EDMONTON (CUP) — If you’re like me”?that is, someone who has their grade ten”?you probably aren’t a big fan of Ralph Klein. But, since you’re an Albertan, you probably voted for him anyway. This political paradox is a disturbingly common one in our province, but given poor old Ralph’s deteriorating mental state, such party-based voting is becoming increasingly inadvisable.
I’m not so naÃ¯ve as to question whether there’s anyone who supports Klein’s Progressive Conservative Party or its agenda. That said, it is truly baffling why anyone, even the staunchest PC supporter, would want him at the helm. Sure, his right-wing followers might like the fact that he stifles opposition and criticism, rules his party with an iron fist and stubbornly defends (or embarrasses, depending on how you look at it) our province from the evil others. There are doubtlessly many who even share his views on homelessness and unemployment, and, when driving by homeless shelters, would have their drivers pull over so that they, too, could yell at residents to get a job and throw pocket change at their feet.
But Klein is also an under-educated, visionless, temperamental recovering alcoholic who throws books at teenage girls”?and nobody likes to see that in a leader, not even other PC members.
As we have seen recently, support within the party is at an all-time low, and Klein’s irrational and self-indulgent decision to announce a final, two-year farewell parade has done nothing to help this cause. The level of confidence that Klein’s own Tories have in him will be revealed this weekend, as the party’s Annual General Meeting will be held. A minority of support would trigger a leadership election, and while this is highly unlikely, many experts are calling for a significant departure from his usual 100 per cent status.
Another high-profile conservative politician whose approval rating has plummeted recently is George Bush. Bush, unlike Klein, has not been getting the results people want, and finds himself in more political hot water than Klein, despite his best efforts, ever could. Yet despite Bush’s obvious failings, at least he possesses certain characteristics that many find appealing: for one thing, he’s a strong, motivated leader, and his particular brand of down-home simplicity appeals greatly to Southern Republican voters, the bedrock of his support. Of course, strong leadership, though perhaps a sufficient condition to run a country, is not the necessary one; after all, dictators and totalitarians have traditionally been “strong leaders” as well.
Back here in Alberta, our fearless leader fortunately isn’t savvy enough to establish a despotic regime. Somewhere along the line, however, Klein managed to rise to the top of the political heap, becoming leader of the PC party”?and thus Premier by default in our province. Establishing himself early on, he managed to slash and burn Alberta’s way out of debt at the expense of just about everything else; later on, after finding himself awash in a bounty of high-priced, high-demand natural resources, he suddenly became leader of the hottest economy in the country.
Given this prosperous state of affairs, PC supporters have typically offered up such defenses as, “Well, I don’t particularly like Klein himself, but I support the party,” or, “My life is comfortable, so I’m not one to complain.” These are lame excuses, however, and only serve to deflect attention away from Klein himself. For the sad truth of the matter is that our province and our lifestyles could be even better if we had a different leader.
Klein’s recent downfall has been a tragedy of King Lear-like proportions, only our King Ralph has few, if any, redeeming qualities, and hopes of repentance and character reform aren’t looking so good. Instead, either the PC party must see the light and elect a new leader, or we’ll be doomed to another two years of mediocrity and madness.