Saturday, February 17, 2007

King Ralph

Reading through Kevin Taft's book last week, I got to thinking about all the great Ralph Klein moments Albertans have had the misfortune of enjoying over the years. And since I was too wrapped up in leadership to honour him when he flew off into the sunset in December, I feel it's time to take a moment and give Ralph his due. So, I am very pleased to announce the first two inductions into the Calgary Grit Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame will honour individuals who have provided myself, and other bloggers, bushells of material over the years. Joining Ralph will be Jean Lapierre, who I already paid tribute to last month.

So, in honour of Ralph's induction, I am very pleased to list my all-time top 10 favourite Ralph Klein moments:

10. Saying Goodbye: Ralph reflected on his time as Premier this fall: "You get a lot of free dinners, but after that you get sort of tired [of being Premier], especially when you quit drinking and then it's no fun at all. I don't know why they would want to do it other than the power and the glory I guess and the free dinners and the very few perks that go along with it.""

9. With Friends Like These: Ralph Klein muses about private health care in the dying days of the 2004 election, helping Paul Martin crawl to victory.

8. One Final Flight: Notorious for using the government jet for partisan purposes, Klein flew from Calgary to Edmonton and back again, on the government dime, to say 11 words at the PC leadership convention.

7. Just Shut Up! Following the mad cow scare, Klein told farmers that they should just "shoot, shovel, and shut up" if they found other cases of BSE.

6. He Did Wander Aimlessly: There are so many great Ralph Klein quotes to choose from, but I did enjoy it when he compared himself to Jesus Christ. I also particularly enjoyed it when he called MacKenzie King a pervert, said Bob Rae was a dumb politician, predicted Harper's loss in 2006, and blamed dinosaur farts for causing global warming.

5. AISH: When greeted by protesters on AISH disability insurance during the last campaign, Klein yelled back that "severely normal people" don't want to talk about AISH. He later said that the protested "didn't look handicapped".

4. Liar, Liar: The moment a lot of people began to think Ralph had lost it, occurred in a public accounts review when Laurie Blakeman asked Klein to provide receipts from trips he'd written off as government expenses. He proceeded to lash out at her over a dozen times with "You don't believe me? You don't trust me? You're calling me a liar? You're calling me a liar?".

3. Throw the book at them: Then there was the time Ralph Klein threw a book at a 17 year old girl. It's exactly how it sounds, so I don't think I need to elaborate or add commentary to this one.

2. Helping the Homeless: After having a few drinks, Ralph instructed his driver to pull into a homeless shelter in Edmonton where he proceeded to berate the residents, scream at them to get jobs, and throw money at them.

1. Ralph's Essay: This one comes in number one, just because it's so unbelievably weird that if you saw it on a TV show like the West Wing, you'd roll your eyes and say it was too unrealistic, even for TV.

The whole thing started in 2004, when Klein was asked about public car insurance and responded by musing that Pinochet was "forced to mount a coup". He then tabled an essay he'd written as part of a correspondence course he was taking. However, it turns out he'd plagiarized massive parts of the essay. Ooops!



  • Wow, I had forgotten completely about that essay - what a jolted trip back memory lane.

    I still can't believe this joker was Premier of such a major economy for so long. Like, wtf?

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:29 p.m.  

  • Giving a victory speech while completely hammered after 2001 election didn't make the list but was a great memory for many.

    It was televised province wide on every station.

    He could get away with stuff no other politician could.

    He may be have been the last of his kind.

    His successor is certainly not enjoying the same latitude.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 10:59 p.m.  

  • Ralph Klein represents the complacency of Albertans when it comes to governing their own province and as such, Albertans are a curious paradox. We demand fair treatment from Ottawa yet we don't demand the same from Edmonton. We're quick to condemn the sins of Federal Liberals yet we turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of Provincial Tories. It is for this reason, I believe; that federal Liberals, indeed, perhaps most federal politicians who don't represent Alberta, see no political gain in advocating for Alberta's wants/needs. While Alberta might be fuelling the nation's economy, it's hard to take this province seriously when it's own voters pay little attention to provincial matters - as long as the oil flows and the boom continues, Albertans are very forgiving. We wear dissatisfaction with Ottawa like it's a comfortable sweater and I think Ralph's appeal was that his outspoken nature gave Albertans a sense that they had a strong advocate to fight Ottawa, even if he didn't really have a vision for the province.
    I haven't read Taft's book, but I will offer this much: it's a pretty sad state of affairs when the most constructive opposition in Alberta comes not from the provincial Liberals, but from the provincial NDP. Moreover, I don't see Taft ever becoming Premier because of brand identification with it's hated federal counterpart. If the provincial Tories are ever going to lose an election, it will likely be at the hands of a new party with conservative underpinnings.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 9:18 a.m.  

