Klein's lack of planning leaves oil development in 'a mess'
Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed has sharply criticized the government of departing Premier Ralph Klein for failing to properly plan oilsands growth, creating a "mess" that is depriving the province of royalty revenues. The Klein government's strategy to encourage unparalleled investment in the oilsands sparked an overheated economy due to several concurrent projects in the Fort McMurray area, Lougheed said during an interview with The Herald.
Planning was never Ralphs strong suit. Flying by the seat of his pants was.
Klein's legacy: for richer, for poorer
For a politician who many credit with building the most successful economy on the continent, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is spending his final days in office looking glum. His speeches, once powerful, have been defensive. He is under attack for creating so much of a good thing the province is reeling from labour shortages, inflation and a lack of infrastructure. Even Ralphbucks, a $1.4-billion giveaway to Albertans last year that was supposed to bolster his legacy, was derided in the province as irresponsible.
Klein had only one plan ever, to cut budgets, cut public services etc. in order to slay the momentary fiscal dragon of debt and deficit. A creation of his own government which he inherited from Don Getty.
It was a moment in history that saw provincial governments and the federal government face the same downturn in the economy. Between 1993-1995 the temporary down turn allowed the Neo-Cons to gain strength as 'the new' political ideology of capitalist governments and the ruling parties in Canada. Nowhere moreso than in Alberta under Ralph. It even got coined the Ralph Revolution, though it was more a Reformation.
Ironic since the Lougheed Progressive Conservatives actually were progressive in their day. They saw the Socreds as incapable of dealing with Alberta's need to expand and take advantage of its petro wealth. Thus the Lougheed Party was a creation of classical liberals, Calgary Liberals, Edmonton Liberals, economic liberals, liberals liberals liberals everywhere. The self destruction of the Socreds was hastened with the departure of Prestons daddy; Ernest and his annointment of Lougheed in the backrooms of Calgary.
State Capitalism has always been the economic engine of growth in Alberta. Despite all the rhetoric about free trade and free markets. The Socreds were state capitalists and so were the Lougheed PC's. The Wheat Board was founded here in Socred Alberta in cooperation with CCF Saskatchewan. The Socreds and CCF shared a common belief in the economics of distributism and the ideals of a producers cooperative economy.
But they were in power for 35 years and by the end they were stale, old, cranky, incapable of dealing with the boom that was emerging in Alberta in 1971. And so like the Ralph regime, which also is now 35 years old, they were turfed by the young turks around Peter Lougheed.
The Lougheed government saw the growth in government services, expanding the public services, infrastructure, creating State Capitalist enterprizes for Tar Sands development. The Alberta Government eliminated small airlines, buying them up to create their own airline- Pacific Western Airlines, expanding airfields across the province to provide a base for PWA, all needed to get folks up north to the Tar Sands.
Hosptials, schools, universities, seniors homes, subsidies to farmers, cash for cities, roads, etc. all were provided by the paternalistic party of Lougheed. Construction boomed. Diversification was its hope, and its downfall. As the state attempted to fund secondary and tertiary businesses, the economy went into a tail spin. The golden days of Peter Lougheed ended and the province was put on auto-pilot durning the economic crash under lame duck Premier Don Getty.
And though Getty was an oil man, he was the ultimate back room boy. More akin to former lame duck Socred Premier Harry Strom than Lougheed. And he was from Edmonton, though his favorite watering hole was the Petroleum Club in Calgary. His was a remote regime, and though the PC's had no real opposition in the house, his lack of attention and gaffs made the media, the fourth estate, the new opposition. He became a joke.
When in doubt or facing crticism the Getty government tried and true method of gaining votes was to build another hospital, school or seniors home in rural Alberta. And the party reacted, especially those in Calgary, who feard that like the Socreds before them their scandal ridden regime would fall. Enter Ralph Klein.
The Klein government transformed Lougheeds paternalistic state capitalism for the good of the province to a state capitalism that was good for business, in particular the Petro Gang in Calgary. It sold off all its investments in business and ended Lougheeds tradition of diversification . Ideologically it adopted the neo con agenda of the influential University of Calgary Reform Party Think Tank, the NCC and the Fraser Institute.
It was as night and day to the Lougheed utilitarian liberal party. The social and economic conservatives took over under Klein and his role was to mediate between them.
They never had a plan for the province, they had an ideology, and while they share with Lougheed an interest in Free Trade that was as far as it went. Because Lougheed viewed free trade as an issue between states, much like Mulroney did.
The Klein reformists viewed free trade as privatization of the state. Thus any form of state planning or state capitalism was anathema.
It is this reason, this divide between Lougheed the Harvard trained lawyer scion of the Mannix Family corporation, and Klein the media creation, former weatherman and drunk.
In a sense this critique of Klein is personal as much as it a warning to the party whose choices for Leadership post Klein are very much right wing neo-con social conservatives. Not Lougheeds kind of folks.
His view of Klein is also coloured by the fact he is a life long teetotaler. Much to his shame his father lost the family estate, as a drunk. Klein has done the same.
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