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, August 23, 2004

Freddie's Diary - The Final Installment 

Over the last several months Rose Bradley has reviewed the newspaper clippings provided to her by Freddie Chorney. She asked me to edit her 21st and final posting as she thought it might be too long. Well I didn't change a word. In this last article Rose has captured pretty well everything that is wrong with the Klein government when it comes to the treatment of seniors in Alberta. If you missed reading Rose's other postings, you owe it to yourself to read this one.

Thanks Rose for your contribution to Ralph's World. We look forward to hearing from you again as we ramp up for a fall election. - John Slow

Freddie J. Chorney thoughtfully clipped news items regarding the plight of seniors from newspapers over the past 12 years. Because he shared his work with me, I have been able to bring you very important information regarding what has happened to senior's and to senior's benefits since 1992. If you have not been reading all along, just tap into the archives that have been provided for you by Ralph's World.

By 2003, a whole lot of seniors began to feel the pinch of poverty. Seniors who thought they had planned well and would be OK in their retirement found that was not the case. They were not quite sure what benefits they had lost, but all of a sudden they realized they were not covered for many items that once was included in their seniors health care benefit package.

Instant poverty came as a big shock for those seniors who were not far enough below the poverty line to qualify for benefits. The big government spin-doctor propaganda machine talked seniors into believing that the deficit was mainly their fault. Seniors believed the Klein machine when they told us that giving up our benefits was temporary, benefits would be returned to us. Seniors lost sight of what was rightfully theirs and began to beg and beg and beg for their benefits back. All seniors at and above the poverty line were abandoned. The PC government has no intentions in giving seniors back any of their benefits. If they do for the sake of votes, seniors better be prepared to either loose the benefits soon after election or never receive what is promised; - like in 2001.

The consensus is that a senior couple lost between $3,500 to $4,000 a year from their meager fixed income. Think of that over ten years. In addition, the PC Government deregulated electricity and natural gas, which in turn doubled our monthly heating and light bills, in many cases that amounted to approximately $1,400 per year. Then our insurance went sky high and property taxes keep going up. How many Albertans of any age could afford to have $5000 deducted from their income every year without getting a midnight job.

Most seniors have paid taxes in this province all of their working lives. Most are still paying income taxes, property taxes and GST. Our income from CPP, OAS and RRSP are not handouts, neither is health care because we have paid dearly for all of this. The taxes we pay on OAS are doubly taxed because we bought the OAS with net income. Does anyone remember that OAS was a separate tax until the federal government hid it in General Revenue. Basically seniors have paid for the benefits we had back in 1991/92, the benefits that were enjoyed by seniors then were not a gift that the PC government would like us to believe. The upshot was they took our benefits and they also took our taxes and premiums and left us with precious little.

Back in the late 80 and early 90 the PC government promised that the list of benefits that were in place at the time was written in stone. We could plan our retirement on those facts and many of us did and so did the companies we worked for at the time. Back then society had empathy and respect for seniors.

Then starting in 1992 Ralph's Rustlers began to cut and slash. In 1993 everybody paid Alberta Health premiums, but not to worry, they would never raise the cost of those premiums. We know they raised the premiums by 30%. They promised us home care, they promised they would not raise the cost of long-term care but they raised that by 15% and on the heels of that they raised the cost of long term care again by over 40% on August 1, 2003. They took away our vision care, hearing aids, dental and now according to a letter to the editor, foot care is not covered either. Ms. Lavender paid $1400 for a bunion operation.

Remember when the PC MLAs did away with their Cadillac pensions. Big Headlines, they were giving us an example. They told seniors, if they could give up their pensions then the seniors should be willing to give up a portion of their livelihood. Now we see that our friend Stan Woloshyn and a number of his buddies will walk away with $500,000 upon quitting their jobs? This of course is in addition to the over $7,000 that has been paid into their RRSPs and they did not have to match that sum either. I am positive that most senior couples, with both of them working all their working lives, were not able to put away $500,000 toward their retirement.

Since 1992/93 Albertans have given Ralph Klein's government Carte Blanc three times in a row. When will we wake up? In 2001, this government bought our votes with rebates. They promised that once we got over the hump the price of natural gas and electricity would be greatly reduced. Now they are promising to remove Alberta Health premiums, and they might add to our dental and vision care. And they are going to add 30,000 more seniors to their below the poverty line list. Isn't that nice?

How dare they hold us hostage with their promises. Since when is a government able to negotiate votes with our own benefits. Those benefits that they took away over the past 12 years belong to us then and they belong to us now. What makes them think they can buy votes with seniors' property.

Seniors benefits must be universal. Remember that the majority of seniors have been and right now are living below the poverty line (56%). Only maybe 9% have incomes over $40,000 a year. Many of these seniors are responsible for a spouse who is in long term care, the upkeep and care of their grandchildren and/or children. There is no excuse why all seniors should not be included in all seniors' benefits. All seniors pay taxes and the very few that have an income of over $44,000 lose their OAS income to claw back.

How often do you hear seniors and others saying that they have nobody else to vote for. This is the biggest cop out I ever heard. Certainly there are other parties to vote for. At the Ralph's World website there is a link to all other opposition parties. You have only to tap into those sites to find out what they promise to do for seniors. These parties haven't lied to us - they deserve a chance. The PC Government is hard pressed to tell the truth about anything.

Almost all of Ralph's cabinet people have been in office since 1993 and some of them have been there before that, going back to 1989. The point is that these people showed us how good they were at tearing our province apart, These people know well how to cut and slash but they have not shown us that they know how to build. How they plan to replace infrastructure and repair rotting schools. They have not shown us that they know how to manage Alberta's present situational environment. They say they will ask us what to do. That ploy is old enough to be covered with moss. Why would they do what we say now when they never have before. This is a very tired worn out government. It is time they were retired.