  • I agree that a Conservative party will have to win b/c Albertans don't want left wing policies. We don't need more socialist programs. We're doing great without them. I'm glad we're not like Ontario who constantly whines Ottawa is short changing them so they can fund their socialist programs of the day. Taft's policies are too left wing for this province. He sounds like the typical tax and spend Liberal. I agree with his accountability policies. What we now need is someone to get rid of the massive beauracratic mess Klein left us with to make government run more efficient. God knows he spent huge amounts of money in Alberta on social programs compared to other provinces and yet our schools still are inadequate as are our hospitals. I hope Stelmach is fixing this right now and thats why we don't hear from him much right now.

    By Blogger Emilio, at 11:26 a.m.  

  • Here's a link to Klein's infamous plagerized Chile essay for those of you interested:

    By Blogger daveberta, at 12:46 p.m.  

  • Sean Cummings, often have I wished I could put into words what you just did regarding the "Albertan paradox". Well done.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 1:11 p.m.  

  • Thanks.

    Personally, I think a center of the road party could conceivably win an election in Alberta provided it gives the appearance of "standing up to Ottawa" if that makes any sense. Taft is a well-meaning politician I think, but I am honestly starting to believe that our province needs to start over with a new party that can placate those who possess strong conservative values while striking a balance with genuine social programs that work. I also believe the timing for this is at our doorstep because with the economic boom we are experiencing, Albertans are being smacked in the face with the challenges of homelessness to health care staffing shortages. Heck, I'd be willing to help build that kind of party. Bear in mind, this isn't a slight against the Provincial Liberals, it's just that they cannot possibly win an election in Alberta.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 1:54 p.m.  

  • Wouldn't a more feasible strategy for renewal be electoral reform? Sure, the Tories win outright majorities of the vote here and there, but with increasing voter fragmentation, it only makes sense to have the electoral system reflect the greater complexity of Alberta's political culture.

    I think a large part of the problem is the dependence on a single new party to remake the province - matters would work better in the long term if the legislature was empowered - and diverse.

    By Blogger JG, at 2:22 p.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 3:34 p.m.  

  • The problem with electoral reform is that whoever gets elected does so by the existing system.

    Any changes would potentially cause them to lose support.

    The first rule in politics is "Get Elected".

    The second rule is "Get Re-Elected"

    All actions and strategies support those two rules.

    So electoral reform never happens.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 3:35 p.m.  

  • I'm not entirely convinced there is voter fragmentation in this province when a bad election for the Conservatives still sends them to the Legislature with a commanding majority. I don't think electoral reform will do it in the short term either because to obtain electoral reform, one must first win an election and we know the existing Tory government has no interest in tinkering with the status quo. It is for this reason alone, that it would be far easier, I believe; for a new party that strikes a balance between centrist social policy and fiscal conservatism. That party must also carry some measure of populist "Ottawa Bad - Alberta Good" rhetoric to sway the rural vote and it has to never be seen as a threat to the corporate elites who bankroll the existing government. Again, this isn't meant as a swipe against provincial Liberals, but I am a realist: the provincial Liberals have about as much chance of winning an election in Alberta as I have of winning the 649 -- just being honest.

    Policies that can be seen as populist are key for any new party. Elimination of provincial health care premiums are a first start. A real review of oil royalties is needed as well - what are the oil companies going to do? Throw money at the NDP? As long as there is black gold in them thar hills, the oil companies are at a disadvantage because Encana for example, isn't exactly going to reject restructuring royalties when they're making money hand over fist. They aren't going to pack up their office towers and move to the US - heck, there is a lot of US oil company representation in Alberta already.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 4:50 p.m.  

  • Again, this isn't meant as a swipe against provincial Liberals, but I am a realist: the provincial Liberals have about as much chance of winning an election in Alberta as I have of winning the 649 -- just being honest.

    Don't be so sure. In 1993 the Liberals came within five percentage points of the Tories.

    Alberta Liberal Party - 32 seats (39.73%)
    Alberta New Democratic Party - 0 seats (11.01%)
    Progressive Conservatives - 51 seats (44.49%)

    Of course, if the Liberals ever did win, it would cause more than a few heads to explode. I do agree that electoral reform isn't very likely - unless other provinces start making changes (not impossible by any means) - but I think Alberta's politics would be healthier if rural vs. urban, Calgary vs. elsewhere, and other political cleavages within the province could play themselves out in the system in a more transparent and constructive fashion.

