Ralph's an important busy person so he can't spend time going to the airports where ordinary people go.Last time when we took off we knocked three silly seniors who were demonstrating about something right into the pool. Guess they won't be needing our government nursing homes anymore. Ha! Ha! Ha!.Buckle up! Here we go! Smoke 'em if you have 'em.

Accomodations Photo

Here we are at Fox Harb'r. It has a pretty golf course and light house and boats. It is in Nova Scotia where I like to do a lot of my business. What a Premier does most is network. Can you say network? Would you like to stop here and help the Premier network? I knew you would.I sometimes network sixteen hours a day which is very tiring. That's why I like to network at a place that has a golf course so I can relax after work.

Relaxing Picture

Here we are in the networking room at Fox Harb'r. The nice lady is called Mimi and she helps me and you and the people we network with relax. She brings us anything we want to drink. Would you like to have a virtual martini? Have as many as you want. What I love to have is a nice cold near beer.It is always important to give helpers like Mimi a big big tip because they will be even nicer to us next time we come here and it makes as feel very important. Do you feel important? I know I do.

Casual DInning Picture

Here we are relaxing after a hard day of networking and golf. This lady's name is Doreen and she helps us relax too. Remember! Don't forget to give Doreen a big big tip!Sometimes I wear a disguise so that people won't recognize that it's really me. Here I am with my favourite grey wig and fake goatee. I keep lots of costumes in the plane. Why don't you go put one of them on and dress up with me?

Well here we are on our way back to Alberta. We are stopping of in Toronto to take in a Rolling Stones concert. We can do some more networking here but you have to make sure you don't talk to any Liberals. That lady beside me for example, she looks like a Liberal. Make sure you don't give her any tips at all.I'll say bye bye now and let you make your own way home. Hope you enjoyed your trip and that you now have an idea of how hard the Premier works.Hope you'll join me on my next trip. Me and Minister Mark will be going to Mexico.Hosta la Vista!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Secret Video from Tory Convention at Banff Springs Hotel 

Some nut managed to sneak into the Premier's hospitality suite at the plush Banff Springs Hotel last weekend and passed on this secret video they filmed. It captures the Premier in a candid moment talking to the Tory faithful.

It was filmed from a discrete location under the hors d'oeuvres table so the audio is a little muffled. It says: "We convince Martha and Henry that they have to pay more for health care, power and gas. That leaves more money from our oil for you, my loyal Tory supporters." He forgot car insurance and nursing homes for those Marthas and Henrys that drive and get old.

You have until May 12th to view the video before it vanishes into the ether. Don't tell anyone about it though - it's secret.

Click here to view the video. Make sure to turn up the volume.

If you come across any videos of our politicians at work, pass them on.

NorQuest uninvites opposition MLAs 

This article appeared in the Edmonton Journal on April 28, 2004 and was sent to me by a reader of Ralph's World. One has to wonder what secret things would be going on at an event like this that opposition MLA should not know about. Perhaps honorary degrees in caretaking, custodial, or housekeeping certification are being to offered Tory MLAs in exchange for legislation favorable to NorQuest College.

Kelly Cryderman
The Edmonton Journal
April 28, 2004

EDMONTON - Invitations sent to opposition MLAs for a reception this evening at NorQuest College have been withdrawn because the event is exclusively for Tories.

NorQuest College said as a result of a clerical error, invitations went to Liberal and New Democrat MLAs for tonight's event, co-hosted by Bow Valley College.

New Democrat MLA Brian Mason said it is particularly galling that his party has been turned away from this event, since NorQuest is a public institution.

"What it really says to me is that the Conservative party believes it has an exclusive mandate to govern and to represent public institutions, and they're not going to share even a little bit of their power with anybody."

Wednesday-night MLA receptions are held in Edmonton most weeks when the legislature is in session. Conservative MLAs are wined and dined, lobbied and given presentations by various post-secondary institutions, industry associations and companies that host the events.

NorQuest said the opposition members' invitations to the reception were withdrawn as soon as the mistake was discovered, without any prompting from the Conservative government.

Government whip Carol Haley didn't know the specifics Tuesday, but said if someone at her office had known the invitations went to other parties, they would have made it clear to NorQuest that opposition MLAs are not welcome.

"My staff would have reacted to that by saying this was supposed to be a government MLA reception."

Haley said she's not sure whether her staff would have asked the college to withdraw the invitation. "I have young staff, and yes, anything is possible. They're young guys and they're trying hard to do their job properly. If it offended anybody, then I'm sorry."

Haley said groups are free to set up receptions for all the parties anytime they want, but "the point of going through my office is they wanted it to be a government reception, not an opposition reception."

John Carpay, Alberta head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said his organization has supported numerous Klein government policies. However, he disagrees with the exclusivity of MLA receptions.

"It should be for all MLAs out of respect for the 38 per cent of Albertans who did not vote for Ralph Klein's government," Carpay said.

