Conservatives in Alberta are fond of complaining about the evils of the Ottawa Hegemony that they claim is constantly conspiring to hose Albertans.
Yet, looking closer to home, we have a far more serious problem. Alberta has essentially been living under a single party dictatorship for nearly thirty years. It is rare that the opposition in the Alberta legislature is big enough to make itself heard or felt by the governing party. Ralph Klein has exacerbated things dramatically in the last few years. An increasing amount of government business is carried out by "Premier's Fiat" - either as "Order-in-Council" or some arbitrary edict in a speech.
The budget for the province for the 2005 fiscal year totalled some $25.8 Billion. In the past few months, the Alberta Government has announced billions being spent over and above the budget based on enormous surplus amounts:
$1.3 Billion in resource rebates to defray heating costs for Albertans
$1.4 Billion in "one time rebate cheques"
$10 Million for post secondary spaces
$140 Million for seniors and low-income rural Albertans
Has there been any substantive debate of this spending spree on the part of the Government? Is there so much as ten words of substantive debate in the Legislature's Hansard on the topics? No. In fact, we find a premier who is dismissive and cynical reflected in his answers to questions raised by Liberal Leader Kevin Taft:
Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last year the Premier drew the
ire of Albertans when he claimed that there was a major problem
with undeserving recipients getting AISH payments. Now, just
yesterday in this Assembly the Premier stated to the leader of the
third party that he was feigning sickness and then said, “That is
precisely what puts pressure on the health care system.” To the
Premier: can the Premier tell this Assembly the basis for his position
that Albertans feigning sickness are putting pressure on the health
care system? Does he have examples?
Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, I find it strange, to say the least, that the
hon. Leader of the Official Opposition would allude to what the
leader of the third party said to try to make a point. This is like
Pinocchio. The point is being stretched beyond all reasonable limits.
The Speaker: The hon. leader.
Dr. Taft: Thank you. Again to the Premier: does the Premier hold
the position that Albertans feigning sickness are putting pressure on
Alberta’s health care system?
Mr. Klein: No. Mr. Speaker, I would like to have the Blues in front
of me because what I said was that, first of all, the hon. leader of the
third party opposition said that he is sick.
Mr. Mason: Of your answers.
Mr. Klein: He is sick of our answers.
I said that if he is really sick, then we’ll call an ambulance for
him, and he will be treated under the public health system, but if he
is feigning sickness, then that is one of the problems that we face
with our health care system, people who are not sick attending
emergency wards. If he is truly sick, we’ll call an ambulance for
The Speaker: The hon. leader.
Dr. Taft: Thank you. Well, given that the Premier just said that he
thinks one of the problems in Alberta’s health care system is people
feigning sickness, does he have examples? Can he tell us the basis
for that position?
Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, again he is stretching, stretching, stretching,
and it indicates to me that they have nothing else to criticize.
King Ralph seems bored, disengaged and uninterested in the point here. You can be quite sure that his mind is on his upcoming speaking tour in Ontario. A trip that conspicuously removes Ralph from the legislature for the bulk of the fall session. I don't buy the BS that Ralph gives about it "already being planned". He knows damn good and well when the legislature is scheduled to sit.
Ralph has found it remarkably easy to be absent from the legislature - in 2003, he found some excuse to be out of the legislature, in 2004 he called an early election for the fall - effectively liquidating any chance of a fall session.
Simply put, Ralph is no longer interested in anything resembling debate over his policies (has he ever been?), but seems to have progressed into being a blatant dictator with no regard for even the forms of democratic government, much less the reality of actually implementing it.
Conservatives in Alberta should be howling in protest over their Premier's arrogant disregard for policy and rational debate.