Thursday, September 21, 2006

You Won't Have Me To Kick Around

But Klein merely shrugged his shoulders, adding he doesn’t expect the race to become a platform for sandbagging him. “I didn’t kick around Don Getty and Don Getty didn’t kick around Peter Lougheed,” he said, adding he won’t overtly support any candidate nor did he know who he’d vote for.

Still lying after all these years..... "But Getty ran a deficit," said Ralph Klein

Actually he didn't

Other accomplishments of the Getty Government include a strong record of fiscal management, self-government for Metis Settlements, private telelphone lines for rural Albertans, the election of Canada's only elected Senator, and the creation of Family Day.

It was, in fact, Klein's predecessor, Don Getty, who framed and launched Alberta's fiscal revolution. In the aftermath of the 1980s energy-price recession, Getty slashed public spending. In an April 2006 Edmonton Journal interview, Getty said, "(Klein) continued what we were doing. The debt and deficit was solved by God. Or Mother Nature, maybe. It was the price of oil, not any special creation."

The reality is that during the Getty era the price of oil had increased, steadily.

Getty inherited a deficit of $761 million in 1985-6,

and oversaw its rise to $3.4 billion in 1992-3.

Klein took over in 1993, and was running a surplus two years later, leading to Alberta's current status of having no net debt. Some people will point to oil prices collapsing in 1986 as the reason why Alberta started running deficits; they are wrong. Let's compare the price of oil during the Getty and Klein administrations:

Year Getty Year Klein
1986 $14.64 1993 $16.74
1987 $17.50 1994 $15.66
1988 $14.87 1995 $16.75
1989 $18.33 1996 $20.46
1990 $23.19 1997 $18.97
1991 $20.19 1998 $11.91
1992 $19.25 1999 $16.55

During Deficit Don Getty's administration, the price of crude oil averaged $18.28. During Klein's first seven years, the time period where Klein moved Alberta from a debtor to a net creditor, the price of crude oil averaged $16.55. It is clear that the price of oil is not why Alberta runs surpluses.

The reality was that Getty was a lame duck Premier. The deficits were the costs of buying votes, building hospitals, seniors homes etc. that had been the Tories success model under Lougheed.

That and a few spectacular failures in diversification and the slogan of the Ralph team became; Getting Government out of the business of business. But it was all temporary.

The deficit plagued all of Canada, in fact it was a global phenomena. By 1995 it had hit home with the Federal Liberal government, and they began a slash and burn program of cutting funding to the provinces. Worsening deficits in Ontario but not Alberta.

Here the Ralph Revolution was about privatization, cutting public services, and creating a low tax regime. All the solutions of the neo-con Republican agenda from south of the Border. That is why the province ended up with a surplus. The oil industry had little to do with it, since the Tories had implemented a royalty holiday in 1985 in response to the NEP. Which had resulted in the initial deficit crisis.

Klein's government introduced legislation that required the government to balance its budget by 1996-97. To accomplish this, the Tories implemented severe expenditure cuts, government downsizing, and the privatization of some services. A series of severe expenditure cuts was met with little resistance from a population intent upon seeing its financial house put in order. At the same time, the government expanded government-run gambling, which proved to be a windfall. The cost cutting and the revenue generation succeeded, and thereafter the Tories recorded a series of budgetary surpluses. Their success had a wide influence on other provincial governments, which began to duplicate Alberta's cost-saving measures.

Ralph Klein's revolution has merely gone full circle, argues his old nemesis, former Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth. "He's had three back-to-back budgets that grew by close to 40% and now we're short of money," she shrugged in an interview. "The problem is that he can't blame the last ten years on (former premier) Don Getty. He's got his own record to deal with."

Ralph ran his campaign and subsequent elections always refering to the failure of the Getty Government as if it wasn't a Tory Government. He ran against Getty more than he ran against the opposition. The Ralph Revolution was about implementing a Republican program in Alberta abetted by the likes of the Fraser Institute and the National Citizens Coalition. It was never about the deficit or the debt. That was an excuse, just as was Ralph's constant blaming of Getty for his problems.

In Alberta, the decade began with the surprise resignation of Premier Don Getty in 1992. Getty was succeeded by former Calgary mayor and provincial environment minister Ralph Klein, whom the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party chose as leader in December 1992. In the provincial election that took place the next year, the Progressive Conservatives managed to remain in power by distancing themselves from the shortcomings of the Getty regime. The stage was set for what was to become known as the Klein Revolution (Lisac 1995).