"There's nothing wrong with these meetings, provided all 83 MLAs are invited."

kcryderman@thejournal.canwest.com

© The Edmonton Journal 2004

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 14 

COULD WE EVER MATCH NORWAY?
Alberta and Norway share similar comparative advantage: Oil, gas and human development. Norway and Alberta produce almost the same volume of oil and natural gas. Norway is now ranked number one in the world according to the United Nation's Human Development Index (HDI); based on my preliminary provincial HDI estimates, Alberta would rank with Norway. However, comparing our respective management of oil and gas natural capital assets reveals important differences worth debating.

Last week Alberta released its Budget 2002 estimates and forecast oil and natural gas revenues (royalties and other taxes) of $5.77 billion for fiscal year 2001/02 based on the government's 2001-02 oil prices forecast of $30.63 Cdn per barrel (Alberta wellhead price). By comparison, Norway is forecasting a net cash flow from state petroleum activities of roughly $32.56 billion (189 billion Krona) from North Sea oil and gas production based on oil price forecast of the equivalent of $31.01 per barrel.

In 2001-02 Norwegians may realize more than five times more revenue per barrel of oil and gas produced than Alberta: $19.65 for every Norwegian barrel of oil and gas produced versus $3.88 pr barrel of Alberta oil and gas produced. If Albertans received the Norwegian rate of return on their oilsands and natural gas production, $29.2 billion in oil and gas revenues would be flowing to government coffers in 2001-02, or $23.4 billion more than is budgeted.

That is more than enough money to pay for increased teachers salaries, reduced class room sizes, reduced healthcare premiums and urban transportation infrastructure and carbon reduction technologies that might satisfy the Kyoto protocol objectives. True, Alberta is not Norway. Of the estimated $32.5 billion Cdn in Norwegian oil and gas revenues, 46.4% is expected from the State's Direct Financial Interest (SDFI) in the North Sea oilfields through Statoil (Norway's national oil company). 2.1% is Statoil stock dividends and the remaining 51.5% will come from royalties, a special profits tax, corporate taxes, area fees and carbon tax.

Alberta has no direct financial interest in oilsands, or any special profit tax nor a carbon tax. More over, Norway produces more oil but less natural gas than Alberta, with crude oil fetching a higher price then natural gas these days. Yet Norway and Alberta are comparable.

Norway has 4.5 million people; Alberta 3.0 million. Norway will produce 1.654 billion barrels (oil equivalents) of oil and natural gas in 2001; Alberta will produce 1.485 billion barrels. Norway produces more oil (3.337 million barrels per day) versus Alberta's 1.490 million barrels per day. However, Alberta produces more natural gas --5,342 billion mcf, versus Norway's 2393 billion mcf. Alberta's oilsands contain recoverable reserves of 300 billion barrels, more than Saudi Arabia's reserves of 240 billion barrels. Norway's GDP per capita is $35 955 versus Alberta's $32 233 per capita. Each Norwegian will realize $7 236 in oil and gas revenues while each Albertan will realize only $1 916. Norway's growing Petroleum Fund is estimated at $54 billion while Alberta's Heritage Fund languishes at roughly $12 billion.

So what's Norway's secret of success? The Norwegian government invested in the North Sea oil and gas reserves development through Statoil. It is currently reaping a huge revenue stream in the form of a State's Direct Financial Interest and dividends from Statoil (more than half of the 189 billion Krona from the total oil and gas revenue). Alberta also invested heavily in oilsands technology over the years, yet, in 2001, I estimate the government will earn an estimated $0.98 per barrel in royalties.

By comparison, in 1996-97 when the price of oil was roughly $26 per barrel, oilsands royalties were estimated $2.95 per barrel. The drop in royalties reflects, in part, the impact of the "generic" oilsands royalty regime that took effect in 1997. Under the new oilsands royalty regime oilsands producers pay a base royalty of 1% of the gross value of production benefiting from a capital cost allowance that allows them to write off close to 100% of their new oilsands capital investments against revenues in the determination of their royalties payable.

The oilsands royalty structure means that Albertans could be waiting years before they see a revenue stream as healthy as historical rates and may never see the rates of return Norwegians are experiencing today. Could Albertans get more from their comparative advantage in black-gold assets? The Norwegian benchmark serves as an important reminder that Alberta might do more with its advantages. Perhaps we can learn more about the Norwegian advantage and their approach to fiscal and resource management.
Mark Anielski - Alberta economist, and advisor to governments and business on performance measurement. Mar. 26, 2002. EJ

I imagine Klein and his government's answer to this concept would be Ya But, Ya But. "We had to give away the store, otherwise our Big Business cronies would never have consented to invest in the oilsands." It is my humble opinion that the Klein government does not wish to recognize or assist, children in poverty, educational requirements, high University tuition, disabled people, people on Social Assistance, Seniors or Health Care. If they give all valuable assets away they will not have funds to address the needs of Albertans.
Remember Mulrooney(the ultimate Conservative) said, "Canadians are ungovernable because they are too well educated and too well fed." Isn't it about time we got paid for the resource that every Albertan owns? Exercise your vote in the next election.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Equality under the Charter non-existent in Alberta 

This was received at Ralph's World editorial desk a couple of days ago signed Stephen - a disillusioned Alberta senior. It chronicles his interaction with the Alberta Connects website concerning Health Care Premiums.

