Transcript: Ralph Klein 1997 Interview | Nov 25, 1997

Steve Paikin sits with Premier Klein.

Steve is in his thirties, clean-shaven and with short curly brown hair. He wears a gray suit, pale blue shirt and patterned tie. He holds some memory notes on his lap.

Premier Ralph Klein is in his fifties, clean-shaven and with short wavy gray hair. He wears a blue suit, white shirt and patterned tie.

Steve says PREMIER KLEIN, WELCOME TO
THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO.
IT'S GOOD TO
HAVE YOU HERE.

Klein says THANK YOU.

Steve says LET ME GIVE YOU THE
TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
THAT I'VE HEARD ABOUT WHAT
YOUR FUTURE IS GOING TO BE.
ONE IS THAT YOU'RE
GOING TO BE THE GUY
TO UNITE THE RIGHT.
YOU COULD BE THE LEADER -
YOU'RE THE GUY WHO COULD
LEAD THE FEDERAL
CONSERVATIVES AND
THE FEDERAL REFORMERS
TOGETHER AND UNITE THE RIGHT.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I HEAR
YOU DON'T SPEAK FRENCH,
YOUR WIFE HATES OTTAWA,
YOU'D GET SLAIN
BY THE OTTAWA PRESS
GALLERY, YOU'RE POPULAR,
BUT YOU'RE NOT GOING
ANYWHERE EXCEPT
TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR
FOR A NICE JOB
AFTER YOUR
CAREER IS OVER.
SO WHICH IS TRUE?

A caption reads “Ralph Klein. Premier of Alberta.”

Klein says FIRST OF ALL, I'M ALWAYS
INTERESTED IN NATIONAL POLITICS,
BUT THAT IS NATIONAL ISSUES.
BUT I'M NOT
PARTICULARLY INTERESTED
IN NATIONAL POLITICS, PER SE,
EITHER THE REFORM PARTY,
OR THE NATIONAL
CONSERVATIVE PARTY.
YES, I'VE SAID
PERSONALLY, AS A PERSON,
I SUPPORT JEAN CHAREST.
HE'S A FRIEND.
I JUST HAPPEN TO
LIKE HIM.
I LIKE HIS STYLE.

Steve says DOES HIS JOB
INTEREST YOU?

Klein says NO.

Steve says COME ON,
NOT AT ALL?

Klein says NO.
THE JOB IS NOT
AVAILABLE.

Steve says BUT WERE IT
TO BE AVAILABLE?

Klein says WELL, THOSE ARE VERY, VERY
HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS.

Steve says BUT THE NOTION OF
UNITING THE RIGHT,
DOESN'T THAT
TURN YOU ON?

Klein says THE NOTION OF
UNITING THE RIGHT?
YES, IT DOES.

Steve says SOMETHING YOU'D
LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN.

Klein says YES.

Steve says SOMETHING YOU THINK
YOU COULD MAKE HAPPEN?

Klein says I DON'T KNOW IF I
COULD MAKE IT HAPPEN.
I'VE MADE PUBLIC COMMENTS
ABOUT UNITING THE RIGHT
BECAUSE UNLESS THAT HAPPENS,
THERE REALLY WON'T BE
AN ALTERNATE POLITICAL
PARTY IN THIS COUNTRY.

Steve says TO THE LIBERALS.

Klein says WELL, THE LIBERALS
WILL BE THERE
FOR VIRTUALLY AS
LONG AS THEY WANT.
NOW, THIS MAY SURPRISE
YOU THAT I CAN'T BE
THAT CRITICAL RIGHT
NOW OF JEAN CHRETIEN.
HE'S BEEN VERY COOPERATIVE
IN TERMS OF PARTICIPATION
WITH THE PREMIERS IN
ACHIEVING THE REBALANCING
THAT WE ALL SEEK, TO
DEMONSTRATE TO ALL PROVINCES,
INCLUDING QUEBEC,
THAT THERE IS FLEXIBILITY
WITHIN THE EXISTING
FRAMEWORK OF CONFEDERATION.
HE'S DONE SOME REMARKABLE
THINGS RELATIVE TO UNIFYING
THE PREMIERS TO ACHIEVE
ECONOMIC GROWTH AND
PROSPERITY IN THIS
COUNTRY, SUCH AS
THE TEAM CANADA TOURS.
THAT SIMPLY DIDN'T
HAPPEN BEFORE.
AND THOSE ARE VERY
SUCCESSFUL ENDEAVOURS.
BUT NONETHELESS, PEOPLE
IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
SHOULD HAVE AN
ALTERNATIVE.

