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, May 31, 2004

Tax Freedom Day from The Fraser Institute 

If past years are any example, B.C.’s Fraser Institute will soon be issuing it’s annual reminder telling Canadians that around this time of the year they can finally stop working for the government and start working for themselves. They call it “Tax Freedom Day.”

The implication is that any money we pay in taxes goes to benefit only someone in government. They conveniently forget to mention that without taxes we would have no roads or streets unless we were prepared to pay a toll every time we used them. We would have no policing services unless we were prepared to hire security guards. We would have no airports, harbours, public parks, museums or libraries. We would have no food, drug, safety or other inspection services. There would be no public schools so we would be “free” to educate our children at our own cost. We would have no public health care so we could be “free” to pay exorbitant private health care insurance premiums or else go without health care coverage. There would be no welfare programs for disadvantaged people who would be “free” to cast themselves upon the tender mercies of charity or else turn to crime to survive. These are but some of the “freedoms” we would enjoy if the wealthy elite would have their way.

In keeping with their right-wing philosophy, the Fraser Institute does not appear to be concerned that ordinary Canadians have to pay much more in taxes because the wealthy elite can avoid paying their fair share by using tax havens or taking advantage of questionable tax rulings.

While I don’t approve of the corruption, patronage, and inefficiencies prevalent in some of our governments, I am grateful to be living in a country where government is, relatively speaking, more compassionate toward its citizens than most. I believe we must remain vigilant that we are not deceived by those who hide behind the “freedom” terminology while seeking to enhance their own wealth and power.

William Dascavich - Vegreville

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Three Choices for the Future of Medicare 

A colleague who has worked many years in the health field said to me the other day.
"If you want to get a clear understanding of how our provincial and federal governments are determining the future of medicare for us, read this paper. It's not very long, it's very readable, and it was written by someone who has attended most of the first minister's discussions on healthcare. He's a sort of fly on the wall with brains."

The fly on the wall is Gregory P. Marchildon. The title of his paper is Three Choices for the Future of Medicare and you can get it by clicking here. (You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader.) He is a professor of public administration at the University of Regina and was Executive Director of the Romanow Commission.

Here are some quotes from his paper which may tweak your interest.

"Deep down, they [Canadians] know that unless their governments arrive at a workable consensus for change, the Canadian brand of medicare is not likely to survive for long."

"From this position, I observed how health care eventually became hostage to a crass struggle over money and power and, at critical points, a much more profound clash between contending visions of the country."

"The solution to the ‘sustainability problem’offered by the opponents of medicare - that of shifting costs from the public purse to private pockets is simple but illusory from an economic policy standpoint [Evans 2004]. It is also highly inequitable from a social policy standpoint. And it is neither bold nor innovative – ‘out of the box’ – thinking since it generally involves old nostrums such as user fees , co-payments and health premiums (occasionally dressed up in modern garb such as medical saving accounts) that were the norm prior to the introduction of universal medicare."

and finally . . .

"Medicare is too important to continue to be held ransom by both orders of government in an increasingly sterile debate over fiscal transfers. For most Canadians, medicare is an integral part of their citizenship and identity. They want their First Ministers to quit playing the blame game and instead to work at improving medicare on the ground, including reducing waiting times and improving the quality of care. At the same time, they want both orders of government to come up with a common game plan that will address growing costs and ensure the sustainability of medicare for the future. Most want the principle of ‘access based on need’ preserved.

For a vocal minority, however, nothing less than greater privatization and decentralization, attractively dressed up as patient choice, is required to fix medicare in Canada. Though well financed, visible and powerful, we should always remember that this view is a minority view, and should not be allowed to dictate what the majority of Canadians actually want for themselves and future generations."

This paper is all about politics, money, power, and idealogy. Sorry, no sex.

Have a read.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 18 by Rose Bradley 

The latest in a series of articles taken from Freddie's Diary.

Kelly Cryderman, Dec, 200l, EJ

Members of a group of Edmonton seniors say they remember what it was like when Canadians had to pay for their own basic medical care, and they don't want to go back to a similar system. The Seniors' Action and Liaison Team has written a health care brief, described by Brian Staples as "almost the exact opposite of the Mazankowski report" being compiled by Premier Ralph Klein's advisory council on health. "We remember families financially ruined by catastrophic illness," the brief says. "We remember people who died because they couldn't afford treatment and were not prepared to accept it as charity."

Former Conservative deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski was appointed in early 2000 to lead the 12-person Premier's Advisory Council on Health. A draft copy of the council's report discussed such changes as allowing for more private medicine and making Albertans pay for procedures now covered by health insurance.

SALT, a social justice group of about 45 people, maintains that a largely public system is far cheaper than a private system. The group suggests the federal government should introduce a new health care business tax and encourage bulk buying of drugs.


Shawn Ohler, March, 2002, EJ

Next week's provincial budget will hike health care premiums by nearly 30%, according to a confidential Alberta Health document obtained by 'the Journal.'

The premium hike--to $44 form $34 a month for single Albertans and to $88 from $68 monthly for families--will pump an extra $200 million into government coffers, the document says. After the 29.4% increase, premium revenue will jump to $869 million annually in 2002 - 03 from about $670 million now, it says. Alberta Health's premium subsidy program will also be bolstered, because the rate hike would otherwise "negatively impact lower income non-senior Albertans," says the memo, signed by assistant deputy minister Janet Skinner.

Though it appears subsidy program changes had yet to be rubber stamped when the March 7 memo was drafted, the memo suggests that about 200,000 non senior Albertans--60, 000 more then currently qualify--will be eligible for full or partial premium subsidies as of April 1. Under the revamped program, the government will swallow $179 million in sacrificed premium revenue, $80 million more than it does now.

