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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

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

OLE BILL #10 HEARS MARTHA AND HENRY ASKING 

“WHAT ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR THIS PIG?”

HENRY: Alberta’s Premier’s says he’s been “TO MARKET TO, TO MARKET TO BUY A FAT (health care) PIG” and, while everyone in the province is trying to have a summer break, he’ll come “HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN JIGGEDDY JIG.” Then he’ll take this porker out of the bag and show us what kind of a beast he’s bringing us this time.

MARTHA: You mean, he’s got this health care pig in a poke and we’re going to pay for it?

HENRY: Yeah, like the deregulation animal he bought and brought home and let loose for us to live with.

MARTHA: Boy! that sure was a pig in a poke if there ever was one. He came out from the hidden corners of that Legislature place like a gold digger with a poke full of gold and boasted about how all we had to do was to let it run loose and pretty soon it would be feeding everybody ham for breakfast, dinner and supper.

HENRY: What he didn’t mention was how he and his buddy the Vet didn’t have a clue how much that pig was going to eat. Heck, they didn’t even know if it had four legs to stand on. In fact we know now that neither of them happened to mention that all of the pork from it had already been guaranteed to the boys that sold it to him.

MARTHA: So what we have now is a big fat deregulation pig that we, the public, don't own but that we, the public, are pouring money into so the big boys can live higher and higher on the hog?

HENRY: Right, Martha! When we got that deregulation pig out of the poke it turned out to stink to high heaven. We’ll be feeding that one for ever. We get to pay for the tons and tons of energy it eats, while big guys still get to eat all the bacon.

MARTHA: Now the Premier and his Vet buddy have got this health care pig in a poke and you can bet those two will mount another massive sales campaign to sell the idea that we’ll get to eat all the bacon this time.

HENRY: Behind that advertising campaign it’s a sure bet that this one’s another that the citizens not only won’t own but that we, the public, will have to feed so the big guys he’s buying it from can live higher on the hog than they already do.

MARTHA: I guess the only way to stop that happening is for all us Martha’s and Henrys to stop believing this old gold digger when he keeps coming home from the market with pigs we have to feed once he lets them out of the bag.

HENRY: Martha, are you saying that, in the province of Alberta, ‘ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD’?

MARTHA: Henry, you should know that by now, in fact nothing that glitters in Ralph’s world is really gold.

HENRY: So, our only hope is for Alberta’s PRESENT Premier to get turned into Alberta’s PAST Premier in the next election.

MARTHA: Henry, I think you’ve got it.

Just listening in - Yours, Bill Barley

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Conservative Tax Cut Sham 

The Conservative party is proposing a "middle class" tax cut as a major plank in their federal election platform. Today the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their analysis of the Conservative plan. Click here for highlights or read the entire report (six pages and very readable) by clicking here.

Stephen Harper has taken a page from the Klein government in calling this a "middle class" tax cut. When Klein sold his tax cut program back in 2001 (aka the "flat tax") he too called it a "middle class" tax cut which would also eliminate thousands of the poorest Albertan's from the tax rolls altogether. Remember the line - Ralph listens, Ralph cares.

What neither Klein then, nor Harper now go out of their way to explain is that these tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the well-to-do. For example, under Harper's proposals, the 36% of all Canadian families with incomes over $70,000/year would receive 82.7% of the tax cut dollars and of these, the 7% of families with incomes over $150,000/year would receive 28% of the total benefit. Families making $150,000/year and over will get to put on average, $3363 extra in their jeans each year. Families making $70,000/year or less get to keep on average about $240. The Alberta Flat Tax scheme was even more beneficial to the wealthy. Click here for a refresher on the Alberta Flat Tax.

The second part of the sham is when conservative governments need to make up the revenue lost due to the tax cuts. Budgets have to be balanced in these days of fiscal responsibility. This is always done by introducing user fees, healthcare premium hikes and the like; never by hiking taxes. The well-to-do happily pay the additional $1000 or so a year out of their few thousand a year in tax savings. They are still well ahead of the game. Those with incomes under $70,000/year who only averaged $240 in tax cuts start looking for ways to find an additional $760 to cover these additional costs.

