Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ralph Klein's government

Above is a picture of Ralph Klein, the former Alberta Premier. He was notorious for his behaviour.

Sue tells off Ralph Klein at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa

I got a ticket to see Ralph Klein speak at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa and it was 40 dollars and paid for by some friends. I really appreciated that as Ihad wanted to tell of Ralph Klein off for years and I had my opportunity and I did and it was covered in the Ottawa Sun the next day.

I sat at a nice big table with a white tablecloth with people that I did not know. I wore my best clothes. that day. I looked presentable and did up my hair and put on my makeup.

Believe it or not, Ralph Klein came into the big meeting room and passed right in front of me, about a foot away. He had on a suit and wore this big cowboy hat on his head. Ralph Klein, the Premier of Alberta was walking right in front of me in living color. That sure was an experience I can tell you.

Ralph got up and introduced himself. Everyone in the room knew this man, who wouldn't?
He got up and babbled away about how his government cut costs in Alberta and how his government had a big surplus of money much he liked his job and that he was good at it. His speech went on for about half an hour non stop. This man is verbose to say the least. He laughed during his speech and made some political jokes too. He did not take himself too seriously up on stage. He was used to making lots of speeches and this was just another one.

There were about 500 of us listening to Ralph Klein.

He asked if anyone had any questions, I sure did. Boy, it felt good at last to tell Ralph what I thought and I did.

I asked him about his government buying bus tickets for people on welfare to move to British Columbia and move away from his province Alberta. He admitted his government did buy those bus tickets and he laughed.

I told him I thought that was unfair of him and he should have treated people on social services better and not cutting their welfare rates by 20 percent.

I told him I was glad I was a disability pension in Ontario and not in Alberta.

Everyone clapped after he spoke. I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing this man
did not care how the most vulnerable in our society were treated. I found him to be obnoxious
and insensitive. He was full of himself that day at the Westin. People nicknamed him Ralph the Knife, little wonder why!

I had a good meal, spoke to some people at my table and was happy to leave that meeting room.
When Ralph Klein walked out of the room, I knew I had done my job well that day speaking up
for people on social services. I was glad to see Ralph go.

Here are some stories that were in the news about notorious Premier of Alberta

Welfare decline misleading

By SUE BAILEY / The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The number of welfare cases plunged to two million from 3.1 million between 1994 and 2000 as provinces cracked down and job markets picked up, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Politicians often hail such numbers but social activists say they illustrate heartless attacks on the poor. Tighter welfare restrictions have swelled the homeless ranks and caused suffering, they say.

"The study shows that the provinces in Canada are involved in a race to the bottom," says Robert Arnold, president of the NAPO. "Each one is getting stingier with welfare payments and eligibility in an attempt to get poor people to move away." Alberta Premier Ralph Klein went so far as to buy bus tickets to British Columbia to help cut his welfare rolls.

Across Canada, social assistance use fell most dramatically for single moms, says the first report to track national rates by family type. About one-third of single mothers were on welfare in 2000, down from one-half in 1995. "Eligibility rules were tightened, especially for new entrants, benefit levels were cut, snitch lines were introduced and other rules were adopted," says the study.

It examined four family groups - singles, couples with children, couples with no children and single moms - in all provinces. Welfare recipients were defined as anyone aged 18 to 64 who declared more than $101 a year in social assistance or had a spouse who did.

Alberta consistently issued the fewest cheques to singles, with a user rate of 9.2 per cent in 2000, followed by P.E.I. at 12 per cent. At the other end of the scale, Newfoundland had the highest rate of single people on welfare, 21.4 per cent, followed by Quebec at 21 per cent.

The nasty '90s were a bad time to be poor and it's no better today, said Sue Cox, executive director of Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank. Support was slashed across the country after 1994, she said. Cox witnessed an "extraordinary rise" in food bank use after the Ontario Conservatives under Mike Harris cut welfare benefits. Single moms were hit especially hard. "It drove them into fairly dangerous situations . . . where they and their families were at real risk as they tried to reduce the cost of housing by moving into crowded and very poor conditions."

A strong economy hasn't helped shut down services like hers, Cox said. Food banks in the greater Toronto area now serve about 175,000 people a month. "The strain on the charitable sector has been enormous, and not one that they've been able to meet for the most part."

Governments could humanely help people off welfare by not cutting them off drug benefits and other supports when they land jobs, Cox said.

John Murphy, chairman of the National Council of Welfare, says government policy has too often amounted to punishing people for being poor. His group advises Social Development Minister Ken Dryden. Better child-care and retraining services are badly needed, Murphy said.

"Provincial and territorial governments keep the rates so low with the [corporate] misconception that by squeezing people they'll get them back to work."


The Loose Tongue of Ralph Klein

Updated Thu. Nov. 9 2006 7:42 PM ET

Bill Doskoch, News

Ralph Klein will probably go down as one of the more quotable politicians Canada has ever produced.

His predecessors as premier of Alberta and leaders of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party were the buttoned-down, MBA-educated Peter Lougheed and the amiable former quarterback and oil executive Don Getty.

Neither one ever gave a protester the finger. Ralph did it as environment minister during a 1990 meeting about a contentious pulp mill project.

One agitated protester advanced in front of Klein and flipped him the middle digit. Klein didn't miss a beat, glaring and flipping it right back at him.

"He doesn't take any guff from anybody," Don Martin, political columnist and author of the biography King Ralph, told about Klein. "And what was the result? His popularity went up five per cent."

The son of a professional wrestler, Klein first worked in public relations and then began an 11-year run as a popular reporter with CFCN TV in Calgary, a CTV affiliate. He shocked his friends by announcing in 1980 he would run for mayor and then shocked everyone by winning.