About 153,000 Alberta seniors will receive full or partial subsidies under the new plan, but nearly 90,000 would have to pay the increased premium, the memo says. This would occur despite a 1996 cabinet decree that premiums "would not be increased for seniors in the future, regardless of any other increases that would apply to the public."

Under the Premium Subsidy, premiums are reduced or eliminated based on an applicant's preceding year's tax information. Under the Waiver of Premiums program, premiums are waived for up to six months for Albertans experiencing short-term financial difficulties. Eligibility is based on the gross monthly income for three calendar months preceding the application. Alberta seniors receive premium subsidies under a different program, the memo says.. The nearly 30% premium hike will almost perfectly split previous estimates given by Premier Ralph Klein, who mused Albertans could expect increases of 20 to 40%.

It is considerably less, however, than the 50 % rise that was also considered by government. According to confidential documents prepared by Alberta Health bureaucrats for Minister Gary Mar and obtained in January by 'the Journal', the government considered raising premiums by a whopping 50% over two years. Those documents also proposed chopping nearly 50 million in insured medical services and seniors' and widows' benefits, though there's virtually no chance those items will be dealt with in the budget.

Mar has said no final decisions have been made regarding program cuts. He is still mulling which members to appoint to an expert advisory panel that will be charged with considering which services to delist from Alberta's health insurance plan. The formation of that panel as well as a recommendation to increase premiums, were major items on Don Mazankowski's Premier's Advisory Council on Heath report.

The changes are consistent with the government's drive to squeeze more money from patients and reform the health-care system in the fact of what it considers unsustainable cost increases. Mazankowski and Alberta Health officials have repeatedly maintained that more revenue is needed to offset spiraling health spending, which they have said could 'take up half of all program spending by 2008.

Seniors paying for 2 people (a couple) are paying $1096 per year for Health Care premiums. Does anyone know what is still covered for that large expenditure? If anyone knows please send me an e-mail at gtery@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca so I can tell everybody who reads Freddie's Diary. I suspect that our coverage diminishes constantly without our knowledge.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Why are these people huddled together?  

This morning I went onto Direct Energy's spanking new website to see if it made sense for the Slow family to purchase one of those long term, fixed price contracts for gas. Greeting me was the happy family shown here on the left.

Our family doesn't use the couch like that. We tend to spread out a bit more. I was concerned we were missing out on a new family game we hadn't heard about.

After checking Direct's new contract gas prices (click here) it dawned on me. They are playing the new Alberta game called "Freeze and Fly" and here's how it works.

First you sign up for a new five year contract with locked-in gas prices. Then set the thermostat to one degree above that required to freeze water in Rover's dish. This keeps the gas bill below $800 a month. Make sure to crazy glue the temperature control so the wife doesn't crank it up on you. Then huddle together for warmth for five years. Then spend your Air Miles on a family flight to Regina.

Looks like fun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The BSE Crisis - How well did the Klein government do? 

The BSE crisis is a little over a year old now and has had a major negative impact in the rural areas of our Province. It is still not over of course as the border remains closed to export of live cattle and will likely remain so until after the American election in November. The plight of Alberta cattle producers is not on the radar screen of American politicians as they wage their high stakes battles.

How well has the Klein government handled the problem of BSE?

On the positive side you have to give them E for effort. The Premier flew to Washington D.C. last June to have a meeting with his friend American V.P. Dick Cheney. This yielded nothing but he tried. Back in Alberta, Agriculture Minister Shirley McLennan put together a financial aid package for the industry that cost Alberta tax payers $400 million. Unfortunately, most of the money appears to have ended up as bottom line profits for a few American meat packers as producers were given incentives to sell their animals low yet the Alberta consumer saw very little drop in the cost of beef at the retail level. However, throwing money at the problem at least showed they were trying to help. So again, E for effort.

Unfortunately, where it counts, the government has failed. The US border is still closed and new markets have not opened up. The Premier should take a personal responsibility for a good part of this. His now famous “Shoot, shovel and shut up” speech has resulted in permanent damage on two fronts. On the home front, beef producers seem to have taken the premier’s advice to heart as 33% fewer heads have been sent to the provincial lab for BSE analysis compared to last year, according to Dr. Gerald Ollis, the province's chief veterinarian. This problem is not going to go away by trying to hide it. On the trading partner front, it is hard to imagine the Americans and Japanese having much confidence in Alberta beef when the Premier advocates burying the problem and the producers appear to comply. It is a strategy that might have worked but Mr. Klein forgot about the “shut up” part. No matter how much the Premier talks about how science is on his side, and it is, customers for Alberta beef will never quite trust Alberta beef the way they did before the Premier spoke those infamous words.

Rural voters, traditional supporters of the Tory government, will have to decide in the next election if they are willing to give their votes to a party that tries, but doesn’t have the business and marketing sense to deliver.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 17 

The latest in a series of articles taken from Freddie's Diary.

Larry Lyons, August, 2000, EJ

I feel very concerned at the way this province and civic governments are evading their responsibilities in providing a quality of life for senior citizens. Provincially, what is the government doing to provide "low cost" senior housing? One would have to say, "nothing."

This government gave $12 million of taxpayers money to private enterprises to build senior homes, but not "low cost" homes and $6 million dollars to Capital Health to build senior homes, but again not "low cost" senior homes. How many seniors can afford to rent these one-room homes in a high rise complex, costing from $700 to $900 a month, not including meals?

Many seniors have been paying school taxes for many years and continue to pay even though their children have been out of school for over 20 years. Alberta seniors are also expected to pay health care premiums even if their income is one dollar above the cap. We are told Edmonton has the lowest transit fares for seniors in the country. Well Calgary has a transit fare for seniors that is less than half of what Edmonton seniors will pay.

Most seniors are fed up with this government of Alberta expounding on their vast resources but have little time to talk about seniors' needs. Many seniors in their cold rooms or homes will find time to reflect on who is serving them best and will make their choices at the upcoming polls.

