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

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Answer our questions, Mr. Klein, and stop asking questions in silly surveys! 

Martha's Monthly

October 2004

Britney's Gum

Did you hear about the $25,000 piece of gum from Britney Spears
Well Martha did and she couldn’t believe it. So she went on Ebay and there she found some British guy who came to New York, saw Britney Spears and waited to get an autograph. She dissed him and spat her gum from the window of the limo. He photographed her doing this, picked the gum up, kept it for two years and then decided to put it on Ebay and people went nuts. The price shot to $10 000 and then $25,000. I will remind the gentle reader this is a piece of USED gum. And it auctioned for $25,000. Turns out the highest bidder backed out and the seller is back on Ebay trying to sell the thing again. Last Martha checked it had gone as high as $12 bucks. She almost bid on it just so she could win the piece of gum that had sold for $25,000. Sometimes when people become famous we get so silly we are willing to pay immense amounts of cash to just own some part of them. Fame seems to have that strange effect on the non-famous

Power seems to be the opposite. While fame infects those who don’t have it, Power seems to cause those who hold it to lose their brains and be willing to say or do almost anything. Such is the case as we listen to Premier Ralph Klein and his Cabinet. Lethbridge West MLA and Human Resources and Employment Minister Clint Dunford told a group of constituents at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs in September that they were “rude and obnoxious”. Can we imagine a politician, facing an election with a few months, saying that in any other region of Canada? But 33 years of Conservative government in Alberta has given the governing members a strange sense of power. It has gone to their heads. They seem to behave as though public discourse is an annoying part of their days. Mr. Dunford suggested that government members were reluctant to speak to the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs because they would be asked difficult questions and called to explain their government’s policies. What an annoyance! In any other time that fundamental role would be provided by a hearty opposition, an independent media, and a public that values political discussion. But in Alberta with a worn-out Opposition and Government Public Relations Bureau that employs 266 people, well we just don’t hear much discourse at all.

So Martha wasn’t so much surprised as she was amused with the Finance Department Survey that came to her mailbox in September. With 10 questions clearly written to elicit a certain response, Martha laughed out loud. What do they think of we Marthas and Henrys? They seem to think so little of us that they ask us questions like “How much of a priority is a quality, affordable health-care system?” Kevin Taft, leader of the Liberal Party , Alberta’s Official Opposition Party, called the survey a “façade”. Well surely we can see through this facade can we not? Martha’s not so sure.

Klein has stated that a 10% return rate will be considered good. So for starters we have a mandate based on 10% of those asked. Martha sees a few problems with the survey as well: First off, Martha noted one survey went to each household. Now last time Martha and her Henry got talking politics, well lets just say we adults that co-habitate don’t always agree! Secondly, Martha noted that there are probably a whole lot of people who won’t get to complete the survey. There are those who are illiterate and those people living in shelters, among others. Thirdly, Martha noticed that there was no real background information on the topics. Statements like “quality, affordable health care” were not defined. But there was a lot of detail about the money that is available. Now Mr. Klein denies that he has an agenda and states it is up to the “bosses” referring to us, to make the decision. Kevin Taft called this a “breakdown of leadership”. Martha agrees with Dr. Taft. Because quite frankly, when she is told that the surplus this year amounts to $3000 per person she gets a little silly. She looks around the dinner table and counts 4 people. She does the math and the number $12,000 looms. And she gets silly. Martha starts to think about paying down some personal debt and maybe taking a little vacation with the kids. She gets sillier. She toys with the idea of surfing back on to Ebay and placing a little bid on that gum of Britney’s. Because, here is the ugly truth, we are only human. And when faced with the big decision of should we each get a couple grand or should we put money towards infrastructure and social programs we think about our VISA bill and mortgage. So here is the first lesson of politics. We elect politicians to make decisions for us that are in the best interests of the people and that respect the needs of the minority. We don’t, contrary to Conservative party belief, call referendums on decisions about infrastructure and long term financial planning. We don’t let the majority, who are not on welfare, make a decision to reduce welfare. We don’t ask people to use a scale of one to ten to tell us how important their health care is to them. We don’t dangle a carrot in front of struggling families and ask if they want to have it or not. We ask our governments to be leaders and to look at the needs of the people and make decisions that reflect our fundamental beliefs in respect and dignity for all people. We ask that they not think about the next five minutes and the people around them. We ask that they think about years down the road and the grandchildren of those they’ll never meet.

Minister Dunford announced a AISH review at the end of September. Yes, another survey! This time they want our opinion on AISH rates. Hmmm, muses Martha, didn't we just do that last month on Martha's Monthly? Well, yes we did! So fill out another survey or two. Tell the government why you think people with disabilities need more than $855 a month to have some dignity and quality of life. (http://www3.gov.ab.ca/hre/aishreview/

But, Martha gently reminds, surveys are not enough. We need to let our elected politicians know that they are well, elected! And we are the electorate. So as we await a November election that must be arranged around the Grey Cup let's keep up the pressure from the Marthas. Please read the following letter to Mr. Klein about leadership and surveys and email it on to him. Forward this email to people you know and encourage them to join the Marthas.

To send this email letter to Mr. Klein please copy the letter below into a new email. Address it to premier@gov.ab.ca and CC it to edmonton.riverview@assembly.ab.ca and edmonton.highlands@assembly.ab.ca and back to us at marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca

Premier Klein
Alberta Legislature

October 8, 2004

Dear Mr. Klein

I am deeply concerned about the Finance Survey of September and the AISH review survey of October. I am concerned that your government is relying on these unscientific ways of polling some people in order to make decisions that are critically important to our future. Where is the vision of this government?

You have suggested we will have an election on November 29, 2004. I want to know what policies you will run on. Will you commit to implementing the Low Income Review report that called for increased welfare rates? Will you commit to increasing the AISH rates so that disabled Albertans can live with dignity and not have to use food banks to survive? Will you commit to a vision of Alberta that includes all Albertans and not just those who have the ability to complete surveys

Mr. Klein I want my government to show leadership and think beyond the next five minutes (or the next election). My vote will not be bought with surpluses. My vote will be earned by the provision of leadership, vision, and a compassion for all those who make up Alberta.

Please commit to a plan that includes increasing the minimum wage, increasing AISH and welfare rates, re-establishing the widows' pension, and introducing a new compassion for all Albertans. And please encourage your colleagues to accept criticism, not just survey results. Because the Marthas and Henrys of Alberta are not always happy and we have the right to ask questions, not just answer ones that your government asks us


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