According to the Ralph Klein PC Government, they have paid down the debt or they have put the money aside to do so when they are able to make the last payment. I hope Albertans will never forget, in the beginning they paid down the debt on the backs of seniors, the disabled, the sick, and people below the poverty line. All of the weak in this province were hit harder than anyone else. The poor and the weak had to pay first and they should have had their benefits returned first before anyone else. And never forget that most everyone who suffered rollbacks had their pay returned while seniors have not. Only those seniors living in dire poverty received government help over the past 12 years.

This government, in their wisdom, threw more seniors into poverty than any other government within memory. Now they are swimming in money and they are still very reluctant to return our benefits. Once again they want to consider who deserves what. They want to have seniors benefits tied to income. Do these people not realize the Oil riches belong to all Albertans, even seniors. If Big Business Oil Companies deserve a gift of a tax holiday for so many years (1% as opposed to 25%?) why is it so impossible to think of giving all seniors back their benefits.

Consider all these things before you go to the polls this November. Please vote, take your brother, your sons and daughters and grand children who are old enough to vote. Point them in the right direction and let them do the rest

Friday, August 20, 2004

Canadian Taxpayers Assn Know Ralph's games! 

August 9, 2004

Premier Klein ignores Albertans’ views from past surveys

Having announced last month that Alberta will be debt-free, Premier Klein now plans to conduct another province-wide survey to ask Albertans about taxes, spending and savings.

Consulting taxpayers about their money is always a good thing, especially because Albertans do not enjoy the right to initiate and vote in referendums on issues important to them. Nor do Albertans have taxpayer protection legislation to require politicians to put proposed tax increases and new taxes to the people in a referendum. Democracy in Alberta is limited to placing an “x” on your ballot once every four years, after which politicians enjoy an absolute monopoly on power, without any direct accountability. The politicians’ monopoly on power includes the right to raise any tax at any time for any reason, without having to obtain permission from those who pay the bills.

The tax dollars spent on printing hundreds of thousands of surveys, and mailing them to every household in Alberta, are well spent only if Premier Klein heeds the survey’s results.

Premier Klein has largely ignored Albertans’ views on taxes and spending, as expressed on province-wide surveys in 1998 and 2000. In the 1998 “Talk it up, Talk it out” survey, Albertans were asked to rank the importance of debt repayment, tax cuts, increased spending on government programs, and savings in the Heritage Fund. Converted into a 100-point index of importance, Albertans’ priorities were debt repayment (75 points), then tax cuts (61 points), then increased spending (56 points), and then more savings in the Heritage Fund (19 points). The results of the 2000 “It’s your money” survey were similar, with tax cuts scoring 73 points, and increased spending a distant second at 44 points. In short, Albertans have twice told their premier that tax cuts are more important than spending increases.

Premier Klein reduced corporate income tax from 15.5% to 11.5%, and the small business rate from 6% to 3%. Albertans also pay less provincial income tax today than what we did in the late 1990s.

However, these tax cuts have been off-set by increases to the health care premium tax, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, and large increases in various licences and fees. In 2002, Premier Klein raised the health care premium tax – all of which flows into the government’s General Revenues – to $1,056 per family, $528 for individuals.

In contrast to small and modest tax cuts, spending on government programs rose by 69% from 1996 to 2003. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index rose by 20% and Alberta’s population grew by 14%.

Albertans told Premier Klein their top priority was tax cuts, with spending increases a distant second. In response, Premier Klein reduced tax rates somewhat, but hiked spending by 69%.

If Premier Klein had increased spending since 1996 just to keep pace with inflation and population growth, Albertans’ annual provincial tax bill would be at least $4 billion lower today. A $4 billion tax cut would mean:

Reducing personal income tax from 10% to 2%, or
Eliminating provincial property tax and cutting personal income tax from 10% to 5%, or
Eliminating the health care premium tax and provincial property tax and cutting personal income tax from 10% to 7%

But alas, Premier Klein has ignored the surveys, and is spending our tax cut. Another province-wide survey on taxes and spending is worthwhile – but only if Premier Klein plans to heed the results.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ask Ralph what his spending plans are! 

It's a hard read but, try to get through it!
John Clark
14815 – 123 Ave
Edmonton, AB
T5L 2Y7

August 19, 2004.

Honorable Ralph Klein,
Room 307
Legislative Building,
Edmonton, AB T4K 2C6

Murray Smith, Minister of Energy,
404 Legislature Building,
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Your recent TV appearance – ‘getting it from the left and the right! And outstanding issues.

Dear Premier:-

There has been information about the doubling of oil revenues because of production even at the lowest royalty returns in the world. The year’s 2004 figure is pointed at 16 to 20 billions of dollars profits for oil companies untaxed. While Albertan’s are expected to pay for the export of power through 300% hikes in utilities and suffer even more acute health care premiums while services are curtailed.

There is no party in Canada or the US that is further right wing than you are! So intent in your extreme privatization role you brought Steve West aboard to keep ministers in line. So much for the constituency representation! In West’s words “they aren’t going to back door me”. He should borrow your choice of words.

You will not be happy until every last blade of grass, drop of water, bucket of oil or spark of electricity is for sale to the highest bidder regardless of which country they represent! I’m astounded at how you, an extremist, smoothly painted yourself to the centre! If it was an Alberta Comedians contest you would certainly be in the top 10! All this leaving Albertan’s on farms and in the cities to “suck it up” and get on board with your newly invented free market system.

Your record:

Add health care premiums to Albertans years before any other province. “Users pay” was the battle cry. Now, a single minimum wage earner, probably part time employment and no coverage because of non existent Labour laws for casual, puts out more than 1000 dollars a year for these premiums that go into general revenue or, goes without coverage! Yet, while pushing billions in surplus, expected to double, you claim foul, we are broke. On going shame!