On April 16th, this disillusioned senior logged onto the Alberta Connects website AlbertaConnects@gov.ab.ca and posed the following question: "When is it our government's intentions to eliminate Health Care Premiums for all Alberta seniors regardless of income?"

Alberta Health and Wellness a few days later responded as follows:

"Thank you for contacting Alberta Connects. You inquired as to why Alberta charges health care insurance. While other provinces have implemented alternate methods to generate revenue for health care, Albertans share the cost of the Alberta Health insurance program, through payments of premiums. These premiums not only support a part of the program costs, but also raise individual's awareness of the overall cost of providing health care in this province. As a senior citizen and a resident of Alberta, a registrant is entitled to premium-free Blue Cross when they turn 65 and their date of birth is validated. However, senior citizens are required to pay Alberta Health Insurance premiums. Lower income seniors may be eligible to have their premiums eliminated or reduced as determined by the Alberta Seniors Benefit program."

As this senior did not get a direct response to his question posed on Alberta Connects, he replied as follows:

"Thank you for your response. Actually, I would have been surprised if you had sent anything different from what the Seniors' Minister keeps repeating and repeating.

It is sad that this province, blessed with resource revenues for countless years, the envy of all other provincial jurisdictions, continues to be one of only two provinces where premiums are required to be paid. We all know that nothing comes free, but in a province that has been in a debt-free financial position for a number of years, our MLAs under their current leadership should be ashamed of themselves for not eliminating this regressive tax.

It seems that it is all right for public sector workers who received the highest increases in salaries during the six year period l996 - 2002, averaging 45%, with public sector workers in other jurisdictions receiving 18.6% in Saskatchewan and less in the remaining provinces would have their Health Care Premiums costs subsidized by our tax dollars. Likewise our MLAs whose incomes are double or treble and more the incomes of many seniors and other Albertans, have their Health Care Premiums paid for in part by our tax dollars, and the rest of us have to pay full Health Care Premiums, and that is considered by our MLAs as all right.

All the rest of us can only say 'SHAME'.

By all means, please share these comments with the MLAs of our Party. It seems that neither they nor the public sector workers seemed concerned with this horrible inequity in this great province of ours. And, further explanations as provided in response to our request only verifies the well orchestrated response we always receive, no matter how we plead for equity by our government.

Stephen - a disillusioned Alberta senior

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 13 

UNDERWORKED MLAs DON'T DESERVE GENEROUS PAY PACKAGE
Never mind that MLAs haven't sat in the legislature for five months and may only reconvenes for a few weeks before year's end. Lets overlook the fact that most of the Tory types in this bloated legislature have committee pay perks or sit as $44 700 ministers in one of the country's largest cabinets.

Lets not debate the justification for having one third of their $57 502 MLA paycheque as a tax free expense allowance even though they pocket "subsistence" funds to cover job expenses. In their bid to be just like everybody else on the government payroll, MLAs deserve to have their 5%pay cut restored.

Their paycheques were the first to get hit by the deficit-slashing axe and they are the last to pocket the deficit-elimination dividend. So bravo! Good show and all that, and might I add that Ken Kowalski - former bureaucrat, cabinet minister, deputy premier, demoted backbencher and now Speaker--should add bargaining agent to his resume.

The Mighty K scoured the country for information to create a hard-luck case for Alberta MLAs that make it practically impossible for the legislative member service's committee NOT to approve his recommendation. His fellow MLAs rank seventh from the top in remuneration among elected provincial officials in Canada. They are the only ones denied a pension and they've been left in the dust of booming private-sector salary hikes. It was enough to make you weep at the injustice of it all.

After a two-hour discussion, the committee did much more than give MLAs their 1993 salaries back. The 10 MLAs on this cozy little all-party committee decreed that every April Fool's Day from now on will be MLA Pay Hike Day. That's the day when MLAs will automatically pocket a pay increase equal to Alberta's "average weekly earnings" increase as tracked by Statistics Canada.

Now that's not the way severely normal Albertans get a raise, which is why it may cause more problems than it cures. Under this formula, MLAs would have automatically received a 4% pay hike last year and 4.2% the year before--raises that were double the provincial cost of living increase. The MLA hike will automatically become the opening demand of all public service unions. MLAs who cut their pay to lead by example will quickly discover they have legislated a leadership role for themselves in the pay increase field.

Then there's the severance or resettlement or transition allowance increase the committee approved Monday--call it what you will but it's still a surrogate pension. The new deal doubles the kissoff. When MLAs leave or get fired by the voters to two months pay for every year of elected service up to a maximum of 12 years.

