Opinions
the Gauntlet

Ralph Klein: premier, or your little sister?

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A little over a month ago, Premier Ralph Klein was voted the funniest Albertan ever. None of the quips he was cited for are side-splitters, but they're still a lot more humourous than much of his recent behaviour. Klein has increasingly come to resemble a buffoon of late, childishly challenging anyone who questions his authourity in a way no other Canadian politician could get away with. Maybe it's still funny, but more in that ironic, 'doesn't-really-know-it' sort of way. This was evidenced in his reaction to receiving a copy of the provincial Liberals' health-care plan in the legislature last week.

Debate persists over whether Klein struck teenage page Jennifer Huygen when he angrily cast the pamphlet aside, and really, the question is irrelevant; even if it could be conclusively proven that he didn't, his behaviour would be no less troubling. The opposition should never be treated with such contempt, least of all on an issue as controversial as health-care. While Klein apologized to the page, he did not apologize to the Liberals. The premier and members of his cabinet have explained away his actions as an impulsive expression of frustration, but they represent a bigger problem

Klein's frustration may only flare up occasionally, but it's a symptom of a constant lack of tolerance for people who disagree with him. No one imagines Klein has taken as much as a glance at the Liberals' proposal since he threw it over his shoulder. He needn't agree with any of its elements, but it would be nice if he would explain why he finds it lacking. He has said the incident was prompted by the heat he took over his own plan to reform health-care. It's true that the Liberals--and many others--were critical of the Klein government's proposal, but not one of them dismissed it as "crap." If they can respond to opposing views in a mature fashion, than he should be able to as well.

Klein has said he plans to step down in 2007 or 2008, though there's speculation he might get a signal to hasten his departure at the Tories' upcoming convention. Nice as that would be, Klein is only part of the problem. Belonging to a party that has held power in Alberta for more than 30 years, most of his potential successors would probably figure they could be nearly as arrogant as premier and get away with it. And they're probably right. Many of the Albertans who railed at the federal Liberals' sense of entitlement during their tenure have long turned a blind eye to the actions of a party that makes the Grits seem downright modest in comparison.

This said, most of the contenders to replace Klein would still be an improvement over him. As entertaining as a drunk asshole can be, someone eventually feeds him a shot of Everclear and waits for him to pass out. One can only hope that Klein is replaced by a premier rather than another drunk six year-old.

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