Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Klein concedes: No Environmental Plan, No Health Care Plan

Former Premier Ralph Klein warns of health backlash

Today staff
Thursday April 05, 2007

VANCOUVER -- Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is quick to admit he didn’t have a plan to fix the blistering effects of the oilsands boom on the strained infrastructure of Fort McMurray and other parts of Alberta.
But he’s not as forthcoming about the reason.
“We did have a plan for when the oil was at $50 a barrel. But for unsustainable growth, we didn’t have a plan for that,” he told a crowd of journalists attending a Fraser Institute program for Canadian business reporters last week.
This was not the first time Klein admitted his lack of a plan. Before he retired last December, he conceded that the government had no plan for the province’s unprecedented growth.
Klein told the Vancouver seminar there are infrastructure problems in Fort McMurray. He called them “challenges and opportunities.”
He also said environmental groups may be sounding the alarm bells about climate change, but the real problem is health care.
“Health care is going to come back and bite us in the rear end,” he said.
Klein’s controversial third way solution to health care in Alberta failed to ignite change in the province.

But it seems this issue has not been crossed off the retired politician’s to-do list. He didn’t say what else he’s going to pull out of his hat to advance the cause of privatized health care in Alberta, but he issued a rebuke to the federal health authorities.
“Someday someone should ask the 6,000 employees of the federal department of health: ‘What do you do?’” he said, adding, “Everybody thinks they are looking after public health.”
Klein gave no solid answer when asked what he would do to fix Fort McMurray’s shortage of on-call doctors at the hospital if he were still the premier.
However, he said he would have put together a study of the unpredicted growth in the region. That’s underway now with a multi-stakeholder oilsands consultation group.
“Some jurisdictions would love to have this problem of growth. But it is a challenge nonetheless. The first thing I would look at in Fort McMurray is affordable housing, sewage treatment, a water treatment facility and Highway 63,” Klein said.
The retired premier was invited by the Fraser Institute as one of the speakers for its new project called Economics and Markets: A Program for Journalists.
Most of the speakers were the institute’s own policy analysts. There were at least two working journalists on the list, three former media men and two retired politicians.
Right off the bat, theFraser Institute’s executive director, Mark Mullins, told participants the think-tank did not want to indoctrinate or convert reporters to their way of thinking. The Fraser Institute is labelled by the media and the public as a right-wing think-tank. But it describes itself as an “independent research and educational organization ... with a mission to measure, study and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals.”
While most of the speakers engaged participants in open and frank discussions on various economic and political issues, Klein’s speech, which turned into a long dinner interview, was the most anticipated by the journalists.
“You don’t get to interview a politician of Ralph Klein’s stature every day,” said Maryam Behmard, a television producer with Sun TV in Toronto.
Klein remains unpredictable as an interviewee.
One reporter asked him if the Alberta press gallery covered him fairly while he was the premier. He answered, “They were fair to me, but generally they were lazy. They didn’t dig deep enough.”
The journalists guffawed when a reporter asked: “And what would they have found out had they dug deep enough?”
Klein didn’t really answer the question but cited an incident leading up to the election for his third term. The story of the day was about Alberta Treasury Branch loans to West Edmonton Mall. On that same day, Klein received numerous letters from Albertans about environmental concerns on Waterton Lake -- but no one covered them, he said.

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