George Van Ee, October, 2000, EJ.

There seems to be a desire by the ETS management to sock it to the seniors with their new bus fare increases. Prior to 1984, seniors were able to ride free using their old age security card on city buses between the hours of 9 am to 3 pm, when buses were mostly empty. However, when they wanted to ride the bus during heavy usage they had to pay regular fare.

In 1984 ET management decided that the seniors' card was not acceptable identification and that seniors should have the city's own card to ride the bus. The printing and distributing of these cards would be $5.00 each, not an unreasonable charge. This however was the beginning of a series of double digit increases. First $10, then $15, $25, $35, $50, $80, $100 and $120.

Why are we going to the monthly pass? It is easier to increase small numbers by large percentages. Total increase is 2,400 % in 19 years. Our pensions should increase that fast. In 10 years we can expect there to be no more seniors rates.

October, 2000, J.M.Letourneau, EJ

Extended health care services which included dental and eye care for seniors was discontinued in the Klein budget. However, an extra subsidy of $17 million was given to horse racing. Are horses more important than seniors? One must deduce that according to the Klein government, the answer is "Yes"

May 22, 2004, Charlotte Ruppel, EJ

MR. PREMIER, I'VE LOST THAT LOVIN' FEELIN' - RE: "Premier defends us like lion," Letters, May 18. Cecila E. Mctaggart may feel like the premier cares for us but that has not been the experience of my family. My parents had to deal with a ravaged health-care system and reduction and elimination in benefits for seniors, my children and I have been affected by an under funded educational system, and my bills for gasoline, natural gas and insurance are sky-high.

Thanks to an obsession with private enterprise, government assets were sold off at bargain-basement prices and then our infrastructure was allowed to decay. We have the lowest minimum wage in the country and the disparity between rich and poor is growing. Regularly I'm assaulted by Klein's rants and rude behavior in the legislature and elsewhere. Frankly, I'm not feeling the love.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Fair taxation would fund health care 

Federal and Provincial government politicians are fond of telling us that health care costs are rising at a rate that is unsustainable. They rarely, if ever, mention that both federal and provincial governments are pursuing policies which permit wealthy corporations and individuals to get away without paying their fair share of taxes.

The 1996 report of Canada's Auditor General included the following observation:

"We have observed two advance rulings relating to moving at least $2 billion of assets held in family trusts into the United States from Canada. In our view, the transactions ruled on may have circumvented the intent of the law regarding the taxation of capital gains. Therefore, we are concerned that Revenue Canada may have eroded the tax base by forfeiting a legitimate future claim to many millions of dollars in tax revenue."
It is known that just one prominent wealthy Canadian family was let off the hook for about $700 million in taxes in 1991, when the family transferred a $2 billion family trust to the U.S. For several years now, Canada’s Auditor General has expressed concern over the disastrous effects of certain tax provisions and of the tax agreements between Canada and other countries throughout the world which allow for the use of tax havens.

According to a study done by the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute, the Klein Government is forgoing billions of dollars of revenue by charging oil corporations considerably less for oil royalties than they would pay in either Alaska or Norway.
As long as right-wing federal and provincial governments view policies favouring the rich as being “sustainable”, ordinary Canadians will be deprived of the revenue to fund an acceptable level of health care and other social programs.

William Dascavich - Vegreville Alberta

Wednesday, May 19, 2004



HENRY: “Mr. Premier your question ‘WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?’ isn’t a question at all: it’s a blatant attempt to bully us into thinking that we are being petty and mean-minded when we hold you accountable.”

MARTHA: “Minister of Learning, Sir: phoning University Presidents in an attempt to make the Premier’s plagiarism look as if it’s ‘No big deal’ is a clumsy abuse of political power.”

HENRY: “And you, University Presidents: your letters to the press, sound exactly like they were written by politicians who play around with serious issues. Instead of straight answers about how to confront a failure to provide direct references you offer personal praise for the Premier in order to shamelessly avoid dealing with the charge of plagiarism.”

MARTHA: “Every graduate of the University of Alberta, and there are thousands of us all across the world, knows Alberta University’s motto is ‘QUAECUMQUE VERA’ which, translated into English becomes ‘WHATSOEVER THINGS ARE TRUE’”

HENRY: “When we see, even the head spokesmen of our University, playing politics we ask: does that motto no longer represent what the University of Alberta stand for?”

MARTHA: “You see, the ‘deal,’ we’re talking about is that the most powerful politician in this province has taken what another person has researched, studied, thought-through and written about, and tried to use that person’s words to bolster his case against public ownership of resources without giving credit to the original author.”

HENRY: “Yet you politicians; including you University President’s, are pooh-poohing our concern about, what, in any other context, would be stealing or at least dishonestly borrowing without permission.”

MARTHA: “If the Minister of Learning can turn the Presidents of Alberta’s highest institutions of research and Learning into apologists for cheap and shoddy research done by anyone, including the most powerful controller of the Province’s money, then respect for truth and integrity is dying, if not already dead, in this part of Canada.”

HENRY: “Quite frankly, Mr. Premier, Minister of Learning and University Presidents you really don’t get it do you? You still think all you have to do is use the power of the media to sell us your unfounded opinions while denigrating anyone who questions you or has more accurate information than what you are promoting as the truth.

MARTHA: “We Marthas and Henrys really do know the difference between sloppy research used to support a prejudice, on the one hand, and responsible research that, as often as not, forces persons of integrity to change their opinions.”

HENRY: “ Please, Mr. Premier, Minister of Learning and University Presidents stop thinking you can pull rank and demean us every time we challenge pretense and publicity parading the the guise of Democratic responsibility.”

MARTHA: “You see, when we see political interference instead of integrity, especially in research and scholarship, it is A VERY BIG DEAL and we have the right to demand accountability in the Premier but even more especially among those who speak for our highest institutions of learning and research.”