Sell the public parks and campgrounds in the name of saving money. Many of these campgrounds had hundreds of thousand of dollars of Federal Improvement in them by way of water, showers and some accommodation built for staff. Gone for pennies on the dollar in recovered value; Zero accountability! Former employees; of many years, laid off, dispossessed with no recourses. Hardly a visible process for selection! More shame!

Pay your way or fall by the wayside. Charge admissions to public places increase charges for essential documents etc.: After all, Albertan’s didn’t squeak at the loss of the public camp grounds why stop here?

Balance the books Ralph’s way. Start by paying a million a year through one scheme or another into the Swan Hills site. Knowing now it was a project that should never have happened, how to get out from under it facing billions of dollars in clean up costs? Force an ownership change – switch it to Government name or pay for the shut down yourself. Now, get the original owner to operate it for you, a complete reverse of your SOP! Further degeneration; presently paying half a billion a year into the plant to keep the doors open! Perhaps that’s where the health care premiums go?? That would seem almost reasonable.

Garbage disposal problems; how to make a buck on this? A 2.00 per tire recycle charge is a good idea that will produce money. Multi Millions built up in the fund and only after a media war did you turn loose any money for any projects. What is the current state if this fiasco? I have lost track.

Raid the lunch boxes and dinner table with deposits! Lunch box Juice containers were hit on the household grocery bills. No need to explain to Albertans where their money went. Millions a year again into a general revenue base now called surplus. Nothing coming back for Albertans, I recall the container manufactures being labeled the bad guys. All the time tell the people they are paying the lowest taxes; the billions collected on user fees are long forgotten and the cost of living on the up swing!

This strip and waste standard operating procedure has worked for you up till now. Get elected fresh then, put it too them! In your view, Albertan’s are too dumb to understand your complex plans so why tell them anything?

Sell off Alberta’s fully paid for electrical generation system at less than 1 cent on the dollar! Keep Expansion legislation in limbo to make this possible! Experts agree the one shot loss to Albertan’s was 60 billions of dollars! You created the problems now, charge Albertans for rebuilding the newly lost utility!

Give Albertan’s a good buzz talking about high oil resource revenues, make sure they don’t find out how very little they are making compared to the rest of the world! Pocket the money made in stock dividends. Play the good old boy and put down the serious situations of mismanagement you have sponsored over the years. This brings us to the future and as I quoted in my earlier letter; When the Fox asked the Scorpion why he killed them both the Scorpion said “Because it is my nature”

Now you have cuddly Albertans still believing they have a good, responsible Government in charge but you refuse to put any spending costs alongside your revenue projections! Of course, the costs won’t be in until after you get elected and Albertans cover their dissent by denial asking “how does he do it?”

What does the future hold according to Ralph?

New unneeded rail road into McMurray AB. 20 billion a mile? 70 Billions of dollars.

You choose to overlook the fact that oil companies firmly rejected the inland rail system as being not dependable and cumbersome when doing their arctic exploration seems to have evaded you! Trucking and oil companies are both on board saying “not required”. In keeping with your operating agenda the rail would be turned over to a private company. American Railroads? Presently operating the old NAR Lines?

What agreements are you working on here?

Electrical Generation facility, Genesee, Keephills and Brooks (not yet announced)
Fully covered in previous document – still waiting for replies! 30 billion?

Electrical Transmission Facilities Calgary-Edmonton 7 Billion dollars minimum
All being run by AESO a private company looking after Albertans where the Minister of Energy appoints the chair and the board.

This line is going to be used to transmit electrical export power and, we have heard nothing in answer to the question will electrical exporters be charged for the use of this line and how much? Is it your position this is an Alberta Citizen problem and as such should be paid for by them?

Electrical Transmission to service McGrath Wind Turbines:- The project for generation is under way but basic questions remain un answered. Generation will take place only 30% of the time! What part of the project is subsidized and how? How are Albertans going to pay for the 70% of the lines that are not used? How many Billions totally lost?

Water pipe lines; metering of farm water use and charging for same; Contrary to earlier letters from your Government inter basin transfer is alive and well in Alberta. I believe your agenda in this regard is so controversial you simply refuse to discuss it until you are elected again with time line to give you impunity from resistance.

I see the distinct possibility Alberta will be facing an internal debt for infrastructure nearing the sum of Canada’s national debt of 255 billion dollars. Whether in the position of your personal “private” companies or not, it remains debt planned for Albertans to pay. Time to come clean!

Even darker, Alberta will have to have new power on line by 2006 or, freeze in the dark! We are brought to this point by 18 years of neglect deliberate legislation interference and a refusal to properly protect Albertan’s investment in the resource base!.

Any comment you may have I will be pleased to post. I do not edit information like you do.

John Clark

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Solution for Ralph, if he's up to it! 

John Clark
14815-123 Ave
Edmonton, AB
T5L 2Y7
August 14. 2004.
Honorable Ralph Klein,
Room 307
Legislative Building,
Edmonton, AB T4K 2C6

The Honorable Minister Patricia L. Nelson,
224 Legislature Building 10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton .

Dear Ministers:

The Minister of Finance responded to my challenge that Oil Royalties charged by the Province of Alberta at 25% are the lowest in the world with a document “84733 Facts for Mr. Clark”, stating the Oil Industry would remain foremost in Alberta’s economy.

Inadvertently, this document also details only 10 of some 37 oil sands companies and these 10 companies show a total of 6.7 billions of dollars profit in part due to a tax black hole that allows them to write off “unknown future losses”.