Steve says PREMIER KLEIN, YOU'RE
GETTING ALL SORTS OF KUDOS
FOR BALANCING THE BUDGET,
AND NOW YOU'RE ON YOUR WAY
TO PAYING DOWN THE DEBT OF
THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA.
BUT I'VE READ FROM AN ALBERTA
COLUMNIST THE FOLLOWING:
“THE SPENDING
GENIE,” HE SAYS,
“IS OFFICIALLY OUT
OF THE BOTTLE,
AND IT'S GOING TO BE MIGHTY
HARD TO CORK IT IN AGAIN.”
ARE YOU WORRIED THAT THE
SPENDING FLOODGATES
ARE OPENING UP AGAIN?

Klein says WELL, YEAH.
IT'S ONE OF THE
CHALLENGES.
AND WHEN YOU HAVE A
SITUATION OF GENERATING
HUGE SURPLUSES, UNDOUBTEDLY,
THERE'S AN EXPECTATION
THAT WE ARE SIMPLY GOING
TO START SPENDING AGAIN.

Steve says IS THAT A REASONABLE
EXPECTATION?

Klein says NO, IT'S NOT A REASONABLE
EXPECTATION, BECAUSE
WE HAVE DELIBERATELY PUT
IN LAWS THAT PROHIBIT US
FROM DOING PRECISELY THAT.
IN OTHER WORDS, THE LAW IN
THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA
SAYS WE CAN'T RUN DEFICITS.
THE LAW SAYS ANY SURPLUSES,
ALL SURPLUSES GENERATED
MUST GO TO PAY
DOWN OF THE DEBT.
AND THE ONLY MONEY WE HAVE
OVER AND ABOVE THAT THAT
WOULD NORMALLY BE BUDGETED,
DISCRETIONARY SPENDING,
IF YOU WILL, IS THE MONEY
WE SAVE BY NOT PAYING THE
BANK'S INTEREST PAYMENTS.

Steve says DO YOU THINK THAT'S THE WAY
TO GO THROUGHOUT CANADA?
IN OTHER WORDS, SHOULD
PAUL MARTIN GO THAT WAY,
OR MIKE HARRIS, IF AND
WHEN HE GETS THE CHANCE?

Klein says I THINK SO.
I THINK IT WORKS.
THE FASTER YOU
PAY DOWN THE DEBT,
THE MORE MONEY YOU ACCUMULATE
THROUGH INTEREST SAVINGS.
AND THAT'S REAL MONEY.
THAT'S NOT
BORROWED MONEY.
SO YES, THE CHALLENGE RIGHT
NOW IS THE CHALLENGE
OF DEALING WITH PROSPERITY,
AND SURPLUSES WHEREAS
THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO,
IT WAS THE PROBLEM
OF DEALING WITH DEFICITS AND
CUTTING AND REORGANIZING,
OR AS I LIKE TO PUT IT, GOING
THROUGH A HOME RENOVATION,
AND IT WAS MESSY.
BUT NOW WE HAVE A
COMFORTABLE HOME.
THE CHALLENGE NOW IS
TO MAKE SURE THAT HOME,
AFTER THE RENOVATION, IS AN
AFFORDABLE AND LIVEABLE HOME.

Steve says WELL, THAT'S THE
QUESTION.
OBVIOUSLY, PEOPLE IN
ALBERTA AND PEOPLE
IN THIS PROVINCE, AS WELL,
HAVE SAID THE COST
OF GETTING FROM WHERE WE
WERE TO WHERE YOU ARE AND
WHERE WE HOPE TO BE IN A COUPLE
OF YEARS IS TOO HIGH TO PAY;
THAT WE, IN THE PROCESS,
HAVE DESTROYED A LOT OF THINGS
THAT MADE US WHAT WE WERE.
THINK THERE'S
ANYTHING TO DO THAT?

Klein says I GUESS THAT'S THE
PHENOMENA OF CHANGE.
IT'S A PUBLIC ATTITUDE.
YOU KNOW, I WAS WITH MIKE
HARRIS PRIOR TO THE LAST
ELECTION HERE IN ONTARIO.
AND MIKE'S PLATFORM
WAS CLEARLY TO GET
THE FINANCIAL HOUSE IN
ORDER, TO RESTRUCTURE,
TO CHALLENGE PEOPLE TO
DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY,
TO THINK DIFFERENTLY, TO CHANGE
THE INSTITUTIONALIZED WAY
OF DOING GOVERNMENT, TO
BRING ABOUT EFFICIENCIES.
AND PEOPLE SAID, HEY,
THAT'S A REAL GOOD IDEA.
AND HE CALLED IT,
AS I UNDERSTAND IT,
THE COMMON SENSE
REVOLUTION.
AND PEOPLE SAID,
GOOD ON YOU, MIKE.

Steve says 45 PERCENT OF THE
PEOPLE SAID GOOD ON YOU.
THEY VOTED FOR HIM.

Klein says HE FORMED THE
GOVERNMENT, RIGHT?

Steve says RIGHT.