Blair McPherson

Oberg appoints new President of Klein Kollege 

Fast on the heels of the Klein Kollege roll-out, see previous story, Learning Minister Lyle Oberg today announced the appointment of the Kollege's first president.

"I am thrilled to be able to say that Lord Black of Crossharbour has accepted my invitation to serve as the first President of Klein Kollege. He brings with him a wealth of business acumen which we value so highly here in Alberta but more importantly, he brings his strong sense of personal ethics to the job". Oberg went on to say that the question of ethics was paramount in light of recent allegations of plagiarism surrounding Alberta's Premier. Lord Black's first duty upon assuming office later this week will be to write a letter to all Alberta newspapers praising Premier Klein's dedication to life-long learning and to say that he personally would have given the Premier a 94% grade on his term paper on Chilean history. See related story from CBC Calgary.

For his part, Lord Black said he accepted the position after careful inspection of the Province's airfleet which was immediately made available to both he and his wife Barbara Amiel. Interviewed yesterday outside a courtroom in Delaware Lord Black said. "The thing I am looking forward to most is the dressing up part, you know with the long flowing robes and mortarboard hat thingy". Black, known for his impeccable fashion sense, has already imposed a dress code requiring students of Klein Kollege to wear a special Kollegiate Kostume. These uniforms are readily available by mail-order from Amiel's Fashion Emporium.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Health care costs will rise for average Albertan  

If Alberta’s Health Minister Gary Mar has his way, the cost of health care will rise dramatically for many Albertans who will feel compelled to pay for supplementary private health care insurance.

Since the bottom line for private health care insurance corporations is profit, only part of the money spent on private health care insurance premiums will be spent for health care. The rest will cover advertising and administration costs of each individual company as well as returns to its investors. That is the reason why Romanow argued that a public health care system is more economical than a private one.

I’ve no doubt that CEO’s, Directors, and investors of private health care insurance corporations are applauding Mar’s remarks, and salivating over the prospects of the Klein government opening the door to a lucrative market.

William Dascavich - Vegreville Alberta

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 16 

Sept. 21, 1999, Edmonton Journal

Alberta Health has a new shot in the arm for seniors--free vaccine that protects against pneumonia and more serious infections such as meningitis. Every Albertan over 65 can now get the pneumococcal vaccine along with their annual flu shot.

Dr. Karen Grimsrud, deputy provincial health officer said,"We want to protect against the nasty germ called Streptococcus Pneumoniae because of the seriousness and high mortality rates of the diseases it causes." About 400 people die each year in Alberta from Pneumococcal infections. Alberta Health's goal is to vaccinate at least 75 % of Alberta's 280,000 seniors within the next two years, Grimsrud said. The good news is that most people will only need to get the vaccine once.

Grimsrud said the pneumococcal vaccine has been available and well tested since the early 1980s, but it has been underused. Last year it was extended to people in nursing homes and other long-term facilities. This is the first year it has been free to everyone over 65. Grimsrud said.

Last year (2003) I asked for this vaccine and was told only those who are disabled or have a chronic condition can have free vaccine, no other senior need apply.

August 18, 2000, Edmonton Journal, Ralph Haeckel.

Regarding the administration of driver assessments for senior citizens, I passed the test and am glad to still have a driver's licence. My doctors ordered me to take the assessment for medical reasons. They told me to visit a firm that specializes in testing of drivers who have medical or cognitive problems that could affect their driving ability.

I am not opposed to the test itself, but I am appalled by the charge of $214, including GST. The cost for the procedure should be covered by Alberta Health, since a certified physician, who felt he needed the information to further diagnose on his patient, ordered it.

In a letter to me the health minister stated the reason the test was not covered was that a certified physician did not perform it. Let me point out there are many tasks and procedures in the medical field such as blood tests and X Rays, that are done by trained technicians who in many cases are in business on their own and work in conjunction with physicians.

The minister tells me in his letter that the expense of the assessment is a small price for me to pay in order to ensure the safety of my family and myself. He also suggests that the next time I need to undergo and assessment I should shop around for prices and they may vary. I think the minister should have known there is no other firm that offers this test in Alberta

I wonder how many people this testing has affected over the past few years. The average citizen does not know about these types of things unless they themselves have to be tested.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Oberg to establish Klein Kollege 

Learning Minister Lyle Oberg today announced the establishment of "Klein Kollege" which is to serve as a new model for higher education in Alberta.

"Albertans have been asking for innovative thinking in higher education for a long time and for once we're going to deliver" said Oberg from his Constituency Office in Brooks. This new approach to obtaining university degrees is expected to save the government over $1 billion annually when fully implemented in two years. Savings will come from laying off all academic and support staff at Universities and Community Colleges throughout the province.

Research staff at Alberta Learning, who have been looking for less expensive ways to deliver University degrees, will be modeling Klein Kollege after the prestigious Affordable Degrees division of Rochville University. Here degrees can be obtained in approximately 15 days at a cost ranging from $249 for a Bachelor's to $349 for a Doctorate. Each degree comes with ten beautifully inscribed documents. Click here for complete pricing.

Oberg went on to say that Klein Kollege will feature a number of the most popular features of Rochville University including No Studies, No Attendance, No Waiting, No Examinations, and No Hefty Fees. An Alberta First innovation at Klein Kollege will be No Term Papers.

Klein Kollege will be delivered through special cubicles located at Alberta Registries throughout the province beginning in the fall of 2005.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

King Ralph deserves an F in accountability and an A in computer skills. 

In the past few weeks, Ralph Klein has lived up to his well-earned nickname.

First, he lied to Albertans about saying he would allow open access to the flight logs of his government’s air fleet. The night after he promised openness, his government closed the door. When Liberal Leader Kevin Taft showed up the next morning to look at the flight logs, he and the media were told that it was no longer open for access, as King Ralph had promised they would be.