If the 25% Royalty was moved up 15% to 40%; it would be near, but below the world standard! This would return a fair equity for Albertan’s of 1 billion in 2003; much more this year and in future years.

If you decided to leave the Royalties in place at the low 25% you could tax the profits of these companies at 15% for the same result.

The point being here that you obviously prefer to gouge the citizens of Alberta for your financing of infrastructure rather than put in a program that would alter oil stocks by less than 3%. Considering the direction of oil, it would not even prevent a windfall profit on oil stock!

Perhaps you will now consider price freezes on Albertan’s consumer utility costs leaving power and water exporters to pay from the market they enter?
Your priorities are clear and, Albertans are in for a very difficult time having the highest cost of living in North America, if the Conservatives are elected this fall!

John Clark.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Priorities! Dangerous Political Chasm! 

John Clark
14815 – 123 Ave.,
Edmonton, AB T5L 2Y7
August 13, 2004
Honorable Ralph Klein,
Room 307
Legislative Building,
Edmonton, AB T4K 2C6

Honorable Murray Smith
404 Legislature Building,
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Re:- Priorities! Albertans standing on the lip of a conservative chasm!


It was refreshing to have the retiring Minister state the heath care premiums were coming off the senior’s bills in October “because it is the right thing to do”. To publicly acknowledge it was a rotten thing to do in the first place is refreshing!
What we need to hear is that the Health Care Premiums will stay off rather than be implemented again a year after you are elected because the retiring Minister “had it wrong” and the new Minister is the correct conservative line when the price crunch comes! With your credibility in tatters, I’m asking for a show of faith here!

Pensions are incremented by National indexes, not provincial! Albertan’s will suffer the higher cost of living directly out of their meager resource while your “corporate cost plus construction with 11% minimum profits built into them”, flourish.

Cost plus construction with a 30% error margin and 11% minimum profits guaranteed is a no win formula for Alberta population and industry! However Cost plus quotations sure take the teeth out of accountability! I won’t even touch the Swan Hills fiasco sucking back half a million a year so you don’t have to face the billions of dollars aspect of clean up after shutting it down.

Meanwhile multi billions of dollars are taken out of the resource at the lowest royalties in the world and because of tax considerations “Write off for unknown future losses” leaves these same billions with no income tax on them! Priorities! Albertans standing on the lip of a conservative chasm!

Your direction, inventive in book keeping, is putting Alberta into debt exceeding by far the 255 Billion dollar total Canada Debt! Railroads, Power Lines, Power Generation, Water Lines, are the more prominent items. You of course will shift the monies Albertans will have to pay by establishing the debt into your named corporations who are given guaranteed market controls and guaranteed profit margins. Such a deal!

These same companies are “private” and the debt, because of this will go into “Alberta’s high resource base equity”. Witness your version of “pick a card, any card”. The Government having distanced the ownership and operation of the infrastructure can claim the debt Albertan’s are asked to pay is not Government debt, it is simply high utility bills driving by US market prices! No accountability for the foul ups in the execution or drafting of the plans. It remains billions of dollars in debt Albertan’s will have to pay!

You are putting Albertans into the middle of one of the biggest cost of living increases for any province in history! You are not telling Albertans they have to pay for the lines for export power transmission; the industry won’t be picking it up! These increases will stand to be 6 times in cost when compared to what you are allowing in Health Care reductions.

It is time for you to get on the record with some hard core commitments for price control for Albertan’s, before the next election. Your commitment, so called, on power rate ceilings is not only wholly inadequate; it can be cancelled to “0” on the whim of the your government! With gas prices rising we can reasonably expect you to do this!

Pensioners will see a pension hits of hundreds of dollars a month covering billions in infrastructure costs built for export purpose and may pay for punitive damages by the US because of power shut downs attributed to Alberta’s grids.

Price control guarantees, firm and now, before an election!

John Clark


Ole Bill Listens In: (Henry’s Reading the Paper)

HENRY: Look Martha! it says in the Journal that these Tory guys are preparing to woo us seniors. Here’s what it says “TORIES PREPARE TO WOO SENIORS” (Aug. 9/04)

MARTHA: Hah! That’s like if you were a bullying, controlling husband who had denied me what was really mine, beaten me down for years, and then suddenly turned on the charm and started telling me how much you appreciate and love me.

HENRY: You mean, it’s like I might feel if I’d been stomped on by a big, bruising, bully who took me down, kicked me, took $100.00 out of my wallet; then he turns around and says he’s going to give me back a ten dollar bill?

MARTHA: Yeah, you’ve got that right up to a point. But the bully, in this case the Klein government, with their massive Public Affairs Bureau, is setting it up so we Seniors are all expected to tell them how wonderful they are by voting them back into office.

HENRY: Oh I see, you mean it would be like the bully who took a hundred dollars off me turns around and says “You see I’m really a kind and caring fellow I just took this money away from you so I could give it back. Don’t you just adore me?”.

MARTHA: Not only that, the bully goes on to say “The reason I’m keeping ninety of your dollars and only giving you ten back is that I’m going to use the rest to guarantee massive profits for those other bully corporations that do things like exploit the beef and energy markets so we can pay more for our food, heat and power.”

HENRY: You don’t suppose do you that these political bullies think we are so badly informed or stupid that we’ll keep on putting up with politicians like Premier’s agent Stan Woloshyn?

MARTHA: You sure could be right, Henry. They must think we don’t read Hansard. You see, Woloshyn is the same politician who stood up in the Legislature four or five months ago and tried to verbally bully down a woman member of the opposition by boasting, to great Tory applause, that Senior’s benefits were very generous.

HENRY: I guess the Premier’s Public Relations Bureau told him back then to keep up the bully act. Apparently the word “generous” was the word he’d been told to use for putting down anyone who pointed out how demeaning it is for older people to be pushed to the point of desperation before a grudging government will pass them a pittance from the resources that really belong to all the people of the province.