Klein says AND NOW THAT HE'S INTO IT,
AND NOW THAT HE'S ACTUALLY
DOING IT, PEOPLE ARE
SAYING, OH, MY GOD.
FIRST OF ALL, HE
KEPT HIS PROMISE,
THAT IN ITSELF IS
REVOLUTIONARY.
SECONDLY, THEY SAID, WELL,
WE THOUGHT MAYBE HE WAS
GOING TO DO IT, BUT SURELY
TO GOD, HE DIDN'T MEAN ME.

Steve says PREMIER KLEIN, LET ME ASK
YOU ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
WITH THE PREMIER
OF ONTARIO.
I NOTICE FROM THE LATEST
POPULARITY POLLS
THAT YOU'RE RUNNING
AT ABOUT 75 PERCENT,
WHICH IS ASTONISHING.
AND THE PREMIER OF ONTARIO,
WHILE NOT DOING AS WELL
IN THE POLLS, TWO-THIRDS OF
THE PEOPLE, WHEN SURVEYED,
STILL THINK HE'S
ON THE RIGHT TRACK.
I'M JUST WONDERING ABOUT THE
NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
DO YOU SEE THE TWO OF
YOU AS THE FLAG BEARERS
FOR NEO-CONSERVATISM IN
THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW?

Klein says ALBERTA IS NOT ONTARIO,
AND ONTARIO IS NOT ALBERTA,
AND THERE ARE
DIFFERENT DYNAMICS.
LET'S TAKE THE
SITUATION OF EDUCATION.
WE HAD OUR SHARE OF
PROTESTS, BUT NOTHING,
NOTHING LIKE WE ARE
WITNESSING NOW IN ONTARIO.

Steve says I DON'T THINK YOU
THREATENED TO CUT
700 MILLION DOLLARS OUT OF THE
SYSTEM, THAT'S RIGHT.

Klein says OH, YES, WE DID.
WE CUT A LOT OF MONEY OUT
OF THE SYSTEM, ABSOLUTELY.
AND WE DID MANY OF
THE SAME THINGS
THAT ARE PROPOSED
IN BILL 160.
WE BECAME THE COLLECTOR
OF ALL THE TAXES
TO HAVE EQUALIZED
PAYMENT OF SCHOOL TAXES.
WE REDUCED THE NUMBER OF
SCHOOL BOARDS FROM 181 TO 63.
WE CHALLENGED THE
SYSTEM TO FIND BETTER
AND MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS
OF DOING THINGS.
WE PUT STANDARDIZED
ACHIEVEMENT TESTS INTO PLACE.
SO WE DID A LOT OF
THE SAME THINGS.

Steve says SO YOU THINK HE'S ON
THE RIGHT TRACK THEN
WITH ALL OF THIS?

Klein says SO I THINK HE'S
ON THE RIGHT TRACK,
BUT HERE'S THE
DIFFERENCE:
WE ONLY HAD TO DEAL WITH
ONE TEACHERS' UNION.
THERE IS ONLY ONE TEACHERS'
UNION IN ALBERTA;
IT'S CALLED THE ATA, THE
ALBERTA TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION.
THERE IS ONLY ONE.
AND IT REPRESENTS
BOTH SCHOOL BOARDS.
YOU HAVE SOMETHING LIKE
FOUR OR FIVE, I BELIEVE,
FIVE SEPARATE
TEACHERS' UNIONS.
SECONDLY, THE DYNAMICS OF
LABOUR ARE NOT AS GREAT
AS THEY ARE HERE
IN ONTARIO.
THE TEACHERS' UNION WERE
BACKED QUITE STRONGLY,
AS I UNDERSTAND IT, BY A
LOT OF PRIVATE SECTOR AND
OTHER PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS,
BUT MOSTLY PRIVATE SECTOR
UNIONS THAT I THINK
ARE VERY STRONG,
AND ARE VERY POWERFUL.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE
UAW, THE STEELWORKERS,
THE TEAMSTERS.
THESE ARE VERY POWERFUL
UNIONS WHO GET BEHIND
THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS.
WE DIDN'T HAVE THAT
EXPERIENCE IN ALBERTA
SO THE DYNAMICS ARE
SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT.

Steve says CAN I JUST UNDERSTAND
WHAT THAT MEANS, THOUGH.
DOES THAT MEAN YOU
THINK PREMIER HARRIS
HAS TO MIND HIS P'S
AND Q'S MORE?