Second, he angrily attempted to intimidate Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman with chants of “are you calling me a liar, are you calling me a liar…” during a session of the Public Accounts Committee. All Ms. Blakeman was guilty of was doing her job by asking if the PC party had repaid Albertans for King Ralph’s use of Alberta government planes for his private golf weekend in Nova Scotia. The PC party repaid less than half, because apparently, he was also conducting government business on the back 9.

Third, King Ralph likened Liberal Leader Kevin Taft’s argument for Public Auto Insurance to the 1971 bloody coup in Chile. To prove his point, King Ralph released a paper he had “writen” about the Chilean coup for one of his correspondence classes at Athabasca University; King Ralph received a mark of 77% on this paper.

Well, it turns out that 5 out of the 12 pages which our King “wrote” were copied almost word-for-word from a number of websites on the internet. Apparently, King Ralph failed to understand a little word that all student’s are expected to know by the time they reach grade 6: “plagiarism.”

So while King Ralph has failed to show Albertans that he can write a whole paper himself, he has proven to Albertans that he is very good at using the copy and paste functions on his keyboard.

This act of plagiarism highlights the arrogance and unaccountability which King Ralph brings to his PC government and the lack of respect he holds for our educational institutions. Students and Albertans across Alberta should be completely outraged at this act of self-centred elitism.

See more and read the essay on the CBC Edmonton Website.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Bad Bear 

Premier Ralph Klein spoke with one of his kindred spirits today - or so he thought. See Toronto Star Story.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger phoned Premier Klein yesterday to place a wager on the Calgary-San Jose National Hockey League playoff series and each agreed to put up $1,000 each on the outcome of the best-of-seven semi-final.

Schwarzenegger and Klein have long shared a similar approach to governing their citizens. See picture.

Klein's press secretary, Marisa Etmanski said Klein thought talking to Schwarzenegger, an actor best known for his roles in the Terminator movies before he became governor, was "cool."

Time to invest in Call Display Marisa.

Seems the problem was, it wasn't Arnold on the other end of the line. It was someone from "The Bear" radio station. A phone call to "The Bear" this afternoon yielded a telephone receptionist who said she was told by station management she didn't know anything about this.

The Premier can't wait to get on one of those "Not No Smoking" government aircraft and take a long trip somewhere - anywhere. The Tory Party will gladly pay to have him go.

Monday, May 10, 2004



Now why in the name of everything human and decent doesn’t that headline read “PROVINCE PLANS EXTRA TEACHER SUPPORT FOR FAILING STUDENTS.”

Demanding cold number results from students without providing support to the learning process is just plain discouraging and destructive of childrens’ futures as learners.

Let me illustrate.

Over breakfast in a family restaurant I observed a girl child about five years old striving valiantly to learn the skill of eating like the adults around her.

Using knife and fork in her small hands she’d already been successful in cutting loose a piece from the the pancake on her plate.

I’m sure I was the only adult in the place who saw what happened next. She might as well have not existed for all the attention she was getting from the adults at her table.

As soon as she began to carry the food from plate to mouth that slippery piece of pancake started falling from her fork. First it landed back onto her plate and then onto the napkin beside her plate.

But this eager learner didn’t give up. I watched with admiration as she tried at least three more times to develop a skill that’s as complex for a four year old as learning to drive is when you’re sixteen.

Finally though, in frustration, she picked the food up with her fingers and popped it into her mouth.

Suddenly this child, who had been totally ignored up to that point, had the undivided attention of the whole table full of grownups.

I couldn’t hear their words, of course, but I watched this child bow down and shrivel up like a beautiful wee flower in the cold wind of adult disapproval. The age-old scolding about not eating with her fingers was undoubtedly being administered.

Now multiply this child’s story by the hundreds, possibly even thousands and we can see, if we will, how Klein’s agents in the field of education have, for more than ten years, already set countless Alberta children up for failure.

Demanding that children pass tests set by adults who haven’t a clue what it takes for each individual to prepare for life in today’s world virtually guarantees that a proportion of them are going to feel the disapproval of the adult world by being assessed as failures.

Agent Oberg’s relentless demand for test results not only continues but it even intensifies while his department constantly invalidates and undercuts those who are actually involved in supporting each individual child’s learning process.

Even while it plays pretend games around school funding the so-called Learning Department increases pressure for data to boast about and impress their corporate and commercial sponsors.

The very first thing Klein’s agents did some ten years ago was attempt to totally withdraw resources from the Province’s five year olds.

Today countless children and the schools themselves have never recovered from having resources vital to their learning denied to them.

Attitudes and basic learning skills not developed in early childhood can never be fully recovered. No matter how much remedial attention is given later it is always too-little and too-late.

Kindergarten classes today in many city schools are still more crowded and have fewer human resources than ever before.

So Klein’s agent’s first step was to deprive the Province’s schools of financial and human resources .

The next step has been to mount a public relations campaign designed sell the majority of people the corporate and commercially sponsored idea that the job of the schools and the children in them is to pass tests and make marks.

Under agent Oberg’s born-again “Learning Department” pressure is coming down from the top on students and teachers alike with the implied threat of further censure and deprivation if they fail to produce test data.

Even School Boards, goaded on by narrow focused and money driven outfits like the Frazer Institute, fall into line by boasting about marks rather than publicly congratulating teachers on the quality of learning they are promoting

Oberg's agency hasn’t yet publicly demonstrated any ability to understand and assist Teachers and children in the processes of learning that must include time for trial and error, mistake and correction.

Instead this badly misnamed Department of Learning cooks up curricula and demands it be taught even while withholding the text books and training needed for new courses.