Frankly two years' salary is a lot of hang time for any MLA on the hunt for a clover landing while strapped into a golden government parachute. Any MLA worth his/her salt will find a job in less time than it takes to elect a replacement. Most line up a soft landing long before they decide not to seek re-election. Fact is, being an MLA is part-time work anyway. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a backbencher from working toward a private-sector retirement while on the public payroll, particularly in Legislature Light Alberta. Besides, there's reason it’s call public service. It shouldn't require a payoff of up to $115 000 (at 1998 salary levels) to push then out of the plane.

The bottom line is that MLAs reclaimed their pay cut to be like everybody else in public service and immediately gave themselves a sweetheart deal denied to everybody else. If voters were negotiating this deal instead of Kowalski and his fellow beneficiaries, MLA raises would match the year's lowest public sector settlement and there'd be NO severance package. Why? Well, people who quit voluntarily in the real world don't get severance packages. And anyone dumped by the voters was fired with cause and shouldn't qualify for a golden parachute. Those who don't like these terms can elect to do the honorable thing and refuse to seek the job from us, the employers. Don Martin, Oct. 9, 98, Calgary Herald.

It appears that none of the Progressive Conservative persons elected in the last elections understands why we, the public, elected them. We expected them to take care of the interests of the population and the province. Instead they spend 90% of their time planning on how they could get themselves a nice raise as well as take care of their retirement. Do we need a change. I believe Albertans need a break. Please exercise your vote.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Time for Premier Klein's government to disclose expenses 

The following letter appeared in the April 13th Edmonton Journal and was sent to Ralph's World for posting. For other stories related to expense accounts and Tory Ministers click here.

Prime Minister Paul Martin must be commended for imposing his government's expense-disclosure policy in the mandatory releasing of expense accounts for Cabinet Ministers and top civil servants as part of his government's various accountability policies to Canadian taxpayers.

It has been many years since the Alberta government did likewise for all MLAs with the government' annual reports, which was discontinued by the current government several years ago for reasons not fully shared with Alberta taxpayers.

Now is the time for Premier Klein to show similar accountability to Alberta taxpayers by also introducing a policy for mandatory annual public release of expense accounts not only for all MLAs but also for Alberta's top civil servants.

S. Michael Marlowe

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 12 

TOO MANY MLAs IN TIME OF RESTRAINT
After the 1991/92 provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) disintegrated (each of its five members decided to write his/her own final report because none could agree with the others on the shape of the province's 83 ridings). A committee of Tory MLAs (the opposition Liberals refused to participate) was forced to redraw the constituencies in time for the June 1993 general election, the Legislature decided to lay out very specific parameters within which the 1995/96 EBC must work.

Limiting the EBC's scope was probably wise, given that this is the fourth examination of constituency borders in just seven years, and a fifth is required by law following the 2001 national census. Unfortunately, the narrow focus means the EBC has had to reject several intelligent proposals that fall outside its mandate--to propose 83 electoral districts. The voting populations of which should not vary so much above or below the provincial average that they place at risk to any Albertan's right to effective representation in the Legislature.

One of the most meritorious of these proposals came from retired Edmonton business man Lyle Mair, who made a presentation to the EBC on behalf of himself and a few friends. No special interest, no well financed lobby, just citizen Mair exercising his basic freedom to offer a contrary opinion. He wonders why in this time of restraint that the government isn't considering reducing the number of MLAs. After all, Mair says, to cut costs, the number of school boards has been reduced by two-thirds. Hospital boards have been regionalized for the same reason. So why not consolidate ridings?

Each MLA has at least two offices, one in Edmonton, and one or more in his or her riding. There are salaries and benefits, not only for the MLA, but also for support staff, not to mention telephones, travel expenses, tax-tree allowances, extra pay for sitting on committees, office supplies, office equipment and a host of other costs. In all, each MLA costs taxpayers over $200 000 per year. By Mair's calculations, Albertans are already over-represented. In both Edmonton and Calgary, for instance the number of MLAs exceeds the number of councilors.

Ontario's 130 provincial constituencies contain an average of 70 000 voters. There are 52 000 in each Quebec's 125 seats. And BC, with its larger population (3.7 million to Alberta's 2.6 million), not only has fewer seats at 75, but has more than 50% more voters per district. Alberta, with about 31 000 voters per riding would need only 36 MLAs if it had the same per capita as Ontario. It would need just 52 if each Albertan were to be as well represented as each British Columbian.

Saskatchewan trimmed its MLAs' ranks by eight before its last election. And as Mair points out, Alberta reduced the number from 56 to 52 in 1921 and from 53 to 49 in 1940. Perhaps the time has arrived to do it again. After all roads, telephones and other lines of communication are so advanced that representing geographically large riding is no longer such an ordeal.

Merely reducing the number from 83 to 65, (the number proposed by an ad hoc committee of Tory back-benchers in 1992) would save tax payers $3.6 million a year in direct costs and countless millions more in business grants and public works projects, that politicians feel the need to bring to their ridings in order to win re-election. Better yet make the job of MLA part-time again, as it was before the Lougheed era. If MLAs had to have other jobs and spent more time at home than in Edmonton, there would be fewer laws and fewer grandiose schemes to use government power in futile attempts to solve all the problems of the world.