A constant theme of this election is how young Canadians feel disenfranchised and find no compelling reasons to vote. Well think about this young Canadians, particularly the vast majority of you who are well down on the income scale. You can be sure that those Canadians who are well-off understand how many dollars a year these conservative tax cuts deliver to them. They didn't get to be well-off by being stupid. For sure they will be voting and they will be making sure that their spouse, kids and perhaps even the cat, dog and guppies will be voting. Voter turnout amongst these folks will be 110% as they say in the sports pages. Guaranteed. Need a reason to vote? This is it.

All Canadians, and particularly young Canadians, need to see this bogus "middle class" tax cut sham for what it is and vote accordingly.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

OLE BILL CONNECTS THE DOTS #9 

OLE BILL TRIES TO CONNECT THE DOTS #9
OLE BILL, ASKS: “DO THE DOTS LEAD BACK TO PREMIER’S PARTY?”

(Edmonton Journal via Calgary Herald June 8/04) “CALGARY TO OPEN FIRST CLINIC IN PRIVATE FACILITY”

DOT # 1 BENTALL REAL ESTATE invests $23 million to build 130,000 square feet.

DOT # 2 CALGARY HEALTH REGION guarantees Bentall $8,000,000 by leasing 70,000 Sq., ft. @ $800,000 per year for ten years.

DOT # 3 CHR has already spent the $10 million it received from the province on medical equipment, IT systems, tenant improvements and furniture.

DOT # 4 Question: WHO IS BENTALL REAL ESTATE?

DOT # 5 Answer: A simple computer search (Which Athabasca University says is a legitimate method of research. (See, Edmonton Journal, May 29/04, “KLein cleared of ‘suspected plagiarism’) finds:-

a. BENTALL REAL ESTATE is a ‘...... fully integrated real estate services organization .......... offices in Seattle, Los angeles, Vancouver, CALGARY, Toronto and Ottawa...”

b. DIRECTORS OF THE CALGARY BRANCH are: John R. D’Eathe; Maureen Farrow; Ron Ghitter; Bruce Heyland; James E. Wright; Jon N. Hagan; Claude C. Frenette.

c, One of those directors, RON GHITTER, who now heads his own property consulting company, was a Progressive Conservative MLA in the Don Getty Government (1985-1992) then was appointed Senator by Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1993.

DOT # 6 Could it be that all privatization's (oops! innovations) proposed by the Premier’s Party for the supposed reformation of Health Care in Alberta will have a contributor to the Premier’s Party on the Board of Directors?

Just wonderin’ - Bill Barley, Abnormal Albertan





Klein Kollege rolls out course in Ralphanomics 

In a high profile announcement at the Alberta Legislature , Learning Minister Lyle Oberg and Klein Kollege President Conrad Black today announced the rollout of an introductory course in Ralphanomics - the economic theory based on the unique mathematical notions of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

"Albertan don't understand squat about adding and subtracting and stuff like that" said the Minister. "How can we possibly expect them to understand complex economic issues like why it is good for taxpayer dollars to go be given to American-owned packing plants. We need to give them the tools to understand these things."
To teach the course, the Kollege has enlisted none-other than the Alberta Finance Minister Pat Nelson, (shown here with two really big graphs), as she is the only person in the Klein cabinet who pretends to understand the Premier when it comes to mathematical manipulation.

In a prepared statement Ms. Nelson said "The Premier has honed his skills through many years of filling out expense accounts. While the ordinary person may think this is a straight-forward process, things can get pretty complex when it comes to rationalizing a $1097 tip for concierge and maid services. Mr Klein is an acknowledged genius in this little-known facet of economics."

The Alberta Government has contracted with the Online Education division of Ralph's World to deliver this education to Albertans across the province through the internet. The first module, entitled "Trickle Down - How flowing taxpayer dollars to American-owned packing plants benefits Albertans and their children" will be available as soon as the Finance Minister can get her head around it.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 20 

ALBERTA'S SENIORS AT A GLANCE:
Key Statistics about Senior Citizens April, 2002, EJ

As of APRIL 2002, there are over 317,000 seniors in Alberta. This is approximately 10% of the Province's population.