    By Blogger JG, at 11:19 p.m.  

  • Yes but don't forget that in 93 we were at the ass-end of the NEP, there were the reverberations of the recession and Don Getty's government wasn't exactly screamingly popular. In 2007, the economy is on fire, there is no NEP or recession in sight. As well, we've had a visionless Tory government under Klein and he still got back in. Again, not a slight against the Liberals, but if it was hard for them to win during bad times, it will be impossible for them to win during our current boom.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 11:31 p.m.  

  • "We don't need more socialist programs. We're doing great without them."

    Just so you know, youth homelessness is increasing substantially. Child Welfare uses for profit group homes and have reduced the number of group home placements for youth. Right now many teenagers in care are being "placed" at the Youth Emergency Shelter. YESS is a great organization, but it is hardly a home. The youth may not come in before 9:00 pm and must clear out, with all their belongings, by 8:30 am. Child Welfare thinks this is an appropriate way to deal with the youth in their care. Would you do the same for your children?

    So we in fact do need more social programs, and we are not doing fine without them (unless you are all for children and youth living on the streets).

    By Blogger Gayle, at 11:51 a.m.  

  • Tell that to the homeless kids braaten. Since when did spending more mean spending enough?

    For that matter, where is your source that we spend more.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 6:47 p.m.  

  • You forgot Eastern Bums and Creeps

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 p.m.  

  • I sort of hate to see it come about. It is too much like when the woman who has supported the house finally pulls the plug leaving the big fat bully and drunk still in the middle of a rant. You know it will be an awful come down and do not want to watch it, but real life demands...and so on. Well, what on earth makes Albertans who can read and think as well as any of us,believe that the 25% subsidy that keeps the oil sands going will continue if everyone else has to tighten their belts? Alberta, mainly the extraction of Oil from the sands, pushes out about 110 million tons so2 equivalent (Pollution Probe) while even populous Ontario only has 77, despite those huge coal burners. We cut, Aberta does not?
    Isn't it time to tell the bully to shut it and start figuring what "we" are going to do?

    By Blogger garhane, at 1:15 a.m.  

  • The oil sands use a lot of natural gas and water to boot.

    Everyone acknowledges a growing water shortage but little is being to address the problem and the oil sands are a big part of the problem.

    There are some who says that future oil from the oil sands needs to be eight times current volumes.

    Before that happens there should be a careful assessment of the costs, including the favourable tax treatment, versus the net benefit.

    Canada is the only country in the world where natural resources are the jurisdiction of the provinces or states.

    It would take courage to address that issue.

    In many ways, that model is not serving us well.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 6:45 a.m.  

  • Changing that model is for all intents and purposes, impossible without a serious re-examination of federal/provincial roles, and we all now how easy it is to get the provinces to agree on anything.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 7:18 a.m.  

  • I miss the old drunkard already.

    Not only did the Alberta Liberals come within 5 points of winning in 1993, the BC Liberals resurrected a pretty battered brand in 1991 to destroy the Socreds, 1996 to almost win, and in 2001 to win a landslide.

    There's nothing wrong with the L word, in Alberta or elsewhere. My prescription to you is don't listen to so much Dave Rutherford and Charles Adler. Those guys will screw with your head.

    By Blogger Raymaker, at 10:58 a.m.  

  • Gayle said: "Since when did spending more mean spending enough?"

    Bravo! I would also like to see some hard stats saying that Alberta spends more per capita on social programs. After working in a high school for a few years and seeing classes that are so overfull that if every student showed up there would be significantly too few seats (not only desks mind you, but even seats for kids at the back)I find it hard to believe "we spend too much".

    Also people, if another party managed to even pull off a minority govt it would mean huge change in this province - once a party is voted out in Alberta, they have never gotten back in.

    Rutherford!! Wow - people still listen to him?!?

    By Blogger Scooge, at 2:40 p.m.  

  • Re: Throwing the book at her (and him) - there is a sad bit of irony to this story that many overlooked: The Premier got off with a tepid "I'm sorry" for his bit of political theatre in throwing a book at a page. But consider a few years earlier when a university-aged kid hit Ralph with a pie, leaving no lasting damage to the Premier. The kid got charged and convicted and a prison record . After the throwing the book at the page incident, Ralph could have shown a little class and pardoned the university kid for his pie-in-the-face political theatrics.

    Oh, and Kevin Taft rocks! He may be soft-spoken, but he has more guts than anyone in the Tory caucus.

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