It’s time we citizens stopped allowing a heartless, soulless propaganda-driven government through its Department of Demand and Data to treat our schools as the test passing and number producing tools of an increasingly arrogant and boastful political party.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Welcome Aboard General Pinochet 

Premier Ralph Klein announced today that the Alberta Government has retained the services of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. The General will be working in the Premier's Public Affairs Bureau and will be advising the Premier on "difficult" communication issues. His first task is rumoured to be the selling of the Auto Insurance package expected out in about six weeks. He is well-known in his native Chile for persuading citizens to see his side of an issue.

Interviewed by phone from his home in Santiago, he said he was thrilled to working with a government that took fighting Communists seriously and that he was looking forward to sharing "war stories" with Steve West.

Klein has been a great admirer of the General ever since in spent an "all-nighter" doing a term paper on Chile for a course he was taking at Athabasca University. See related Globe & Mail Story If you would like to read his paper, click here.

The General was hired after an extensive candidate search on the Dictator for Hire website.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


Henry: “In fact, Mr. Premier, Martha and I are sick and tired of your “Ralph” act”.

Martha: “I am totally disgusted and resentful that our Premier keeps including us in the phony act he invented to sell this Ralph guy as a rough and ready but caring, compassionate human like us.”

Henry: “To us a Premier is a leader who thinks before he bursts out with a massive vocabulary of emotion-loaded put-down language like this Ralph guy keeps using.”

Martha: “This Ralph guy keeps using wildly inflated numbers to sell the idea that health care and education costs are taking off like the King Air he keeps jumping into and flying all over the country every time he thinks there’s a hamburger to flip or a business leader to impress.”

Henry: “You see Mr. Premier we’re beginning to think this Ralph guy is about as trustworthy as the CEO of some of those outfits that are being investigated these days”

Martha: “Henry’s right Mr. Premier. We’ve been reading Hansard during this last session and know that bully act your buddy Ralph put on in an attempt to avoid simply telling the truth to Laurie Blakeman is used every time an elected representative of the people asks you for a straight answer.”

Henry: “Frankly Mr. Premier, if a buddy of mine had tried to trample down and disdain a woman like that Ralph guy did to Laurie Blakeman I’d have taken him out behind the barn and tried to teach him some manners.”

Martha: “Henry’s right Mr. Premier I’ve never seen even the most weather beaten western cowboy treat a lady like that. Your pal Ralph probably wouldn't even take his hat off to a lady in a bar.”

Hope you’re listening Mr. Premier. We remain Henry and Martha speaking for ourselves instead of letting this Ralph guy speak for us.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Seniors advocacy group questions wisdom of government management 


The Edmonton based Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) would like to know why the Government of Alberta wastes taxpayer dollars in its management of taxation for healthcare, according to Kevan Rhead, the group's Vice-Chair.

"The duplicate tax system managed by Alberta Health is unnecessary, costly and unfair to Albertans," said Rhead on Thursday at the Alberta Legislature in connection with a seniors rally. "The health care premium tax costs millions to administer, and more millions have to be written off because the money cannot be collected from many Albertans," he said.

"Health care premiums are in fact an unfair regressive tax," Rhead asserted. "Their elimination would be a significant benefit both to employers and to individuals, such as seniors, who have to pay these premiums out of their fixed incomes. SALT is extremely disappointed that the government has failed to eliminate this health care premium tax for all Albertans."

In addition, SALT continues to deplore the repeated efforts by the Alberta Government to claim health care is not sustainable, according to Rhead.

"The Alberta government still promulgates the myth that health care spending is not sustainable despite huge, un-budgeted, recurring surpluses and the fact that Alberta's spending on health care has actually decreased over the past 10 years from:

- 5.3% of GDP in 1993/94 to 4.9% of GDP in 2003/04, and from

- 30% of government revenue in 1993/94 to 27% of revenue in

Health costs have in fact lagged behind inflation and economic growth."

See backup for these numbers by clicking here.

Further, the SALT representative challenged the government's continuing use of the pretext of un-sustainability to argue for curtailment of services and for greater private sector involvement in the form of:

- Private, for-profit surgical facilities,

- Public, private partnerships to build hospitals and other public facilities,

- Private, for-profit insurance companies.

On the topic of Blue Cross, Rhead said, "Eliminating the tax-exempt status of the not-for-profit Alberta Blue Cross will benefit no one except the private for-profit insurance industry."

The Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) is a self-financed group of Edmonton seniors concerned with social justice issues in Alberta and Canada.

For further information contact:

Dr. Brian Staples, Chair, SALT Phone: (780) 466-8042

Noel Somerville. Chair, SALT Communications Committee.
Phone: (780) 452-1846, or

Kevan Rhead, Vice Chair of SALT. Phone: (780) 435-1121

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 15 - Part I 

Jan. 2000, Edmonton, EJ

An aging population is one reason the province is exploring new ways to deliver health care, such as the proposed private health plan, says Children's Services Minister Iris Evans. Evans said, with the population "aging more rapidly,"and it has "really put pressure on the health system." "So you look at our health system and the average cost of people that are elderly being much more than our children are. Yeah, I think there's going to be a huge impact. We will find ourselves pressed to look at other ways of making it (health) affordable," said Evans. Evans recently warned the Leduc riding Conservative association that seniors and others are "spilling over the mountains" from B.C. and Saskatchewan into Alberta, placing pressure on the health system. She said in an interview that seniors are being drawn to Alberta by lower taxes and housing costs.

Last year, Evans, Municipal Affairs Minister, responsible for housing, said government figures showed 1 600 people on average moved into the province each month. "But 40% are seniors, so we're getting a rapid in growth of seniors. She cited forecasts that the health budget--which now consumes just over 30% of government spending -- will make up 46% of the total budget by the year 2005. How much of that can actually be attributed to senior's health costs is uncertain, but Evans said the public should be concerned as the population ages and people live longer due to new technology.

Premier Ralph Klein has repeatedly cited an aging population as a key factor driving the province to push ahead with its controversial legislation to expand the role of private surgery facilities.