Articles by Iris Evans MLA Sherwood Park News, JUNE 2, 2004 are used for comparison
$1.6 BILLION BENEFITS FOR ALBERTA Seniors

SENIORS PROGRAM STATISTICS - 2002
Alberta Seniors Benefit - As of April 2002, approximately 126,000 (40%) of Alberta seniors receive cash benefits and full health insurance premium exemptions from the Alberta Seniors Benefit package. The Alberta Seniors Benefit budget for 2002/03 is $154.1 million. The average payment through the Alberta Senior Benefit is $102 per month per senior. The average cash benefit per household is $123. A household may be headed by a single senior, a couple where one member is 65+ or a couple where both members are 65+.
compared to
Alberta Seniors Benefit - Iris Evans, MLA, Sherwood Park, June 2, 2004
This is an income-tested program that provides monthly cash benefits and health care premium exemption to eligible, low-income seniors. Approximately 185,000 (56%) of the 330,000 seniors in the province receive some form of benefit under the program. Single seniors with an annual income of $18,850 or less and senior couples with a combined annual income of $28,740 or less are eligible for a cash benefit.
The 2004/05 budget for the Alberta Seniors Benefit is $199 million, a $21 million increase from the final approved budget in 2003/04. Since the establishment of The Ministry of Seniors in 2001, annual expenditures for Alberta Seniors Benefits have risen from $128 million to approximately 199 million. In addition, since 2001, cash benefits under the Alberta Seniors Benefit have increased 15%.

Health Insurance Premiums - 2002
More than 52% (165,000) of Alberta seniors pay no health insurance. Approximately 6 % (19,000) of Alberta seniors pay partial premiums.
compared to
Health Care Insurance Premium exemptions - 2004
Approximately 165,000 seniors (50%) in Alberta pay no health insurance premiums and roughly 20,000 seniors (6%) pay partial premiums. The estimated foregone revenue of Health Care premium exemptions for low-income seniors in Alberta is approximately $100 million. Income eligibility thresholds for health care insurance premium exemptions have been increased over the last few years.

Special Needs Assistance for Seniors Program - 2002
During 2001/02 the Special Needs Assistance for Seniors Program helped more than 9,000 seniors. The maximum payment for the Special Needs Assistance for seniors' program is $5,000 per year. (They did not say this was a one time only payment) The average payment per approved application was $2,200.
compared
Special Needs Assistance for Seniors - 2004
The Special Needs Assistance for seniors program provides financial assistance to low income seniors eligible for the Alberta Seniors Benefit for extraordinary one time only expenses. In 2003/04 The Special Needs Assistance for seniors program provided financial assistance to over 35,000 seniors. The budget for this program in 2004/05 is $33 million.

Housing - 2002
Government provides $17.6 million in supports for seniors housing in Alberta. This includes 23,000 subsidized households (19,000) government owned and 4,000 government supported housing units). Government provides $41.0 million in supports for low-income families, individuals with special needs, and the homeless. This includes 17,100 subsidized households (9300 government -owned and
7 800 government supported housing units.
compared to
Housing - 2004
Alberta Seniors provides approximately $17 million annually to agencies to support 24,000 low to moderate income seniors in government owned and government supported housing. Rent under the seniors self-contained Apartment program is based on 30% of the household and adjusted income.

The Sherwood Park News, report by Iris Evans, MLA, June 6, 2004
.
Dental and Optical Benefits: Dental and optical benefits are available for eligible low income seniors under the Special Needs Assistance for Seniors program and can cover up to 100 % of dental services up to the lifetime maximum of "$5000".
In 2003/04 the Special Needs Assistance for seniors program provided a dental and optical financial assistance to approximately 14,000 seniors totaling $17 million, which is part of the global program budget.

Alberta Blue Cross coverage for seniors All Alberta seniors are eligible to receive premium free Alberta Blue Cross coverage. For prescription drug coverage, seniors pay 30% up to $25 maximum per prescription or refill. The Alberta Government spends approximately $364.2 million through the Blue Cross Coverage program 2003/04. This includes costs for prescription drugs (344.7 million), ambulance coverage ($15 million) and other benefits like prostheses, home nursing and clinical psychology ($4.5 million).

Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) program
The AADL program assists Albertans in maintaining independence in their home or home-like setting by funding medical equipment and/o4 supplies that best meet their basic medically assessed needs. Some of the benefits include hearing aids, wheelchairs, compression stockings, and oxygen. While all benefits have specific eligibility criteria this program is not age-specific and all seniors are eligible to apply. AADDL is a cost-share program. Clients pay 25% of the cost of the benefit, to a maximum of $500 per individual/family per benefit year. Clients with low incomes may be exempt from cost sharing. The Cost for 2003/04 was $73 million and provided assistance to 50,000 seniors in 2003/04.

