Taft’s burden

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The Article

Liberal baggage makes revival plan a lost cause

Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft has the light blue eyes of a perennial dreamer.

I’ve met Kevin’s type before and they are good, decent people, with one flaw.

They can’t understand why others can’t see problems as clearly as they can and why so few accept their solutions.

Here I mean no harsh criticism, for this innocence has its own particular charm.

Taft was chatting about his provincial party’s impressive new policy handouts—Alberta Horizons: The Time is Now, The Place to Dream is Alberta.

He vouched he couldn’t understand why Albertans are not thoroughly sick and tired of Premier Ralph Klein’s Progressive Conservative government.

Well, some Albertans are, Kevin, such as the 45% of delegates to the latest PC convention who voted against Klein’s continued leadership.

That was a real kick in the pants from the inner circle.

Taft feels Klein’s government has lost its focus and lost its direction.

It surely seems that way.

“Ralph gets up one morning and suddenly decides to give everyone a $400 prosperity cheque—but is that really planning?”

No, it isn’t, Kevin.

Taft then talks about Finance Minister Shirley McClellan’s latest budget—with spending once again soaring—and the lowballing of a $4 billion anticipated surplus in 2006-07.

“Where does the money go?” he asks. “It’s spend, spend, spend but we have no hospital beds, no schools and the cities are begging for money.”

Yes, Kevin, I’ve been thinking about that myself.

Where do these billions on billions of dollars go?

“We need a fiscal plan—yet there seems to be no agenda, everything seems to be falling apart,” he says.

That appears to be the scenario, Kevin.

Then there’s the Heritage Fund, which has been squandered and used as the personal cookie jar for any cabinet minister’s pet project.

It’s a disgrace.

My guess is in any other province, this government would be gone.

It has now become ingrained, self-absorbed and has lost touch with the voters.

Trouble is, voters feel there is no alternative.

Taft flies under the Liberal banner, one rightly despised in Alberta, and is the head of a party that hasn’t been in power in Alberta since the start of the flapper era.

If you can’t dance the Charleston, you can’t remember a Liberal government here.

Just to give you some historical perspective, that was even long before talking pictures.

Al Jolson hadn’t even thought of warbling Sonny Boy when this bunch were last on stage.

Then we have the lingering memories of the National Energy Program (NEP) that has forever sunk federal Liberal chances in the province and provincial Liberals can never separate themselves from their federal brethren.

Provincial Liberals point out Klein’s PCs lost 200,000 votes in the 2004 election compared to the 2001 vote as evidence the natives are getting restless.

That’s true—but none of those 200,000 votes went to the provincial Liberals, for they themselves polled 14,000 fewer votes in 2004 compared to 2001.

We certainly need some fresh air at the Legislature, but it’s not likely Taft’s Liberals who will open the windows.

Frankly, as much as I personally like Kevin, and find him a honest broker, I wouldn’t trust a single one of his MLAs with government power, and certainly not the three uninspired, sanctimonious and dim-witted members from Calgary.

Liberals are still looked upon as taxers and spenders and individuals who want to regulate every aspect of our lives.

The “spenders” charge might seem hilarious with the runaway spending of the Klein team, but that’s how it is.

In any other party, Kevin’s deep thoughts would haul in the votes.

With that Liberal baggage, it’s a lost cause.

One guesses we are going to have to look to the likes of former provincial provincial treasurer Jim Dinning, Reform party founder Preston Manning, MLA Ted Morton, or former cabinet minister Mark Norris to clean out the stable.

It will be quite a job.


Paul Jackson
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