MARTHA: Calling this outfit “generous” is like calling a miser with millions in the back magnanimous when he gives a beggar a quarter. But now, it looks like that same gang of word doctors is telling agent Woloshyn to say that he has really been working hard to restore those benefits ever since they were clawed back over ten years now.

HENRY: I think you’re bang-on Martha, the only thing politicians like Woloshyn, Oberg, Mar and all those Tory MLAs can really do is follow the script they’ve been given to read and pretend they actually have some power. The Premier himself really controls that Public affairs Bureau. Power in Alberta today is no longer in the hands of the people or even in the control of the Legislature.

MARTHA: You mean, I think, that instead of having less government under this Premier’s party, power and control has been systematically pulled behind closed doors where citizens can’t touch it. Real power’s been put into the hands of a very small group of money-driven power brokers. Ministers and Departments don’t make real decisions. They have become mere sales agents directed by this massive Public Affairs Bureau that the Premier controls.

HENRY: Yeah, that’s right, that’s how I see it. The only hope citizens have of sharing the resources of this province is to take power back, as some Senior’s groups are doing, and vote this media and information controlling Premier out of his chair as the CEO of what’s become a massive, dehumanizing Corporation rather than a government responsible to all of the citizens.

MARTHA: Wow, Henry, I don’t think you’re going to be on the Premier’s Christmas card list this year.

Ole Bill asks: Could Senior citizens actually be starting to see through the massive maze of deceptions still taking place in this province?

Just wondering - Bill Barley

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

BSE Aid: Albertans - zero. Foreign Packers - Jackpot! 

This posted on behalf of the Alberta Social Credit party.

With the review complete by Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn into the spending of $400 million in BSE aid, one thing is clear: The winner in this whole ordeal has been the American-owned packing companies operating inAlberta.

While farmers and ranchers have had to withstand dropping prices for their cattle, prices at the supermarkets remained stable. The Auditor General said the aid program had the effect of "distorting" cattle markets, driving down prices for producers. So why did consumers continue to pay the same prices?

A telling statistic is that profits at both Lakeside Packers and Cargill's Alberta operations almost quadrupled over the past year! On top of that, Lakeside and Cargill also benefited directly to the tune of $42 million in aid from the government.

A key problem, as Dunn pointed out, is a lack of slaughter capacity in the province. The Social Credit Party supports the efforts of beef producers to organize meat-packing cooperatives that will be help alleviate this problem, while ensuring profits remain where they should be - with the producers themselves.

We need fresh ideas from the government on how to deal with this problem. But we fully expect that once again, the Klein government's answer will be to devise another phony "aid" scheme designed to buy the farm vote in the run-up to the expected fall election.

It appears that 33 years of rule has made the PCs forget about average Albertans. Just whose side are they on? Are they with average Albertans, or against us?

What we really need is a change in government.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Electrical is an Expensive Mess! 

John Clark
148`5 – 123 Ave
Edmonton, AB
T5L 2Y7
August 7, 2004

Honorable Ralph Klein,
Room 307
Legislative Building,
Edmonton, AB T4K 2C6

Honorable Murray Smith, MLA
404 Legislature Building,
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6


Your electrical plan is a free for all and is fouled by gaping holes which can only escalate into exaggerated and impossible costs for Albertans! Your comments acknowledging the needs of the electrical system have been in neglect for the past 15 years draws little comfort. Allowing this deterioration I believe was intentional as a tool to make privatization seem just a little bit reasonable regardless of the bizarre effort. It is obvious the costs of replacement power and energy have not been factored into Smith’s plans! We need answers before an election!

When will the upgrades of the transmission system be started and finished?

During part of the transmission upgrades it is obvious that Genesee and/or Keephills generating station(s) will need to be out of service in order to reconnect power and instrument transformers for higher voltage. Off line for a minimal duration of weeks extending to much longer!

When will these outages commence and, when will they end?

During the outages just described, there will be a need for replacement power. If Genesee is down we would need about 1200 megawatts of replacement power; if Keephills is down we would need about 800 megawatts of replacement power, if both are down we would need about 2000 megawatts of replacement power. Does the AESO currently have a contract with sources to supply this replacement power and energy and if so can you provide complete details of prices and suppliers?

Additionally, there are indications that you expect approximately 1000 megawatts of generation at Brooks and an additional 900 megawatts of generation at Keephills by December 2006. We have not seen any indication that design of these projects has been initiated, let alone the fact that we have not heard actual construction has started! Could you give a date when decisions will be finalized in regard to these two projects and when these projects will be providing energy?

In the event that the transmission upgrades are not completed by 2006, and that the two projects of (4) are not in service by December 2006, from where will the additional deficit of 1900 megawatts come during the upgrades? Do you have firm contracts for the supply of replacement power and, if so, please indicate the specific sources and prices?

Do you have a critical path analysis chart to show which events must be completed and when in order for a successful conclusion of the transmission upgrades and, if so may we have a copy?

Your scenario is outlining a situation where Albertans will face power outages on a large scale while paying impossibly high prices for the power we manage to import. The evidence contained in your own documents indicates Albertans could be facing a very critical shortage of electric power starting as early as next year and probably will be critical until after 2006 since it appears extremely unlikely that the 1000 megawatts of capacity near Brooks and the 900 megawatts to be added to Keephills will be available by the end of 2006. You will, as is your regular response, claim the high prices we are paying are the fault of a global market rather than your lack of planning and management of resource?

Recent media releases indicate 48 million dollar wind generation site is undertaken and is starting to produce; owned by Suncor Energy Products Inc. and EHN Wind Power Canada Inc.. According to http://www.aeso.com/ web information the most the unit can generate is, as you put it, when the wind blows which is 30% of the time, confirmed!

