ralph klein

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The last provincial budget estimated the government will run deficits until 2023/24.

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The severity of Alberta’s fiscal problems hit home with many Albertans this week as Premier Prentice announced that the upcoming provincial budget will include an across-the-board five per cent spending cut.

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Alberta Premier Jim Prentice is in the midst of formulating his first budget and the fiscal path of the province while watching oil prices continue to decline.

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With Ralph Klein’s passing, many have tried to find a constant theme in his political life. The late premier was, to be sure, a populist. What else explains his reputation as a big spender when mayor of Calgary and then his switch to a prudent premier?

The explanation is not complicated: once the bills come due, even a populist politician will change course when the public sours on policy gimmicks, when they demand a government focus on the basics. That includes not bankrupting public finances or assuming taxpayers can be increasingly gouged to pay for political vote buying.