Friday, May 14


Stand-up comedian Ralph Klein, with his vein-popping red-nose leading the way, maintains his performance art impression of W.C. Fields while still posing as Premier of Alberta.

It seems that they like him just fine ... even in the province of gentility and upright pillar-of the-community types such as Joe Clark--a geezer even as a young adult--and the Prairie preacher echoes of Preston Manning.

How does Alberta reconcile these two sides of itself?

Do these guys represent the two faces of Alberta? Feisty, boozed-up at night, and in church first thing Sunday morning?

Which side wins out now that Clark is retiring? Will there be another "Joe Who?" to replace him? Or will we be left with the grumpy, sonofabitch bellow of Klein?

King Ralph is a hero in Alberta because he's thought be an Eastern bastard-fighting, no-compromise, man-of-action. A version of which, with smoother edges, exists in Quebec. We folks in Ontario are the problem.

Was Joe Clark effective? He leaves us with many regrets and missed political opportunities. But he came from Alberta and cared about the whole country. In the end, so did Manning.

Klein will leave with no regrets--except for his personal life.

Is Stephen Harper the heir apparent, despite being rejected by Joe Clark? I don't think so. There is something unelectable about Harper. A bland corporate salesman. With him, there is no sense of a political calling. No spirit of purpose.

Paul Martin is no better as the corporate conservative. Just experienced with more expressed intelligence and Canadian flair. (And, in Canada, flair usually doesn't mean much politically.)

Pierre Trudeau might've been an arrogant prick, but what softened his assault was the heat from the friction of his intelligence. From his writings on Federalism and the French Canadians to his literary quips and committed purpose. He beat the separatists.

Clark did, too. In the end he recognized Trudeau's political conscience and added a Western tilt to it.

Joe Clark's shadow is the last one standing.