PHOTOS: Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative Colin Craig makes a point involving a table, a pile of cash and a picture of Ralph Klein. Below: The real Ralph Klein; present-day Premier Jim Prentice; former Edmonton Journal editor Stephen Hume.
The seven-member Canadian Taxpayers Federation yesterday instructed Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to “be like Ralph,” or, in the language they prefer to use to issue their directives, to #BeLikeRalph.
As one of Canada’s leading producers of press releases and hashtags, it should come as no surprise that the CTF did this in a press release about a website named after a hashtag.
Mr. Prentice, you can start to live up to the tireless and disproportionately influential market fundamentalist lobby group’s latest press release by blowing up a couple of public hospitals!
Any hospitals you can’t bring down with a few sticks of private sector dynamite, you can #GiveAwayToYourFriends for a song. That would be a good way to start to #BeLikeRalph, don’t you think?
And don’t forget also to drive a couple of classes of nursing students out of the province, not to mention hundreds, possibly thousands of the most skilled and best qualified experienced medical professionals. The health care system has never really recovered from when Mr. Klein did that, so, with any luck, #BeingLikeRalph in 2015 would pretty well #FinishItOff.
Being market fundamentalists and all, it’s surprising the CTF seems to have missed this, but there’s an international market for people like Registered Nurses, thoracic surgeons and oncologists – you know, the kind of people the late and apparently much lamented Mr. Klein encouraged through his self-induced Kleintastrophe not to stick around Alberta if they could find good job where the snow doesn’t fly for nine months of the year, which they mostly could by picking up a phone.
What is different in health care in Alberta between 1995, when Mr. Klein got up to #WreckingTheHealthCareSystem, and now is that there are also thousands of fed up medical professionals who saw their lives thrown into chaos last time who are of an age they can just say to hell with it and retire on what the CTF would call their “gold-plated” pensions.
The average gold-plated health care pension in Alberta is around $14,000 a year, compared with the $100,000 a year a good conservative like Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird will be getting for his 20 years of exertion in the House of Commons. But, as the CTF might say, #whatever!
Getting back to the CTF’s instructions, Mr. Prentice, don’t forget the colossal regional planning mess that Ed Stelmach took some teeny-tiny steps to fix when he was premier. You can do as Mr. Klein did #ThrowItIntoTotalChaos again.
That should ensure another 20 years of crappy planning decisions that will scar the landscape and pit towns and cities and municipal districts – not to mention their expensive legal departments – against one another.
And make sure you hire a bullying goon like Steve West, the veterinarian from Vermilion who according to the Calgary Herald had admitted to vigilante activities and having spent nights in jail before being elected as an MLA, and who told the Legislature that alcohol had been a factor in many of his life choices. He was Mr. Klein’s point man on the implementation of what has become the CTF agenda. Wherever Dr. West went, the destruction of valued public services was sure to follow.
At the time, Mr. Premier, you’ll recall that Dr. West claimed the reason for the Klein Government’s trail of devastation was that the province was “broke,” sort of like you’re doing right now, only with even less evidence. This may have been baloney, but it served Mr. Klein’s purposes. No reason you shouldn’t tell the same lies, Mr. Prentice, if you’re going to do what the CTF tells you to do and #WreckTheProvince.
In reality, Dr. West and Mr. Klein went after public services because their market fundamentalist ideology, the same as the CTF’s, holds everything private is always better than anything public, just like your hero #FriedrichHayek taught. And no doubt they also did it because regional planning annoyed their friends and contributors in rural businesses by getting in the way of money-making ideas because mere citizens or affected municipalities objected.
Education policy? Well don’t forget to close schools, shutter school libraries, lay off teaching aides and #FireLibrarians, and to make sure kindergarten isn’t part of the core curriculum. At the very least, charge parents extra fees to send their kids to kindergarten!
As for agriculture, well, who can forget #ShootShovelAndShutUp? Sounds like the kind of sound farming and trade policies the CTF would support!
The environment? Well, you can just tell everyone they have to #Fuggediboudit and flip anyone who disagrees your middle finger. They’re probably just #BumsAndCreeps from Eastern Canada anyway.
And don’t forget to feel welcome to take some #BelowMarketValue corporate shares for your wife.
At least, you won’t need to #PlagiarizeTheInternet for an undergraduate paper, because you’re a smart guy and you’ve already got a college degree. But when you’re done laying waste to the place, ruining health care for another generation, #InsultingTheDisabled and privatizing everything in sight so that citizens can pay more for everything, you can #GetPissedAndThrowChange at poor people in the men’s shelter!
Or, I suppose, you could act like Mr. Klein when he faced a drop in oil prices as mayor of Calgary. As noted in this space two weeks ago, in those circumstances he actually did something sensible and took advantage of the lower costs by building a legacy for the city. But I don’t suppose the CTF would approve a crazy stunt like that.
Since Mr. Klein passed on to his reward, the Klein Era in Alberta government seems to have become suffused with a warm and fuzzy glow in many people’s minds that is evidence of a collective failure of memory and critical thought on the part of most of us who had the misfortune to live through it.
Not the CTF, though, they know perfectly well what they want and why they want it. Here’s a hint: They don’t represent taxpayers. (With only seven members, and an unverifiable claim they have 80,000 or so “supporters,” they’re also not a federation. Canadian? Could be, I suppose. We’re unlikely to know for sure because they’re an organization that takes its own privacy seriously, so we have no way to verify who really finances them.)
As the Vancouver Sun’s Stephen Hume wondered in an excellent piece about the CTF on Monday, how does this “minuscule, Prairie-based, fundamentally non-democratic special interest group” manage to frame every single public policy issue as a burden of intolerable taxes?
Operating “like some self-appointed secret society” – with life-sized puppets! and #hashtags! and a cadre of professional anti-union activists running the show – the self-appointed national austerity scold is invited by the mainstream media to play a prominent role in every conversation about government policy.
“In a healthy democracy, any dog is entitled to yap about anything it likes,” Mr. Hume concluded, describing the role played by the CTF in Canadian public discourse to a Chihuahua. “That doesn’t mean every yap deserves equal consideration.”
Mr. Hume doesn’t live in Alberta, but he used to, years ago when he was editor of the Edmonton Journal – back in the day when the Journal was a newspaper worth reading.
So I’m just saying, Mr. Premier, you could do what the CTF has ordered you to do, but you’d get farther listening to Mr. Hume and telling the CTF to #JustShutUp!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.