Long term Care Assistance
THE MINISTRY OF SENIORS provides financial assistance to approximately 8,000 eligible low income seniors in long term care totaling approximately $29 million. Alberta Health and Wellness continues to pay around $95 per resident, per day for health care services. The estimated senior's portion of long term care expenditures in 2003/04 is approximately $650 million.

You have to admit that these great sums of money spent on half of the Senior Population sounds impressive. That is the point isn't it, to make us think they are giving generously TO HALF OF THE SENIOR POPULATION. The Klein government has split the senior population into bit parts. We have Low Income Seniors, Partial Seniors, Partially Rich (up to $40,000 income) and the very rich (8/9%). If your income is more than $18,850 (single) or $28,740 (couple) the Klein government does not want to know you - you do not count. Come the Revolution, when you cast your vote, make sure you find a party to support that knows you are still alive, cares about you and your needs, a party that considers you an asset to society, not a burden to be swept under the rug.

What's a Tory anymore? 

The support given to Federal Liberal Anne McLennan by twelve Progressive Conservatives in Alberta is telling. See article in June 10th Globe & Mail for details. Also telling is the immediate reaction from a group of provincial Conservatives who sent an open letter to Premier Ralph Klein, calling on him to denounce those party members who are offering her support. "Not only is it against our Conservative principles, but it is quite likely this could also have dire consequences for our support in the upcoming provincial election," said the letter, signed by Ken Suitor from Athabasca and other Conservatives.

There is a very different philosophy between what could be called the Stephen Harper/Ralph Klein brand of conservative and that represented by the older Joe Clark/Peter Lougheed brand - the kind that would support Ms. McLennan. The new conservative offers a seductive message which runs something like this.

We believe in:
- privatization of public services such as healthcare, education, etc. and user fees to pay for them This allows us to have:
- less government involvement in the delivery of public services which enables us to deliver:
- lower taxes which lets you the people put more money in your own pockets which then provides you with:
- individual choice about how to spend your money.

This all sounds pretty positive and you can hear these themes repeated over and over. Who can question more money in your pocket or freedom of choice? As for privatization, both sides of the debate can point to reports from one think tank or another to prove their points so Martha and Henry tend to view the privatization debate as a wash.

Let's look for Canadian success stories of the new conservatism. The Klein government has being operating this way ever since the cuts to government spending ten years ago in 1994. They would point to a booming Alberta economy as proof of their approach. However, this is a bit like a lottery winner of $10 million dollars buying a new house and cars for all the kids and declaring that his financial astuteness was the reason for his success. The reality in Alberta is that about a third of all government expenses are funded by lottery winnings, also known as oil and gas royalties. The oil is there by good luck, not good planning. Running a province gets a whole lot easier when you can just buy your way out of problems. Remember the electricity rebate cheques?

Mike Harris tried the same approach in Ontario where there wasn't any resource lottery winnings to clean up the messes caused by less government. Remember Walkerton? Mike Harris and his conservative party is gone. Clearly not a success.

Now Stephen Harper is asking us to follow the same approach nationally. Like Klein, his platform calls for a middle class tax cut. Also like Klein's tax cut, the largest beneficiaries of the tax cuts are those in our society with the highest incomes, not the middle class. Billboards proclaiming "We promise huge tax cuts for our well-to-do supporters" however is not good politics. Best to bill it as a middle class tax cut.

The problem is, unlike Alberta, the Federal Government doesn't have resource lottery money to draw on. The cost will be borne by the taxpayer one way or another, showing up eventually as some combination of new user fees and reduced services. The tax cuts will remain in place because raising taxes is political suicide for any party. (Witness the flack the Liberals in Ontario are taking trying to clean up after Mike Harris).
This will result in an ever-increasing burden for most Canadians.

The old Alberta Tories didn't cut taxes. And the reason many of them don't support Stephen Harper now is because they know he can't afford a tax cut.

Long time loyal conservative supporters, and in Alberta that's the majority of us, need to understand the fundamental differences between the conservatives of yesterday and those wearing the conservative brand today. They are not at all the same thing.

Friday, June 11, 2004

SUN'S NEIL WAUGH BOOSTS PUBLIC INTEREST ALBERTA? 