In Montana, for example, state legislators are allowed to deliberate for no more than 90 days every other year. (Four times in the past decade and a half, legislators have asked voters for permission to sit longer and 4 times they have been turned down). As a result, per capita spending by Montana government is about 40% of the Alberta government's, after factoring in the rate exchange and Alberta's universal health care plan.

Before the next EBC is struck likely in 2002/03, Albertans need debate thoroughly the level of government they want. Even after the Klein revolution, government Alberta will be too big for many. Lorne Gunter, June 20, 1996, EJ

Go ahead, read this article again. This says that Alberta has far too many MLAs as compared to other provinces. Think of the good that could be done with the money saved by having less MLAs than we have now. Even the PART-TIME suggestion sounds feasible. These are suggestions of what could happen if we were to get serious about change. We Albertans will soon have the opportunity to VOTE FOR CHANGE - LET'S DO IT!

SAYING NO TO GAMBLING PROFITS 

This letter sent in response to Journal Editorial April 14/04

As a regular reader and a dyed-in-the-wool old Protestant, I appreciate your giving editorial space to what the Knights of Columbus have done about gambling under the pretext of charity. I am, however, deeply disappointed that whoever wrote the editorial paid such scant attention to the reality of where gambling funds actually come from. I'm sure that it was the intention of the Knights of Columbus to take a stand against the use and abuse of people's illusion that you can get rich quick when, in fact, all gambling profits come from the losses of people, most of whom, almost certainly need that money for more worthwhile purposes including things like food rent and children's clothes.

To quote our Premier as a guide to responsible behavior is like quoting the President of a tobacco company on the merits of smoking as a contributor to good health. If gambling is really just entertainment and not a source of funds his government uses to buy votes then why is his government so involved in promoting gambling? Because they care about charity? As they say, give me a break!

I suggest someone at the Journal look up Hansard to see how our Premier justifies pouring money into horse racing while short changing school children and raising fees for elder care.

Just thought I'd let you know the impression of a life long service provider.

Sincerely A. Blair McPherson

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 11 

KLEIN CHALLENGED OVER CUTS TO SENIORS' BENEFITS
Premier Ralph Klein was challenged at a senior's centre Thursday for his government's cuts to the programs for older people. "You've got a lot of nerve coming here after what you did to us," said a retired civil servant. "I served my country (as a soldier) and faithfully as a Government Servant for 28 years. I was hoping for a decent retirement." He estimated his cost of living has risen 30% or more because of the cuts made to seniors' benefits and programs by the Conservatives since 1992.

Klein was visiting the centre as an early launch to the International Year of the Older Persons, a global designation in 1999 intended to promote respect for older people. The premier credited seniors for their role in developing the province. "We owe much of our quality of life today to our seniors." He said during a speech at the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization. Lethbridge Herald, Oct. 2, 98

GIVE SENIORS WHAT IS THEIRS, NOT JUST SOOTHING WORDS
Any of us could have written the dignitaries' speeches for the Edmonton kickoff of the United Nations International Year of Older Persons (IYOP). They were all about recognition of seniors' contribution to the community; strengthening our reputation around the world as a caring society.

The most sensible statement came from white-haired Rose Rosenberger; on behalf of Mayor Bill Smith. "Why should we have to do this?" Indeed why should this be necessary? Hazel Wilson, Past President of Retired and Semi Retired believes, "Society generally doesn't respect seniors."

So what would we like other than a declaration and soothing words? For starters, if the city would reinstate free bus passes for seniors who need them. Don't send Shirley McClellan's representative to tell us how great seniors are. Give us what is rightfully ours, not fancy words and UN flags. If nothing locally, provincially or federally changes, then I make my own proclamation. I hereby nominate 1999 as year of SITS (Sock It To Seniors). If governments would give us what we need, what we paid for and what is rightfully ours, Rose Rosenberger could be right. We wouldn't need to do this. November, 1998, Edith Kirby, EJ

GIVE SENIORS BACK MONEY THEY LOST
The Members of the Legislative Assembly set an example by taking a 5% reduction in pay(1993-94), which was followed by our government imposing a similar reduction in pay percentage for public sector employees. Many seniors lost benefits that were provided to all seniors, well in excess of the percentage lost by MLAs and public sector workers.

Now that most public sector employees have received, through the collective bargaining process, the 5% in lost pay together with further increase in pay when the new collective agreements have been signed. Now that the governing party has retroactively to Oct. 1 returned the Members of the Legislative Assembly the said 5% in pay. Now that your government will be providing all MLAs with future pay adjustments that will be tied to the annual change in the average weekly earnings of Albertans as reported by Statistics Canada. The first of such adjustments to commence April 1, 1999. The MLAs' severance pay (initially implemented as a re-location allowance) will be doubled to a maximum two year's salary or more than $115,000.