He then got his chance to shock the country by complaining in January 1982 about "eastern creeps and bums" driving up the crime rate in Calgary.

"That put him on the national scene, but he handled it so beautifully in terms of damage control. He went right down to eastern Canada and dealt with it," Martin said.

"So off he went, and before you know it, he's the toast of Toronto," he said. "He learned something from that, that you can talk your way out of trouble, and he did."

Here are some of Klein's choicer remarks over the years:

"I wasn't surprised that she crossed over to the Liberals. I don't think she ever did have a Conservative bone in her body. Well, maybe one.

Klein at a charity roast, talking about Tory turncoat Belinda Stronach -- who used to date Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay -- on Nov. 7, 2006.

"You get a lot of free dinners but after that you get sort of tired, especially when you quit drinking, and then it's no fun at all, so I don't know why they would want to do it."

Klein talking to reporters at the Calgary Stampede on July 10, 2006 about his potential successors.

In the same scrum, he said: "I wake up in the morning and I say, 'Why am I here?' And it's because I'm not all there!"

"I'm no doctor, but I think that Mr. McGuinty's got a case of premature speculation.

Klein in March 2006, commenting on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's declaration that Ontario would oppose any Alberta-style health reforms that might lead to two-tiered care.

"I ought not to have thrown the Liberal health policy at our page Jennifer, and to Jennifer, I apologize most sincerely. ... And I also apologize for referring to the document as crap, Mr. Speaker."

Klein apologizing in the Alberta legislature on March 1, 2006 after throwing a Liberal Party health policy booklet and narrowly missing a legislature page.

"They didn't look severely handicapped to me, I tell you that for sure. They both had cigarettes dangling from their mouth and cowboy hats."

Klein speaking to a Tory provincial election campaign rally in Calgary on Oct. 27, 2004. He was talking about two women who were "yipping about AISH payments," which go to Albertans who are severely handicapped.

He later followed up on that in Grande Prairie by saying: "I'm sure none of you want to talk to me about AISH. No, because you're normal -- severely normal people."

"You would have to eat 10 billion meals of brains, spinal cords, ganglia, eyeballs and tonsils."

Klein in 2005 on the risk being infected with bovine spongiform encephalitis, or mad cow disease.

"We're basically the same party, you know. Conservatives and Republicans are quite the same."

Klein speaking to reporters in Washington after a 2003 meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he didn't do that."

Klein's 2003 advice to an Alberta farmer on what he should have done after finding a BSE-infected cow in his heard.

"Dinosaur farts."

Klein's 2002 offering on what might have brought on the Ice Age that killed off dinosaurs.

"I'm going to try and stay clean as long as I can, but if from time to time I have a glass of wine, don't make a mountain out of a mole hill."

Ralph Klein after an infamous December 2001 incident in which he showed up inebriated at a homeless shelter in Edmonton, berated some of the residents for not having jobs, then throwing money on the floor and leaving.

At the same newser, he said, "I'm telling you, it feels good to get up without a hangover."

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ralph's World."

Klein addressing his supporters on March 12, 2001 after winning a landslide victory in the 2001 provincial election.

"A fine city with too many socialists and mosquitoes. At least you can spray the mosquitoes."

Klein speaking in 1990 as a Progressive Conservative MLA from Calgary.

Great instincts

While Klein frequently shot from the lip, he had great instincts about when it was time to turn on a dime and apologize, Martin said.

"I was talking to him about Peter MacKay today," Martin said on Oct. 30, referring to the federal Conservative minister accused of implying Tory-turned-Liberal MP and former girlfriend Belinda Stronach was a dog. "He said, 'Did he say it?' And I said, 'I think he said it.' And Klein said, 'Well, if he said it and didn't apologize for it, then he's not a very smart politician'."

Klein was so famous for his mea culpas that when he left Calgary's city hall to enter provincial politics in 1989, his staff gave him sweatshirt that had "I'm only human" printed on it.

"And he is. That's the interesting thing about Klein. He's not a robot like so many of the politicians today."

While those outside the province might raise their eyebrows at Klein's pronouncements, one had to understand that Albertans had a long-term relationship with Klein and realized he wasn't being malicious, Martin said.

A few too many drinks

However, even Klein can't wave off some things. His appearance at the Edmonton homeless shelter was a bottom.

Although right-wing radio talk show callers supported Klein, that incident embarrassed most other Albertans, Martin said.

"He understood that and said he couldn't just shrug his shoulders and say, 'I'm only human, I had a couple drinks.' He had to go one step further and take a public vow of abstinence."

Martin met with Klein on Monday in Calgary's St. Louis tavern, where Klein as mayor used to hold court, and was amazed to see Klein drinking coffee out of a beer glass.

"I'm going, 'that's a first for me; I've seen everything now'," he said.

Actually, Martin speculated that Klein's quitting drinking may have been partly responsible for what some saw as a decline in the premier's political acuity.

"I've always argued that Klein's social connections, his political antennae were fine-tuned by the fact that he'd go to these receptions. He'd drink with people and people liked to drink with him.

"When he started to go home at 9 p.m. to watch his favourite show on the Discovery channel, he started to lose his connection with the average person."

In the 2004 provincial election, Klein -- who's never lost an election -- saw an erosion in popular support for the first time since he entered politics, Martin said.

This spring, his party voiced its displeasure, and Klein had to vacate his 14-year hold on the party's leadership about a year before he wanted to.

However, during the interview, some guys came up and asked Klein for autographs, so that's some evidence he's still popular amongst average Albertans, Martin said.

Ultimately, however, it is time for Klein to move on. "He knows it, we know it, and we're never going to see the likes of him again," Martin said.