Letter to Editor Edmonton Sun June 11/04:-

“SO, NEIL Waugh is already dumping on Public Interest Alberta, an organization that seeks to promote public services, institutions and spaces that serve the public and community. The organizations could have no more ringing endorsement that a condemnation by Neil Waugh. Congratulations Public Interest Alberta!
D. Davidson

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

OLE BILL TRIES TO CONNECT THE DOTS # 8 

DOT# 1 “CALGARY TO OPEN FIRST CLINIC IN PRIVATE FACILITY” (Edmonton Journal via Calgary Herald June 8/04)

Dot # 2 Bentall Real Estate invests $23 million to build 130,000 square feet.

Dot # 3 Calgary Health Region guarantees Bentall $8,000,000 by leasing 70,000 Sq., ft. @ $800,000 for ten years.

Dot # 4. CHR has already spent the $10 million it received from the province on medical equipment, IT systems, tenant improvements and furniture.

DOT #5 Question: Who is Bentall Real Estate?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Martha's Monthly launches in Alberta 

This was received from a group of severely normal Marthas from Southern Alberta who seem a tiny bit upset. Here's what they sent.

June 8 is the start of a revolution! Join in...

Martha's Monthly is a grassroots non-partisan political action movement aiming to have input into policy-making at the provincial level in Alberta. Using the idea of St John's (Newfoundland) Status of Women Council’s "Feminism Fits" we will send a monthly mailout to you about a certain topic in Alberta. If you wish to participate you will find a sample e-letter attached to which you add your name, address and phone number and then e-mail directly to the premier, the Opposition leader, the ND leader, and us. We track how many letters get sent on the one day (the 8th of the month) and we let media outlets know. Ralph Klein wants to hear from "the Marthas and the Henrys" of Alberta and we think it is about time he heard from some Marthas who have a problem with high car insurance rates, a flat tax, the lowest per capita spending in Canada, large classrooms, low welfare rates, lack of affordable childcare, increasing tuition costs, deregulated electricity, the lowest minimum wage in Canada, crumbling infrastructure, and billions of dollars of surplus!

June's topic is Accountability. Here is the video clip from CBC that shows Premier Klein's behaviour when he appeared before the Public Accounts committee for the first time in 10 years in May 2004:
http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/05/05/canada/KleinAccts_040505

His boorish answers to MLA Laurie Blakeman's request for a receipt were well publicized but it seemed to overshadow the issue at heart...accountability. Mr. Klein is a public official and he was being asked to produce a document that should be provided, one which he carried in his pocket, and one which the Public Accounts Committee should request. The public still does not have access to records of questionable travel before April 1, 2004. Mr. Klein is willing to let the public see expenses after April 1. Why not those from before? In any other province the public would have access to these as a matter of course. Albertans deserve to be treated better.

Let Mr. Klein know how you feel about it. Email the attached letter to him at premier@gov.ab.ca. CC it to Dr. Kevin Taft, Official Opposition leader at edmonton.riverview@assembly.ab.ca, Dr. Raj Pannu, leader of the New Democrats at edmonton.strathcona@assembly.ab.ca and us at marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca

We hope you will participate and pass this forward this email to other "Marthas and Henrys" in Alberta. We are aiming for 200 emails to go to Mr. Klein's office on June 8, 2004. Watch for the next Martha's Monthly on July 8th. Topics are being gathered. To add your voice email us at marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca.

Here is a copy of their first letter for you to copy, paste, and send to Mr. Klein.

The Honourable Ralph Klein
Premier of Alberta
307 Legislature Bldg
10800 97 Ave
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B7

June 8, 2004


Dear Premier Klein:


I am writing to you as one of the women involved in Martha’s Monthly. You often refer to us common Albertans as the “Marthas and the Henrys” and you say you listen to what we have to say. We are pleased about that and so we have decided to write you on the 8th of each month with our comments on what we see as important in our province.

This month, our inaugural month, we wanted to let you know our disappointment with you during your appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee in early May. Much has been made of your behaviour towards Ms. Blakeman, and though that was unnecessary and reminiscent of schoolyard bullies the world over, what I am upset about is deeper than your behaviour. I am concerned that after many years in office you have begun to behave as though Albertans are not entitled to have public officials who are accountable to their electorate. Why are your travel expenses not public information? Why are you making them available from April 1 onward but not retroactively?