The long standing problem with wind power for commercial use has been the fact that a 30% production rate will not in any way pay for transmission lines. The announcement would indicate approval has been given for transmission lines. How are you going to be charging Albertans for the 70% subsidy you will be giving the power generators on their lines? Are Albertans prepared to pay for this?

Do you have a plan in place to reimburse Albertans for these excessive costs caused by your electrical scheme? Or, are you going to cry “market prices are good things” and deny Albertans any recourse or honest explanation?

Your scenario is outlining a situation where Albertans will face power outages on a large scale while paying impossibly high prices for the power we manage to import; your plans causing a prolonged, artificial and dire shortage of power in the electrical market!

Old age pensions will be woefully inadequate for covering electrical costs being incremented by the cost of living index not, extreme price flux over long durations such as your electrical scheme is going to cause, running into hundreds of dollars per month.

Factual answers are required! Because of the coming impact on fixed incomes and pensioners I am copying the Prime Minister in hopes of getting some coverage in place for all seniors before the electrical hammer falls!

John Clark.
Copy Honorable Paul Martin, Prime Minister.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Martha's musings on kids, surpluses and zucchini 

August Martha's Monthly

Dear Marthas (and our few Henrys)

You have no doubt heard this month about Alberta's great feat: no debt. As hollow as that fact is, it has generated much discussion on what to do with Alberta's surpluses. And this week crude oil hit US$43 a barrel. The Klein government had estimated it at the extremely conservative price of US$26 a barrel when they produced their budget. With every $1 increase in the crude oil price Alberta's royalty cut is worth $65 million a year. The numbers are staggering: over $1 Billion surplus this year! We have a massive and snowballing government surplus. And it has been the women and children of Alberta that have most suffered from
government cutbacks blamed on soaring costs and limited revenues. So now we ask Mr. Klein and his government, What will your first priority be? And we suggest there are many ways to alleviate the burden on women, but first we should be funding the provision of the best publicly funded, universally accessible, early childhood development system in Canada. Quality childcare is the cornerstone of an enlightened society. The stats on childcare, themselves, are enlightening:
* In 1984, the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment pointed out that "childcare is the ramp that provides equal access to the workforce for mothers".
* A record number of parents are now employed. Canada has gone from having the lowest proportion of working women among major industrialized countries to a record high participation rate of 71%.(Statistics Canada 2004)
* 83% of married couples with children have two or more earners and the percentage of female lone-parent families with at least one earner has soared to 82%. (Vanier Institute for the Family, 2003)
* There are only enough licensed and regulated childcare spaces for approximately 1 in 10 of Canada's young children. (Childcare Resource and Research Unit, 2001.)
*Future productivity of children who receive quality early educational experiences results in $2 in benefits for every public $1 spent on childcare. (The Benefits and Costs of Good Child care, Cleveland and Krashinksy, 1998, Canada.)
*Canada currently compares poorly when it comes to publicly funded childcare. Canada has fallen farther behind many countries in the provision of childcare e.g., in Canada, only 5% of three-year-olds participate in preschool, compared with nearly 100% in France, Belgium, Italy, Iceland and New Zealand. (For more information read the whole text of the above at http://www.childcareadvocacy.ca or http://www.parentvoices.ca)

In April 2003 Mr. Klein launched Alberta's Promise (see webpage: http://www.albertaspromise.org) and made it's promise to encourage Albertans to become "heroes to our children". Then in October 2003 Alberta's Learning Commission produced its report which spoke strongly in favor of pre-kindergarten for all children stating that there is "a significant return on investment to society when high-quality early childhood development programs are provided by capable and well-trained teachers."(see
Commission report: http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/Commission) The two recommendations from the Learning Commission regarding provision of junior kindergarten (ie preschool) and full day kindergarten are still "under review".

Alberta also needs to address the wages, working conditions, training/professional development and retention requirements of the child care sector. Did you realize that Alberta's average pay for childcare workers is $8.36 per hour? This, sadly, is about the same amount of money that a parking lot attendant would make, suggesting that we value the future of our cars about as much as we value the future of our children. No wonder Alberta has a childcare staff turnover rate of 45%. (among the highest in
the country).

There are no shortage of excellent models. France, Sweden, and Japan have all taken different routes. We can compare the models and choose what works best for Albertans. (To read more about models see: http://www.cprn.com/en/doc.cfm?doc=15) Some pay parents of young children to stay home with their children or hire a live-in caregiver. Others provide universal daycare for all children, regardless of their parent's employment status or income. In Canada we offer tax deductions for some forms of childcare but only if both parents are employed or in school. (And tax deductions like this favor the higher income earners. Those with moderate or low incomes do not benefit.)

In May 2004 Today's Parent compared childcare across Canada. Alberta rated in the bottom half. Overall our grade was C- but on provincial spending we rated only a D. (see the whole report and backgrounder to it at http://www.todaysparent.com/lifeasparent/childcare/article.jsp?content=20040408_151016_4820)
It is a depressing fact that Alberta actually spends less per capita today on childcare than we were spending 10 years ago. With our "debt" wiped out, record surpluses, and increasing crude oil prices isn't it about time that our children (and their parents) start to benefit from the "Alberta Advantage"?

Please forward the following letter to Mr. Klein. Put your name and address at the bottom. Send it to premier@gov.ab.ca and marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca Please CC it to Kevin Taft (Liberal Leader) at Edmonton.Riverview@assembly.ab.ca and Brian Mason (NDP Leader) at Edmonton.Highlands@assembly.ab.ca
Please consider forwarding this email to other Marthas in Alberta. If they wish to be added to our list have them email marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca Thanks!