Klein says I WOULD SAY
STAY THE COURSE.
STAY THE COURSE.
AND THERE WERE SOME THINGS
DONE DIFFERENTLY IN ONTARIO
THAN WERE DONE IN ALBERTA.
ONE IS THAT WE DID HAVE
A LOT OF CONSULTATION.
WE DID.
WE WENT OUT AND WE HAD
ROUNDTABLES AND A LOT
OF DISCUSSION, AND A LOT
OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION
ABOUT WHAT SHOULD BE DONE.
SO THERE WAS A
BIT OF A BUY-IN.
NOT EVERYONE AGREED.
NOT EVERYONE AGREED BECAUSE
PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY
OPPOSED TO CHANGE.
AND THAT'S JUST A HUMAN
PHENOMENON THAT PEOPLE
DON'T LIKE CHANGE.
BUT WHEN YOU CHALLENGE
PEOPLE TO CHANGE,
AND WHEN YOU INVOLVE THEM
IN THE KINDS OF CHANGES THAT
ARE GOING TO BE PROPOSED,
IT'S A MUCH EASIER SELL.
SO THERE WAS SIGNIFICANT
PUBLIC CONSULTATION.
NOTWITHSTANDING THAT, THERE
WERE STILL A LOT OF PEOPLE
WHO WERE NOT PLEASED
WITH THE RESULTS,
AND RESISTED IT.
AND THERE WAS A TIME WHEN
MY DAY WAS NOT COMPLETE
WITHOUT A PROTEST.
BUT NOT THE KINDS OF
PROTESTS WE'RE SEEING HERE.

Steve says LET ME ASK YOU TO GIVE
PREMIER HARRIS SOME ADVICE.
YOU'RE A LITTLE BIT FURTHER
ALONG ON THE BALANCED BUDGET
STUFF THAN WE ARE
HERE IN ONTARIO.
WE ARE STILL 5 OR 6 BILLION
DEFICITS EVERY YEAR.
WE ARE 100 BILLION DOLLARS
PLUS IN DEBT.
HE IS TWO YEARS AWAY
FROM AN ELECTION,
AND HAVING SOME TOUGH
TIMES RIGHT NOW.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU URGE HIM
TO DO TO GIVE HIM A BETTER
CHANCE OF WINNING
THE NEXT ELECTION?

Klein says WELL, I WOULD TELL
HIM TO STAY THE COURSE.

Steve says DON'T GO SOFT, EH?

Klein says NO.
STAY THE COURSE.
I GUESS IF I
HAD SOME ADVICE,
AND THIS IS WHAT I AM
HEARING, AND REALLY,
IT'S NOT FOR ME TO GET
INVOLVED IN ONTARIO POLITICS.

Steve says BUT AS LONG AS
I'VE ASKED.

Klein says BUT I THINK YOU CAN
ACHIEVE MUCH MORE IF YOU
INVOLVE THE PEOPLE IN THE
DECISION-MAKING PROCESS.
THAT'S NOT TO SAY ALL THE
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE
SATISFIED WITH THE FINAL
OUTCOME OF THE RESULT.
BUT YOU SHOULD AT LEAST GIVE
THE PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY.
YES, YOU CAN SAY, LOOK IT,
I'VE GOT TO SHAVE A CERTAIN
PERCENTAGE OFF THE BUDGET.
THAT IS A MATHEMATICAL FACT
TO BALANCE THE BUDGET.
RIGHT?
AND IN ORDER TO DO THIS,
WE'VE GOT TO BE BETTER
AT WHAT WE DO.
WE'VE GOT TO BECOME
MORE EFFECTIVE.
WE'VE GOT TO BECOME
MORE EFFICIENT.
WE'VE GOT TO THINK
DIFFERENTLY.
WE'VE GOT TO
FIND BETTER WAYS.
SO HELP ME.
HELP ME DESIGN THE PROGRAMS
TO BRING THIS ABOUT.
AND THAT'S NOT TO SAY IT'S
GOING TO CURE EVERYTHING.
BECAUSE AT THE END OF
THE DAY, YOU HAVE TO,
AS A GOVERNMENT,
MAKE A DECISION.
LOOK IT, WE WENT THROUGH
PUBLIC CONSULTATION,
AND THERE'S A
RISK TO THAT, TOO.
BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WHO
DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU DO
AT THE END OF THE DAY
ARE THE FIRST TO SAY,
YOU DIDN'T LISTEN
TO ME, RIGHT?

Steve says WHEREAS YOU'D SAY, I
LISTENED, I JUST DISAGREED.

Klein says WELL, WE LISTEN AND
TRY TO GET CONSENSUS.
SO THERE IS THE DANGER.
AND OF COURSE, WE WERE
SUBJECTED TO A LOT
OF CRITICISM FROM PEOPLE WHO
DIDN'T GET IT THEIR WAY.
SO THERE IS A RISK THERE.
BUT I THINK OVERALL, PUBLIC
CONSULTATION IS A GOOD THING.

Steve says PREMIER KLEIN, I THANK
YOU FOR YOUR TIME.
AND ENJOY YOUR TIME HERE IN
THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO.

Klein says THANK YOU.

Watch: Ralph Klein 1997 Interview