Mr. Klein, I work hard for my income. I am willing to pay my fair share of taxes, just like every other Martha and Henry in the province, but I am unwilling to see you spend my money on expensive trips, meals, and golf holidays. This is not a legitimate business expense, as you claimed. It is lavish and unnecessary. When I travel to meetings I use car pools, public transportation, and other forms of economical transportation. I think you should too. If you need a jet plane or a car service then prove it. And show me, and the rest of the Marthas out here, how much it cost me to let you have that service. Open your books Mr. Klein. We expect accountability from you.

Sincerely,


Your name
Your address
Your city and postal code

Hmmmmm. The natives appear restless.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Critical Difference 

Lorne Gunter's column in Friday's Edmonton Journal ("Hectic-voter day will burn Liberals") unwittingly points out a critical philosophical difference between the Conservative and Liberal federal parties. On the subject of pre-abortion counselling, Conservative Rob Merrifield mused that all women should undergo mandatory counselling before having an abortion. Gunter erroneously concludes that Paul Martin says the same thing when he says "I think you should always refer to counselling before a woman goes ahead with an abortion." Merrifield thinks there should be a law enforcing counselling; Martin thinks women should seriously consider it. Must versus should.

There's a big difference Lorne, and it points out a fundamental difference between the parties. Conservatives like to have laws to make people do what they, the Conservative party, think is right. Liberals like to convince people to do what they, the individual, thinks is right.

Friday, June 04, 2004

PEOPLE POWER IN OUR PROVINCE! 

(Why one old SALT believes in PIA)
*Note:- This is a long one; so, get yourself a coffee.

PUBLIC INTEREST ALBERTA
I sincerely believe that those who gathered to take part in founding Public Interest Alberta (PIA), on Saturday May 29/04, represent a potentially powerful voice for the whole richly diverse but uncoordinated army of Alberta citizens whose common motivation is a commitment to serving the needs of their fellow humans.

PIA,s POTENTIAL POWER
As PIA finds its voice, it will be heard speaking for the people of this Province who understand that the Natural`/God-given resources of this part of Canada belong to all of the Province’s people and not to a self serving few. That voice will call for elected government to act for the benefit of the whole of society instead of draining off our resources for the benefit of an already rich and politically powerful elite.

INFORMATION INSTEAD OF RAW OPINION
Public Interest Alberta will counterbalance government sales campaigns; designed to take advantage of the ignorance and limitations of the people in the market place; that preach one-sided mental attitudes and moral values. PIA will confront the values and attitudes of commercial forces that invalidate the worth of people and their personal/social needs. Public Interest Alberta will challenge elected officials at all levels to stop tearing down, undercutting and giving away institutions and programs that have been built over hundreds of years from citizen-contributed money and personal investment.

INTEGRITY IN RESEARCH
The power of Public Interest Alberta will come from the quality and integrity of its sources of information. It will speak for those who know from first-hand experience what fellow human beings are dealing with in their daily lives. PIA will report from the workers in industry who are being bullied out of their benefits when opportunistic, profit-driven entrepreneurs are licensed by government to run human service programs. It will inform the public from the actual experiences of health care workers manipulated into taking on impossible burdens of care for the sick and elderly. It will do responsible research into classroom and hospital conditions for the purpose of finding the truth rather than demanding disembodied and misleading cold statistics.

A VOICE FOR THOSE SILENCED BY THE POLITICS OF POWER
Public Interest Alberta will speak on behalf of those human beings whose voices have been muted or totally silenced by a citizen-financed; Premier-controlled; politician-serving; advertising and broadcasting program that originates from behind the closed doors of the Alberta Legislature. PIA will seek to be heard above the noise of commercialized; propagandized; politicized; and misleading opinions of politicians that are repeated constantly like campaign slogans under the guise of evidence gathered from research.

GOVERNMENT FOR PEOPLE NOT CORPORATIONS
Government, in Alberta, under its present leadership, has taken on the structure and values of a massive corporation. Power is exercised from within a boardroom dominated by money managers subservient to a Premier who boasts of being the CEO of a $2 billion operation. Decisions about the distribution of the Province’s wealth are sent down from an inner circle to departments like health, education, social services. Budgets ignore or reject research into the real needs of the workers and the people they care for. Benefits like those for Seniors; legitimate welfare recipients; or the so-called working poor are dictated not distributed according to need. Unions are treated as enemies of Government whenever they take a stand on behalf of their members. The business goal of government in Alberta has evolved into one of investing the least possible into services for its “customers” while sucking out the most energy possible from those who serve the public.