The Honorable Ralph Klein,
Premier of Alberta,
Legislative Assemble of Alberta
307 Legislature Building
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B6

August 8, 2004

Dear Premier Klein:
The Marthas of Alberta have been busy this summer. We are raising our children (and grandchildren), working hard inside and outside the home, and we are watching the Province's surplus blossom faster than our zucchini patches. Mr. Klein, we
are proud of our Province but we hang our head in shame when it comes to our Province's record on providing the highest quality childcare in Canada. In fact, a recent Canada wide assessment of childcare has Alberta ranking among the bottom of all the provinces. I find this a very strange condition for the only debt free province. Now that our province is out of debt and you are looking for ways to spend, it would seem appropriate to turn your attention to the future of our province, our children.

In April 2003 you launched Alberta's Promise and made it's mission to help Albertans become "heroes to our children". It was followed up by The Report of the Learning Commission that spoke strongly in favor of pre-kindergarten for all children stating that there is "a significant return on investment to society when high-quality early childhood development programs are
provided by capable and well-trained teachers." Well Mr. Klein we could not agree more. We wish to encourage you to be a hero to all children in the Province by funding a universally available, quality early childhood development program that is provided by capable, well-trained, and properly remunerated teachers.

Mr. Klein, Alberta needs to address the wages, working conditions, training/professional development and retention requirements of the child care sector. Alberta's median pay for childcare workers is $8.36 per hour. This, sadly, is
about the same amount of money that a parking lot attendant would make, suggesting that we value the future of our cars about as much as we value the future of our children. No wonder Alberta has a staggering childcare staff turnover rate of 45%.

We believe that conditions must be put into place that will require the Alberta government to spend Federal funds to supplement, not replace, Provincial child care funding. It is a depressing fact that Alberta actually spends less (per Capita) today
on childcare than we spent 10 years ago.

Alberta needs to address affordability for all families; provide funding to hire, train, and retain quality staff; make a promise to direct Federal funding into supplementing Provincial spending; ensure accessibility to all Albertans; increase the availability of licensed, regulated child care spots; and provide options for families to make real choices about who cares for their children.


Your name
Your address
Your email

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Gotta Love Freddie Boy 

Alberta's Auditor General Fred "It's Only Money" Dunn has produced his report on the BSE compensation program and has found that meat packers profits were up but not "unfairly". Cargill, Lakeside Packers and XL Foods are making an average of $216.52 a head now, compared to the $79 a head made in the year before BSE was discovered in Alberta, according to the report. This is an increase in profits of 281% and it was paid for by our tax dollars.

Albertans have to readjust their thinking about concepts like "fairness" according to the Alberta Public Affairs Bureau, the government department charged with showing Albertans how to think smarter; more Tory-like. The minister overseeing the Public Affairs Bureau is none other than Premier Klein himself.

"Like our boy Freddie said in his report, a near tripling in profits isn't unfair" said Bureau spokesperson Bert "Mushroom" Mahoney. "What's more, we've already had all sorts of inquiries from foreign companies wanting to set up here in Alberta to get their share of the Alberta taxpayer dollar".

Mushroom went on to say that it makes the huge profit increases posted by the electricity, natural gas and insurance providers look puny by comparison to the meat packers. "Them Yankee meat packer boys is some smart compared to our homegrown entrepreneurs when it comes to chowing down at the public trough" he opined admiringly.

When asked about the impartiality of Mr. Dunn, Mr. Mahoney posed the question "Why would we want someone impartial reporting on something as important as this. Goodness knows what they might say. Freddie likes us and as long as he does we're going to keep him. You just never know when you're going to need a positive report"

See related stories here, and here.

Letter from Seniors United Now 

Posted here is an open letter sent to Premier Klein from Seniors United Now.

Hon. Ralph Klein,
Premier Government of Alberta
#307 - 10800 97th Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B7

July 21, 2004

SUBJECT: Open Letter to Hon. Ralph Klein, Premier of Alberta

Dear Premier Klein:

On Wednesday, June 16, 2004 the Edmonton Journal included an article which headlined "Seniors Issues Top Albertans’ Concerns". The article made specific reference to the government caucus members reporting that they are hearing a lot about the amount seniors have to pay to stay in their own homes.

Mr. Premier you were quoted as follows "The issue that came up the most was seniors. The concern was that those seniors who are not in care are finding it extremely expensive. Power, gas, property taxes, you name it, the general costs of living. We’re going to have to deal with that. That was the consensus."

Seniors United Now (SUN) is an organization devoted to assisting all Seniors in maintaining a reasonable standard of living. Its primary focus at this moment is to impress upon your government the need to restore benefits that were eliminated or reduced during the 1993 – 1994 years; when your government was imposing cut backs, roll backs and a general overall reduction in government expenditures.

In 1993/1994 your government imposed various reductions across a wide cross section of the population within the Alberta economy. Since that time there has been a general restoration or catching up of the reduced wages, fees and benefits to many groups except Seniors.

Seniors have not had benefits restored, there has been no catch up and as we are well aware the majority of Seniors are considered to be living on fixed income as they have little or no opportunity to increase their income. The items listed below are the most obvious areas impacted:

This adds up to a loss of disposable/discretionary income of $4,000 to $4,500 per Senior family per year and it is continuing to increase. Property taxes are increasing each year, automobile insurance has doubled in the last 5 years, all of this adds up to a substantial loss of discretionary spending, there is no room for social spending, vacations, just trying to stay in an owned residence is getting more difficult each year. Each year an increasing number of Seniors are being forced to arrange new or increased home financing, which is necessary in order to maintain a decent standard of living or simply retain their existing home.