When Ralph Klein took office from Don Getty in December 1992, Alberta had accumulated debt of nearly $6 billion, and the provincial Liberals under Laurence Decore were poised to form the next government. They were running against the Tories chiefly on the grounds of fiscal probity and smaller government. Against the odds, Klein was able to distance himself from the previous Conservative administration and to win the 1993 election using many of the policies advocated by Decore.

 1993: Ralph's Team

The new Conservative leader Ralph Klein campaigns on his charisma. (TV; runs 3:31)

"Go Ralph Go!" shouts the crowd of Ralph Klein supporters. During the 1993 election campaign, the new leader of the Alberta Conservatives is playing up his populist charm, making the most of photo-ops, and calling his party "Ralph's team" in an attempt to distance himself from former Conservative premier Don Getty.

The Calgary Sun - Alberta Tories on brink

Back in 1992, with Laurence Decore’s Liberals almost topping the polls and Premier Don Getty’s regime in chaos, Moore and a small group of other “true” Conservatives went to then-environment minister Ralph Klein and promised to deliver the support of at least 35 MLAs to Klein in a leadership bid.

Actually, Moore and his group put 37 MLAs behind Klein. Then came a razor-edge fight between Klein and Nancy Betkowski, who later showed her true colours by becoming leader of the provincial Liberals.

Moore, who was called on the carpet and chastised often by Getty for condemning that premier’s free-spending ways that eventually made Alberta into a debtor province for the first time since the Great Depression, had given Klein, and his eminence grise Rod Love a list of five commitments in return for the MLA support. They were:

  • Cut the cabinet roughly in half to 15 ministers.
  • Chop the civil service by at least 25%.
  • Pass legislation to prevent ever running a deficit.
  • Prevent the government from getting involved in money-losing private sector business enterprises.
  • Cabinet ministers who did not operate within their budgets must be fired outright.
  • Klein followed through on all those commitments, but only initially.

I will leave the last word to the editor of a rural weekly, the folks that are supposed to be the backbone of Ralphs world.

The lack of a plan has been evident for years
Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canada - 14 Sep 2006

By Carol Picard - Editor
Sep 14 2006

The recent admission by outgoing Premier Ralph Klein that the government had and has no plan for managing the precipitous growth of the province elicited gasps of amazement throughout the land. Such has been the sense of betrayal that even columnists at Alberta’s notoriously Conservative daily newspapers have now begun voicing serious criticism of the government — something virtually unheard of throughout the dozen-plus years of “Ralph’s World”.

Well, they’re a decade late and a dollar shy. The truth of the matter is, there never has been a plan — just a goal. And most Alberta voters — newspaper columnists included — have been caught up in the cult of Personality Politics.

Way back when, when Klein took over from Don Getty, he was hailed as a saviour of sorts, promising to deliver the province from a sea of red ink created by his predecessors. He and his ministers and MLAs proceeded to reduce the deficit and eliminate the debt in a slash-and-burn approach that voters elsewhere in the country couldn’t stomach when their own leaders attempted the same. Klein’s macro-economic analogy to the household finances appealed to the lowest common denominator, and was folksy enough to get heads nodding, enough to ensure him widespread support despite the pain.

There was nothing orderly about it, and no forethought at all was evident. To reduce education costs (seen as red ink on a profit-loss statement that had nothing to do with future planning or a healthy and civilized society) he eliminated kindergarten, assuring all that the government had “studies” showing that kindergarten was a useless frill, a theory that flew in the face of scientifically-based educational practice. He squeezed education dollars so hard students commonly attended classes of 30 to 40 students, even at the elementary level. No evidence it hurts them, the government cried, despite empirical evidence that said otherwise.

Capacity at universities was slashed — particularly in nursing and education — in an effort to save a buck, despite the looming reality of an aging baby boomer generation needing additional health care. Today we face shortages in such professions.

He blew up hospitals and closed beds, and today, in the face of huge growth, the medical system is limping. Even at the time, as patients lay on gurneys in hospital corridors for hours, as wait times in emergency wards increased into the double-digits, anyone who dared go public with their criticism was dubbed the “Victim of the Week” by our premier.

His arrogance towards those who disagreed with him was breathtaking, and examples abound, but his descent from King Ralph to today’s scapegoat should not take anyone by surprise. Today, the Emperor truly has no clothes.

And today, some of his henchmen are running willy-nilly around the province, trying to win support for their own bid to be premier. If not actively distancing themselves from Ralph, they are remarkably silent about their participation in the “no-plan” approach to government.

But Albertans as a pack have remarkably short memories and huge stomachs for betrayal. One of them will prevail and, as promised, become our next premier. Lucky us.

Also See:


One Party State


Democratic Deficit

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