Vegerville senior Mary Lukenchuk, thinks the government is unduly blaming seniors for rising health costs in order to justify the legislation, which opponents say will erode the public heath system. Lukenchuk and 33 other senior members of the Friends of Medicare lobby group traveled by bus to Edmonton Thursday to demonstrate against the public health plan.

Freddie's Diary - Article 15 - Part II 

April, 2004, Sheila Pratt, EJ

Before Gary Mar begins his round the world search for ways to cut health-care costs, here's some darn good reading for his bedside table. A new study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development reviews a decade of health-care reform in 30 of the world's industrialized countries. Mar will find a long list of reforms tried in European countries, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

What Mar won't find in the OECD study is a lot of support for the views of his boss, Ralph Klein, who says the Canadian health-care system is in a fiscal crisis and headed for collapse. In fact, Canada's publicly financed Medicare system gets good reviews on most fronts when compared with two tier systems or those combining private and public insurance. Publicly financed, single-payer systems like Canada's "probably make containing overall spending easier," concludes the study, Health Care Systems: Lessons from the Reform Experience.

By contrast, countries with numerous private insurers or a mix of public and private systems "have had more difficulty in attaining and sustaining slowdowns in expenditure." The private insurance model has a high degree of patient choice "but cost control has been weak," says the report. In other words, if cost control is the goal of reform, we've got the best system. So far, Klein has said he wants "a mix of public and private" health care and that means changing the Canada Health Act.

Like the Romanow and Mazankowski reports, the OECD study questions the efficacy of user fees to raise revenue or curb demand. The fees have to be so high to achieve those goals that most countries then have to put caps or create exemptions for the poor or sick--who use the system most.

Another way of measuring efficiency of health spending is the amount of GDP spent on health care. According to the OECD study, Canada is about the middle of the pack. In 2001, health-care spending was 9.7% of the GDP in this country--modestly higher than 1990 when it was 9.0 % of GDP. Take a closer look at the GDP benchmark. Alberta spent 7.9 % of its GDP on health-care in 2003, according to figures for the Canadian Institute for Health information. That's the same %age of GDP this province spent on healthcare in 1989. No crisis back then. (In the previous article Evans said forecasts of the health budget which now consumes30% of government spending will make up 46% of the total budget by the year 2005. Iris Evans was exaggerating somewhat, don't you think?).

Let's not get stampeded into an illusory crisis. Unfortunately, the premier finds it easier to govern by blowing storm clouds over skittish voters rather than inviting them to a rational, vigorous public debate on clear choices.

We need to keep moving on health reform but there's no need to fear our well loved medicate system is collapsing or needs to be dismantled.

We need to remind ourselves of the new word "unsustainable" that Klein learned sometime during his last 10 years of cut and slash. His stock answer to anything that goes against his ideology is that that particular item is unsustainable. Remember this when you are making your choice at the poles in 2005. We cannot abide, sustain or maintain Ralph Klein, his upkeep is far too expensive for us taxpayers.

A visit with the Public Accounts Committee 

There has been considerable press regarding Premier Klein's appearance before the Public Accounts Committee. It is coverage like this in the eastern press that really helps build Alberta's reputation as the "go to" Province in Canada. You can read some of this coverage by clicking on the following links. The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, and if you want to see some video you can check out The CBC

To put things more in an Alberta context, Ralph's World has taken it upon themselves to create another virtual visit with the Premier so that he can explain his side of the story. He had so much fun on the plane trip to Fox Harb'r (click here), he couldn't wait to do another one.

A Virtual Field Trip to the Public Accounts Committee
Premier Ralph Klein speaks with reporters at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Wednesday. Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP Hi there Albertans. Today we are going to take a field trip to see how the Premier fights off bad people or as my American buddy Dick Cheney likes to call them, "evil doers". These are people who ask where the taxpayer money goes. It's the Premier's job to make sure they don't find out.

This is one of my most difficult tasks. That's why I only do it once every nine years. 
To help the Premier fight the bad people, we "stack"  the committee with good people. All the people you see here are my friends. They are all Tory people and their job is to ask me questions that my employees in my Public Affairs Department write for them. One of my favourite questions they ask is the one I like to call the "Big Tuna Question". One of them asks in a big important voice - "Is it true Mr. Premier that on March 17th for lunch you had a Tuna Salad Sandwich on brown along with a small Diet Coke and paid for it with your own money?"

And then I get to say "Yes that is in fact a veracity. I remember it well. I consumed the aforementioned items while running on my treadmill, over the lunch hour, on my own time, while reading a report on how silly global warming is."

This makes people think I'm honest. My friends ask lots of "Big Tuna" type questions.

The Good People
The Tory Members of the Public Account Committee

Shiraz Cindy Dave Wayne Harvey Alana
Hector Drew Mary Thomas Richard Gary Luke
My employees in the Public Affairs Department write my answers to the questions too so this part of the job is pretty easy for me and my friends. It gives us a break from the real work of government which as I explained to you last time is networking. Did you remember that word? 

Oh! In case your wondering who my little friend top right is, that's Ralphina. She's a little girl hamster that Colleen gave me for Valentine's Day. She brings in a little extra income to the Klein household by serving on the committee and also makes the committee more "gender equal" which my public affairs people tell me is important to Albertans.

I don't know the names of all of these people but I'm sure I've seen that guy bottom centre on Canadian Idol. If you know who it is, please let me know.


The Bad People
The Non-Tory Members of the Public Accounts Committee

These are the bad people. The first three of them are Liberals. I like to call these people left wing nuts. The last one is an NDP person. I like to call them Communists just like my Energy Minister Murray Smith does.
Bad Hugh Bad Laurie Bad Kevin Bad Brian
These people do not ask the questions that my Public Affairs people write for them. They ask questions like "Could you please provide a little more detail on the $1097.00 dollar tip you and Minister Norris left for the concierge and maid at the Four Season's Hotel in Mexico". (Click here for details). That's not fair. The Premier can't remember stuff like that. Especially stuff like that.