There are approximately 325,500 Seniors over 65 years of age in Alberta, of these 56% are considered to be low income Seniors who according to your Government are receiving higher financial benefits today than in 1994. Your government is constantly pointing out what a good job they are doing for low income Seniors.Mr. Premier what are you going to do for middle income Seniors who are above the exemption level, the 143,000 or 44% who are above your means test level? These Seniors are not making $100,000 per year. The majority are in the $45,000 to $60,000 range and they are suffering a serious reduction in their standard of living.

Mr. Premier, there does not seem to be any ‘Alberta Advantage’ for the Seniors who built the foundation of the province so that others coming behind can build on it, have a better life and the opportunity to grow and prosper.

We as an organization are dedicated to restoring and improving living standards for Seniors. Seniors must now look towards those political entities that are supportive of our position. We will be urging the 325,500 citizens over 65 years of age and the 241,090 citizens between 55 and 64 to ask the politicians running for office to state their position relative to benefits for Seniors and vote accordingly upon hearing those answers.

This combined group of 575,500 Senior & near Senior Voters represents approximately 22.5% of the Alberta population. But more importantly, these numbers represent close to 60% of the ballots cast in the 2001 election.

We are organizing our membership of over 5,500 who are represented in every provincial constituency to work with other Seniors & other Seniors groups to support those candidates seeking office who support equitable treatment for Alberta Seniors, commencing with the restoration of lost benefits.

At the beginning of this letter we were pleased to acknowledge your seeming awareness that Seniors issues need serious attention. In closing we would say that we would be even more pleased to celebrate and congratulate your actions. What we need to know is what specific actions will your government take and when.

Ron Ellis
President SUN

cc: all MLAs

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Klein's power dream more questions than answers! 

Following is a correpondence I received from a MSc Electrical Engineering. He voices valid concerns about questions that remaine unanswered. A worth while read! His e-mail at the bottom for your direct questions.

Original message:

I believe that I would qualify as an expert witness in regard to the possibility of spontaneous combustion and the extended ramifications of that event but I doubt that the haul road as such is really germaine to my concerns.

What is germaine to my concerns is the fact that the haul road may take the place of the railroad in transporting the coal to Luscar. Heavy snow falls at Cadomin were infrequent but, when they came, traffic was at a stand-still. Thus I worry that the coal might be stockpiled to depths greater than 15 feet and that spontaneous combustion could result when heavy snowfalls would prevent the removal and transportation to Luscar by the proposed haul road.

The coal seam at Cadomin had large amounts of methane gas. Indeed methane gas was the cause of a primary explosion that claimed the life of the father of one of my childhood playmates. If a fire starts in an open pit mine that has high amounts of methane gas in the seam that fire will be very difficult to extinguish, maybe impossible to extinguish. The ecological damage could be immense.

I have prepared expert witness testimony when I was employed in a large consulting engineering firm in the USA, not just once but several times. The expert witness testimony was presented by a Senior vice-President. In one case the testimony was for an electric utility that was suing its insurance carrier and the utility won $7 million!

You might wish to forward a copy of this reply to the AEUB or other persons. If so, by all means do so!



On Thursday July 1, 2004 the Edmonton Journal reported that the average cost of electric energy for Wednesday June 30, 2004 had been 12.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, the price of oil was $48.49 and the price of natural gas had been $6.28, all Canadian prices.

I have seen official publications from the Alberta Department of Energy, sent to me by the Honorable Murray Smith, which show that the Deparment expects 1000 megawatts of new generation from a new powerplant near Brooks and 900 megawatts of new generation from additions to TransAlta's Keephills powerplant by the end of 2006. Both powerplants would burn coal.

When there was debate as to whether a third unit would be allowed to be constructed at EPCOR's Genesee or at TransAlta's Keephills, the decision was given in favor of EPCOR because EPCOR promised that it would retrofit environmental improvements if they became available whereas TransAlta would not make such a promise. Therefore the third unit for Keephills (900 megawatts) at any time in the near future is a very improbable possibility.

In the early spring of 1992 an article appeared in the Calgary Herald which indicated that Fording Coal was very interested in constructing a powerplant at Brooks. At that time Fording owned the rights to a very large field of high-grade heating coal at Brooks but sold those rights about two years ago.

Later in the spring of 1992 I had a very interesting telephone call from one of the senior engineers of Fording in which I learned the scope of the project. Fording wanted permission to construct a powerplant consisting of twin 400 megawatt units.

Perhaps the new owners of the coal field have upgraded the size of the powerplant to twin 500 megawatt units but I am skeptical. It is fairly standard practice to rate turboalternators in mega-volt-amperes at 80% powerfactor so, if you multiply 500 MVA by 0.8 you obtain 400 megawatts.

Whether the new owners were planning twin 500 megawatt units or twin 400 megawatt units is barely germaine, however. If the new owners really are seriously interested in constructing this powerplant we probably would have heard the news and there would have been notices of some hearings: have any of you received or read of such notices??? Absent such notices of hearings one would need at least an additional year for the hearings to be conducted so detailed design could not be started until August 2005. Assuming that approval is granted in early August 2005 it would take about a year and a half to complete detailed design and about four years to construct, under priority conditions. The best that we could hope for 1000 megawatts to be available from this hypothetical powerplant would be 2010.

I conclude that Albertans should expect many days, between now and August 1, 2010, when the average daily price of electric energy will exceed 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The only way that we can alleviate this problem is to insist that new powerplants of very large size, burning coal, with very good polution control, be constructed as quickly as possible because we will not be able to purchase enough power from B.C. Hydro to fill the deficit. We will need the coal at Cadomin so we should not allow it to be exported.

Allan Dane, M.Sc.(EE)
11234 - 71 Ave. NW
Edmonton, AB, T6G 0A6

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