SERVICE TO PEOPLE RATHER THAN EXPLOITATION
What has actually happened, then, is simply that, in every area of public service, institutions and programs have been so severely deprived of necessary funding that the government now claims them to be “unsustainable”. The truth is that for over ten years opportunistic, profit-motivated, entrepreneurs (medical sales persons and private educators for example) have been like scavengers standing around while public structures are coming down. Eagerly they have watched for and promoted opportunities for moving in, carrying off, or buying cheaply, a piece of the public service for their own for-profit purposes. Today the government itself has begun referring to these same exploiters and opportunists as rescuers. Political leadership wants them to move in and repair the damage the politicians themselves have done. They call it privatization: but it’s really getting setting friends of government up cheaply at the expense of Alberta’s citizens.

WAY TO GO PIA!
The energy of Public Interest Alberta (PIA) will be directed, then, toward bringing into harmony; from as many sources as possible; spokespersons who can and will confront the illusions and expose outright false assumptions being used to sell privatization to a poorly informed and vulnerable populace. The strength of this new movement will come from the realization, by all who enter fully into PIA’s spirit, that, although each group has it’s own special concerns to express, the deeper need is to enable the people of Alberta to be heard by government that no longer takes responsibility for serving the people who pay for it. PIA will demonstrate the ability of truth to prevail against the onslaughts of derision and ridicule that are certain to come from the most anti-democratic government in all Alberta’s history as soon as it realizes PIA is here to stay.

Blair McPherson, Citizen

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Deregulation 101 

My natural gas continues to come from the same sources, through the same pipelines and distribution network. The same company, ATCO, continues to read my meter and prepare my monthly gas bill.

But now they print “Direct Energy” instead of “ATCO Gas” on the bill. And I get to pay more each month for this vital service.

Isn’t competition wonderful? I can’t wait to see the savings on my car insurance.

Freddie's Diary - Article 19 

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

BUDGET HITS HARD, SENIORS SAY
Cathy Lord, March 23, 2002, EJ

Alberta Council on Aging Executive Secretary, Peggy Fleet says, "seniors are very angry, very upset and a lot of them are scared about what the budget is going to mean to them." "They are getting hit from every direction. It is going to be absolutely devastating to senior single women,. A lot of them don't have company pensions so they are living off the basic Canada Pension, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement."

About 82,000 seniors will pay a 30% health care premium hike despite a promise from the government in 1996 that premiums for seniors would not rise. The budget scrapped the $24 million Extended Health Benefits program, which covered some eyeglass and dental costs for seniors regardless of income. About $9.2 million will be transferred to the Seniors Department for a new benefit program targeted at low income seniors. Regional health authorities will pick up the rest.

New Democrat Leader Raj Pannu said there are 70 hikes in taxes and user fees in the budget, which "imposes a terrible burden on seniors and average families. The government snatched away seniors' eye and dental benefits, while public subsides to the horse racing industry doubled and millionaire owners of professional hockey teams benefit from a special tax. Talk about twisted priorities," said Pannu.

Details of the new benefit have yet to be worked out, but only people who are eligible for the Alberta seniors Benefit program will be covered, said department spokeswoman, Jan Berkowski. Annual income thresholds for that program are $18,440 or less for single seniors and $27,925 or less for couples.

Liberal senior's critic Laurie Blakeman said the government is risking seniors' long term health by pushing them into poverty and whittling away benefits.

EXTENDED HEALTH BENEFITS AT A GLANCE
Coverage ends March 31, 2002
• All seniors were eligible regardless of income
• About 160,000 seniors and their dependents used the program every year
• Provided 25 to 30% coverage for services such as routine dental care, eyeglasses (once every three years), dentures (once every five years) and denture relines (once every two years)
• $24 million program, of which two thirds was spent on denture and dental services and one-third on optical
• New $9.2 million program will assist only low-income seniors eligible for the Alberta Seniors Benefit program.

SENIORS DON'T RATE
March, 2002, Jim Fraser, EJ

So Ralph Klein has hit seniors again despite a previous cabinet decree that health-care premiums would not rise for seniors. In the previous slashing, seniors took the brunt of cutbacks. Elimination of rent subsidies and increased prescription costs amounted to a major decrease in seniors' net income.

We now face a 30% increase in premiums and elimination of other benefits. How are we going to cope with that? Ralph recently gave himself a large increase in salary and separation allowance. To hell with seniors, let them suffer.

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