Once raises take effect will the Premier please tell those thousands of seniors who lost full or partial benefits. Benefits that were enjoyed by all Alberta seniors when they can expect to be treated as fairly as the employees in the public sector, and MLAs. When will they have their reduced or eliminated benefits returned to them? SM Marlowe, Oct 13, 98, EJ

SENIORS POVERTY DEPLORED, RRSP DEDUCTION TARGETED
A federal advisory body wants the government to cut RRSP tax breaks for richer Canadians to pay for an increase in old age security for the poor. Contrary to popular opinion, the war on poverty among seniors is not yet over, " the National Council on Welfare said in a report Monday.

"The sad truth about the last several years is that most governments have been more interested in extracting money from seniors than helping them maintain a decent standard of living." Even the CPP and QP plans which were designed to replace up to 25% of earnings up to the average industrial wage, are not enough to keep most seniors out of poverty, it said.

Employer pension plans and RRSPs work well, the council said, but only for those who have access to or can afford them. Just over 40% of employees are covered by company pension plans, a proportion that drops steadily to only 4 % for those earning under $10 000 a year. Aug 24, 99, Ottawa, Southam News

NATIONS ENCOURAGED TO PROTECT THEIR SENIORS
Nations need to do more to protect their older citizens and to involve them in all aspects of life, a global gathering on aging declared Wednesday at the close of the three-day conference. The declaration adopted by the Fourth Global Conference of the Montreal based International Federation on Aging calls on the United Nations to declare a "Decade of Older Persons" and for each member state to adopt a national plan on aging. September 9, 99, The Montreal Gazette

OTTAWA GIVES SENIORS A $135 RAISE ON Jan. 1st FEW SENIORS WILL GET $135 PENSION INCREASE Ottawa is not giving seniors an increase of $135 as suggested in a headline Jan. 1. The only people who will get that increase in the CPP are those who retire in 2000 after contributing the maximum every year since the plan started.

In eight years as a volunteer senior financial adviser, I never met one. The more likely increase will be $90 or 1.8% for the majority of seniors with low incomes. Seniors with no other income will get an increase of 2% in their supplement. Only 4% of Alberta seniors get the maximum supplement. Residential phone rates and natural gas prices have both increased at higher rates so seniors will have less discretionary income.

Seniors with incomes over $26,000 per year have their old age security reduced according to their income levels. The Alberta government adds some money but that is reduced as seniors get income from other sources. Supplemental incomes are reduced at rates up to 90% for sums that seniors generate for their own resources. These penalties in excess of the highest income rates in Canada encourage seniors at low-income levels to get rid of their assets. That is bad policy practiced by both federal and Alberta levels of government, December 31, 1999, Bill Daly, EJ

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Royalty Holiday for Tarsands Projects 

The Klein government brought in the "generic royalty regime" back in 1996 to encourage oilsands development. It provided oilsands developers pretty much a royalty holiday until their cost were recovered. At that time, their royalty fee to the Alberta government would jump from 1% of net revenues to 25% of net revenues. According to an article in the Edmonton Journal by Graham Thompson on April 8, 2004 this currently costs the Alberta treasury about 1.4 billion dollars a year in royalty income.

Many people (click here) have questioned whether Premier Klein needed to be so generous with our money in order to incent these companies. We'll never know. However, there are two important questions that need to be answered if Albertans are to feel confident that the Klein government isn't giving away the store today.

First, why do we the taxpayer have to pick up the cost of massive cost overruns in the construction of plant expansions. The overrun on Syncrude's latest expansion is anticipated to $2.1 billion over the planned cost of $5.7 billion dollars. That's a 36% planning error. Syncrude should fund their bad planning out of company profits, not out of royalties that belong to Albertans.

Secondly, what controls does the Alberta government have in place to make sure that costs are properly allocated between expansion projects that are eligible for the 1% royalty holiday and new projects that have to pay royalties at 25%. For example, according to a recent story in the Calgary Herald, Suncor's chief executive Rick George picked up $2.35 million dollars in salary and bonuses last year. What proportion of this was expensed against expansion projects (1% royalty) vs. new projects (25% royalty). And his salary is just a minute portion of Suncor's expenses which need to be allocated.

Energy Minister Murray Smith is currently discussing with Suncor whether the 1% or the 25% royalty applies for their Firebag project. Hopefully when he resolves this, he will answer these two critical questions to the satisfaction of all Albertans.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

PREMIER'S PERFORMANCE AIN'T PRETTY #7 

Alberta Hansard March 30/04

Peoples Rep Taft: “..... a new company named The Alberta Oil Sands Transportation Corporation could soon be overseeing a railroad project worth $1.8 Billion, but as far as we know none of the leaders of this corporation have experience running railroads, so, frankly, the Liberal Opposition is concerned that it’s the Alberta taxpayers who will get railroaded here. My questions are to the Premier, what can the Premier tell us about this company, which was only registered last Tuesday and has already received one and a quarter million dollars in taxpayer funding?”