Just the other day Liberal Laurie Blakeman asked for proof that my Tory party had reimbursed the government for part of the costs incurred at that lovely golf resort. Remember? We took our first virtual trip there the other day.

Anyway I said "I have no problem, but I want to know is she calling me a liar? She doesn't believe me?

So then she said "It's your responsibility, sir."

This is when I really got her. This is when I yelled. "You don't believe me? You don't believe me? You don't believe me? You don't believe me?" 
Repeating things over and over again really works well. But I don't have to tell you kids that. You kids use that on Mom and Dad when you want that Game Boy don't you?

Well that's it for today Albertans. Sorry we couldn't take one of my planes on this trip. I hope this has provided you some valuable insight into how me and my team work really hard to make your life just a little better.

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Premier Klein makes a commitment on Auto Insurance 

Finally some good news on what we are going to be paying for our auto insurance and it comes from the bossman himself.

Yesterday the premier said "I would hope according to what I have seen thus far they will go down -- not significantly but down from where they are right now. Whether they will go down lower than Saskatchewan and Manitoba, I really don't know, but they would be within $10 or $15 or $20 (of) the rates they pay in those provinces." See story in Calgary Sun May 5, 2004. See also CBC report here.

That's good enough for me because here's what the situation is now.

Comparison of Average Auto Insurance Rates by Province
Consumers Association of Canada Report September 2003
Alberta $1853
Manitoba $787
Saskatchewan $904

So let's take the worst case which would be that Albertans would pay $20 more than our neighbours in Saskatchewan. That means that we would be paying $924 a year for our insurance, down from the $1853 we pay now.

Well I think that's terrific. It shows what the private insurance industry and a right-wing Tory government can do when they put their heads together. This is an average saving of over $900 a year and will go a long way toward making us forget the hosing we are taking due to electricity deregulation and the hosing we are going to be taking on health care privitization.

Way to go Ralph!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Letter to Premier Klein re Alberta Minimum Wage 

This letter to Premier Klein on the subject of minimum wage was received a couple of days ago here at Ralph's World. It was written by Michael Marlowe of Edmonton, one of our frequent contributors. As is our policy, we will publish the premier's response to Mr. Marlowe when it is received. Please click here to see how responsive our MLAs were to our previous letters.

Dear Premier KIein,

The Editorial article in the April 28th Edmonton Journal Newspaper citing, amongst others, the comments made by the Hon. Clint Dunford at the Conservative Party's convention last weekend at Banff, has encouraged and prompted me in once more making a further submission on your government's reluctance to make any changes in the minimum wage regulations.

When our province was created almost l00 years ago, the government of the day legislated the creation of the municipal level of government entrusting residents in such jurisdictions to elect from amongst themselves individuals that would take on the administrative responsibilities set out in the Act which created such municipalities but also set down policies in providing what services and what needs would be addressed .

To reach the equanimity of trust and cooperation needed to achieve the goals of both levels of government, both had to learn to accept and respect each others' responsibilities. After all, in both levels responsibilities were focused on the well-being, safety and welfare of the people and to work co-operatively in developing initiatives to improve the economic growth that would help achieve the purposes of such focus.

During the fall of 2003, Mayors, Councilors and Aldermen representing various cities and towns throughout the province, as delegates to the annual meeting of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, approved a resolution requesting of your government to increase the minimum wage that has been at the stagnant rate of $5.90 an hour since 1999.. They were convinced that such a move would be economically beneficial for all that would be affected.

Your government Mr. Premier refused to do so and from the comments recorded in the Journal Editorial, it was obvious that would not be taking place in response to a request from some delegates attending your convention, with the Minister of Human Resources and Employment indicating he was a strong opponent of increasing the minimum wage.

Your government's position not to act continues to puzzle many Albertans as your government has on many occasions enunciated that it cares and listens and is prepared to engage in dialogue with Albertans on any issue of their concern. When we have elected municipal officials representing over 80% of the population supporting an increase in the minimum wage, Albertans would expect our MLAs would set aside their personal prejudices and objections and accept the recommendations from such officials representing such a strong element of Alberta's population.

In the past, a lot of controversy took place any time MLAs were considering increasing their remuneration. Your government, wisely in time, introduced a process which was voted in by all caucus members, but not all opposition members, providing for automatic annual increases when circumstances in the process improved. The result? - no more wrangling or complaints from taxpayers when they finally accepted the process in place.

In the public and private sector, where workers enjoyed the privilege of a collective bargaining process, employers, the government and the workers were generally acceptable of such process with disagreements only arising because of excessive wage demands by the unions on behalf of their members.

But, in the instance of minimum wage earners, they could not vote themselves automatic yearly increases and as they did not have the luxury of a collective bargaining process, they had to rely on the people they elected in the Legislative Assembly to provide them with a fair process. They soon found that those they elected would not take any action on their behalf and would not entertain a process, that would provide even annual increases based on inflationary rises in the province.

The Edmonton Journal Editorial is an excellent developed and informative article enlightening the public on some studies supporting a reasonable minimum wage. Your government should not ignore it and take the obvious action to achieve fairness for the minimum wage earners along the lines MLAs voted for themselves. It is time Mr. Premier to legislate a reasonable minimum wage with provision for an inflationary factor so that this matter too can come to rest which would provide the employers affected ample time to make adjustments when inflationary rises occur.

If the will is in your heart to do so Mr. Premier as with caucus members, you already have the necessary powers to provide and fair process for Alberta's minimum wage earners.

In closing, I would like to share with all caucus members an appropriate quote once made by William Penn:

"I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be any kindness I can show, or any good things I can do for any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

Most respectfully submitted,

Michael Marlowe

cc. All caucus members.

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