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.

#BeLikeRalph. Gee, now there’s an idea!

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!

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  1. Mr. Climenhaga, it is sad to see you reduced to a ranting, whining ideologue. You are becoming a left-wing version of Paul Calandra.

    1. I dunno Chris, the list of Kleintastrophes strikes me as perfectly accurate and widely documented.
      If it were a simple list without any emotional tone to it, would it still be ideological ranting?

      Ralpholatry–despite all the evidence that his was a destructive government –is the core of Albertathink.
      It must never be questioned, it seems.

      1. I can provide a footnote with a citation for every Kleintastrophe noted with a hashtag.

    2. I’m not sure how reacting negatively to the idea of replicating Ralph Klein’s slashing government spending at a draconian level is being an “ideologue.”

  2. Instead of #BeLikeRalph, we should be asking Prentice to #BeLikeLougheed. Lougheed had a vision of a better Alberta, but the PCs have gone downhill ever since he left and turned their backs on ordinary Albertans in favour of padding the wallets of their rich friends and corporations. Now they are asking Alberta families to pay for years of PC ineptitude through cutbacks and delays to essential services. We need a government that will set the right priorities and plan for a better future for ordinary people to share equally in Alberta’s prosperity.

  3. Now the Conservatives are asking for cutbacks? How about #BeLikeRalph across the board 23 per cent cuts to all government services, i.e. education and health for starters, is what I remember circa 1993. And it wasn’t pretty either, except perhaps for those friends that got to buy a hospital or two. Indeed, I believe we, working stiffs, all shared the pain then. Thanks for the memories.

  4. The reason Prentice is successful in such a short period of time is because he IS doing what Ralph did, which IS what Albertans want. Perhaps you’d do better in a province like Ontario that is run by the unions. How are they doing these days? Nuff sed.

    1. So, you’re, like, saying that if I don’t like it here, I should go to Russia? Naw, I think I’ll stay and fight, thanks very much.

    2. No. You’re as usual, mistaken in your self inflated apprehension of public sentiment! What Albertans want, is the 35% of resource profits #doitlikelougheed and a top tier healthcare system supported by a top tier education system like #doitliketcdouglas. Oh ya, sorry, #suckembacklikeralph and #governlikeralphwithahangover.

  5. Peter Lougheed was the greatest premier Alberta ever had. He personified the ideal that government of the people aught to be for the people. Since he left, subsequent premiers have all demonstrated they think government is merely another lobby group for the monied interests (corporations and the top one percenters).

    Ralph Klein was the worst premier Alberta ever had. He was the town drunk who was elected. The only thing he was good at was getting re-elected. He had an infantile understanding of the role of government in a democracy, and the mechanics of running a modern economy. In point of fact, he was the perfect front man for the ruling class.

    Others would argue that Redford was the worst premier, but because she was in power for such a short period of time, she did not have as much negative long lasting effect on Alberta as Klein did.

    Be like Ralph indeed. I don’t think Prentice needs any help on that score, since all indications are he is on the same path – he just drinks less in public. His refusal to consider raising corporate taxes, in favour of slashing MUSH funding is in fact what Klein, the simplistic moron, would have done too.

  6. Funny. You would think by now that when it comes to surveying Alberta’s current political landscape most people would #BeLikePolPot. But that’s just me.

  7. Best posting ever! I laughed all the way through. The power brokers behind Ralph made crushing decisions that we’re still suffering through. My child was going into kindergarten at the time so I remember that fiasco well. Friends and relatives left Alberta and NEVER came back. Now, unfortunately, the same power brokers are using astroturf groups like CTF and their bought and paid for media to try to sell us more of the same. I’m afraid unthinking Albertans will vote for, and/or allow, the same type of policies that harm their families, neighbors, and the quality of their communities. Thanks for your excellent journalism, David.

  8. As a physician, I agree that healthcare workers will not stay if they can make equal pay in a better climate. BC can afford to pay their workers less because of nicer weather–fiscal conservatives need to come to terms with that, just as most of the rest of the world has to come to terms with the fact that they haven’t been blessed with oil wealth.

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