Alberta’s Premier: “...... they haven’t received one cent. The honorable leader of the official opposition should learn to tell the truth. That’s the first thing he needs to do. He is not telling the truth when he says that we have given them $1.25 million. That is not the truth. When someone does not tell the truth, he tells a lie, and I get frustrated.......

Deputy Speaker: “I think that on the issue your raise, if someone is not telling the truth, that’s one thing, but our rules do not move to the point where if you call it a lie, that is unparliamentary. The facts may be at variance with those stated.”

Alberta’s Premier: .... my apologies, but I don’t know any other word for an untruth. Mr. Speaker, Alberta Oil Sands Transportation Corp. is a newly formed Alberta company, as I understand it, The primary contacts are Jim Gray and Paul Giannelia, and Mr. Giannelia, of course, is the engineer responsible for Straight Crossing, the phenomenal bridge that links New Brunswick with Prince Edward Island. The contributors would be - would be - if all things work out - the Alberta government, the oil sands and the feasibility study would be conducted by this group......... Mr. Speaker, I can understand that the Liberals don’t know about any of these things because they have never been in that area presumably. The simple fact is that there are very serious transportation problems related to almost a hundred billion dollars of development now or potential development in the oil sands, which has a huge impact on the economy of this province.

Peoples Rep Taft: “.... will the Premier promise Albertans today, here and now, that if we commit to any funding of this project, Alberta Taxpayers will never be on the hook for bailing out a financial flop relating to this railroad? Will he make that promise now?

Alberta’s Premier: “... absolutely. I’ll make that promise today because, Mr. Speaker, that’s what the feasibility is all about. I don’t mind making that promise at all.”

Peoples Rep Taft: “.... well, given that this company is already on the record as backing this railroad isn’t it a conflict of interest for us to be paying for them to study their own project? Shouldn’t we be going to a third party?

Alberta’s Premier: “..... this is their initiative and, quite frankly, its an initiative that I thought was long overdue by the private sector (talks about financial benefits, then adds)....... I’ll have the hon, minister speak to that.

Premier’s Agent Norris: “... you know, I noticed yesterday that, in an attempt to drag what I think is a marvelous project down, the Leader of the Opposition made reference to the Simpsons, and while he may look like Monty Burns, he seems to be thinking like Moe Szylak, the bartender on this one. However the reality of the fact, Mr. Speaker, is that the government of Alberta has a responsibility to be involved in this. We have made no commitment whatsoever. No money has changed hands whatsoever and there is no long-term commitment other than the study and the study speak to the economics which are remarkable. So if you want to allow them to go on and drag the project down......

The Deputy Speaker: (Cuts him off) “Second main question. The hon Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Edmonton Journal: Six days later, April 5, 2004 Editorial “And, in fact, Gianelia claims the government has committed $300 million to the project, the rest to be raised through a bond issue. But Klein insists the province has only approved spending $1.25 million for the study.”

Long before Ralph’s World was invented and people were still citizens of Alberta who thought for themselves, children were taught a response to those who bullied them with accusations of dishonesty.

Kids used to yell back : “ He who calls his brother a liar is in danger of hell’s fire.”

Wouldn’t it be heavenly if somebody in the Premier’s Party did some responsible research before plunging us all into another free market puddle before they even try to find out how deep it is?

Just wonderin’ - Bill Barley, Severely Abnormal Albertan



Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Insurance Pitch Will Follow Health User Fees 

As Susan Ruttan reports in her Edmonton Journal article of April 4, Alberta Health Minister Gary Mar has cited Sweden as a model country that has done a good job in controlling health-care costs.

We need to be very suspicious when the free-market Alberta Tories say they are looking to a country that places a high priority on their citizen's welfare (i.e. a social democracy) to provide guidance in the area of health care. In particular, watch out for cherry picking the parts of the Swedish solution they like while ignoring the parts that don't fit with their right-wing philosophy.

My guess is that Minister Mar will love the user fee part but won't like the $160 a year cap that the Swedes have on user fees. The reality is that Sweden pays for most of its health care through revenues collected by their progressive income tax system. Alberta substantially reduced the revenues available through income tax when it introduced the flat tax in 2001. The government won't raise income taxes anyway because Premier Klein said they wouldn't and it would greatly offend those Tory supporters who benefit hugely from the flat tax scheme.

So folks, look for user fees in our future followed by private insurance companies willing to insure us against the risk of having to pay excessive user fees. Just like auto insurance. This will cost us all more in total but those that pay the most will be the middle class; the severely normal Albertan.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Subversive Plot from Left Wing Nut 

This letter was printed in the Edmonton Journal March 29th, 2004 and was forwarded by the author for posting on Ralph's World.

Once again our revered leader, the Honourable Ralph Klein, has threatened to proceed with legislation that will adversely affect a large number of Alberta residents. Having brought us deregulated energy costs, privatizing (a.k.a. giving away) services such as liquor stores and highway maintenance, limited resource revenues through reduced royalties, etc. our bold leader is now considering an un-Canadian move regarding healthcare.

As was expected many staunch supporters of the status quo for healthcare are being heard in all types of forums. Their arguments are passionate, often well founded, and usually call for a democratic solution to the problems. But democracy is not well in this province. Public debate is not welcome by our government. King Ralph will not stand questioning. The bully boys (and girls)cut off debate through closure more often than any other parliamentary body despite their overwhelming majority.

Unfortunately, there is no end in site for this unhealthy majority that limits individuals' influence over political matters. We are not going to see proportional representation, or even a true one person - one vote with balanced constituencies. No government is going to willingly bring about its own discomfort or possible defeat.

However all is not lost. We do have a solution that will cost only a few dollars and some time for each person interested in making a difference. Remember the old motto - 'If you can't beat them, join them'? I suggest that we all join the Conservative Party of Alberta through their local offices. Imagine the real changes we could make if thousands of disaffected liberals and other left wing nuts like myself joined their local conservatives in voting for the PC candidate. What makes this even more interesting, you do not have to vote for them in the provincial election!

Ian Simpson

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Heretic in Tory Ranks 

Tory MLA George VanderBurg Experiences Lucid Moment. Click here for details.

What is happening?

Yesterday the Tories in New Brunswick started to entertain the notion of public insurance and today a Tory Caucus member who sits on Alberta's electricity advisory council says the province should stop short of implementing full electrical deregulation.

Mr. VanderBurg made the observation that it doesn't make sense to force his constituents to shop for electricity at a deregulated rate when there is only one utility, Enmax, currently selling it.

Message to George. It is good that a light has flickered to life in a Tory mind. However, do not expect it to find a place in the oxygen-free craniums of Klein, West and Smith. Suggest you seek new home with Liberals or NDP where you will be welcomed amongst kindred spirits.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Tories Take Communist Turn in New Brunswick 

Public Auto Insurance Proposed in New Brunswick

Oh my!

Alberta's Energy Minister Murray Smith must be apoplectic. Smith, Chief of Dogma for the Alberta PC party, had a pretty simple message that all of his colleagues could understand. "Boys - any political party that does not have the word Conservative somewhere in it's name is communist. That's all you have to know. Keep saying it over and over and the voters will eventually believe it too". The Minister never passes up a chance to reinforce this as he did at a recent energy conference in Banff. Click here for his comments.

Now an all-party legislature committee on public insurance in New Brunswick, a committee struck by the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick, is recommending something that Alberta Tories would call "very communisty". They are recommending a model for public auto insurance in New Brunswick.

Minister Smith will have to amend his definition of communist so it refers to a political party that do not have the words Conservative and Alberta in its name.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

PREMIER RALPH RUNS RAILROAD? # 6  

Ole Bill Sees
HIDE, HUSTLE, HURRY, AND HOP ON
ramming rough-shod over
RESEARCH, RELIABLE INFORMATION AND RESPONSIBILITY

Hansard March 29/04 1:30 pm

Peoples Rep Taft: “... this government’s launch of health care reform is sounding more and more like its launch of electricity deregulation. It’s working hard to create an artificial crisis instead of addressing legitimate needs and making a host of promises that will never come true. Will deregulated health care offer the same poor service at higher cost that deregulated electricity has brought to Albertans?”

Alberta’s Premier: “..... (claims all other provinces agree with him that health care is ‘unsustainable’) .. the health care system as we know it today, the status quo, is simply not acceptable, and it needs reform as well as more dollars.....(Hands off to Premier’s Agent Mar)

Premiers Agent Mar: “.... (lectures about looking to other countries, doesn’t mention the US) ... I think that the Premier and others across Canada have come to the conclusion that it’s not sustainable. Then we need to import ideas from around the world and ask: what will make sense here in this province?”

Peoples Rep Taft: “... how does the Premier explain that his government is now spending more per capita on health care than ten years ago, yet we have fewer hospital beds, we employ fewer RNs and we have longer waiting lists? Where is the m mismanagement?

Alberta’s Premier: “.... what the honorable leader of the Official Opposition says is not entirely true. More procedures than ever are now being accommodated. We have more MRIs, more joint surgeries, more heart surgeries ..... You know this province has always had the courage do things differently, and we’ve always had the courage to admit that other jurisdictions do things better and to look at what those jurisdictions are doing and do the same thing here.”

Peoples Rep Taft: “ .... given that the Romanow commission in fact did look at jurisdictions across Europe, many of the ones that have been listed by the Premier and the Minister of Health and Wellness, why don’t they just accept the recommendations of the Romanow report?”

Alberta’s Premier: “... there were no recommendations relative to best practices used in other jurisdictions, no recommendations as to how those best practices could be implemented”

Ole Bill asks: Weren’t there?

If Alberta were an ocean, wouldn't the Premier’s Party - aka. Ralph’s World - be like an iceberg? All the public ever sees is evidence of a cold calculating commerce-driven force that has already decided where it’s going and how it will crush anyone that gets in its way?

Just Wonderin’ - Bill Barley, Severly Abnormal Albertan

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