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Ishbel Bullen

Worth a Laugh

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Klein to premiers: butt out

Klein blames 'frustration' over health debate after throwing Liberal book at legislature page

Kelly Cryderman, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Thursday, March 02, 2006



EDMONTON - Premier Ralph Klein formally apologized in the legislature Wednesday for hurling a Liberal policy book at a young legislature page in "frustration" over the health-care issue.


Jennifer Huygen, 17, had delivered the health-care policy document to the premier at the request of a Liberal MLA during a heated question period focused on Klein's controversial Health Policy Framework. Upon realizing what it was, Klein threw the soft-cover booklet overhand at Huygen, saying "I don't need this crap."


The moment wasn't caught on the legislature's TV cameras and there were conflicting statements about whether the booklet actually hit Huygen. She would not speak to reporters.


Shortly after question period, Klein made a contrite apology to Huygen in the legislature, saying he shouldn't have thrown the 78-page book at her.


"To Jennifer, I apologize most sincerely," the premier said. "I also apologize for referring to the document as crap."


Klein later told reporters the incident arose out of his "frustration over health care."


The premier has repeatedly argued that his controversial new plan for health care is only a proposal, and it is subject to a public consultation in which the opposition Liberals can participate. He said this shortly before Huygen delivered the Liberals' health policy booklet.


"I don't think there are any ideas in that book that will achieve sustainability of the health-care system," Klein said later.


He asked Liberal Leader Kevin Taft for a one-page note on health care.


Taft said Klein's outburst crossed the line. "That document is delivered to him by a page, and he turns in a rage and throws the document at a high school girl? Come on."


NDP Leader Brian Mason said Alberta Tories should consider the episode when they review the premier's performance March 31 at the Conservative convention.


"If one thing exemplifies the degree to which he has become out of control -- indeed, almost unstable -- it was that performance today," Mason said.


Liberal MLA Rick Miller, who jumped to his feet to raise a point of order on the incident, said he was "afraid it was going to hit her smack in the face."


Speaker Ken Kowalski repeatedly called for decorum during Wednesday's question period, as Klein accused the Liberals of telling "fibs" when Taft spoke about the Alberta government's plans to allow more privatization in the health-care system. Klein also used the unparliamentary word "liar."


The Liberals themselves were challenged for holding up documents as they spoke. Props are barred from the floor of the legislature.


Klein later contacted Huygen by phone. He talked to her and her mother and apologized.


Huygen's legislature biography describes her as a Grade 12 Archbishop MacDonald high school student who participates in Highland dancing, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and the honour band. She hopes to "attend university, become an international lawyer and travel the world."


Huygen's mother reacted calmly to the incident. "It is my understanding that it was not intentional. He apologized and she is fine with that," Susan Huygen said. Huygen's father, Bryan, is director of business services for Alberta Children's Services.


This isn't the first time Klein has been in trouble for throwing things. In December 2001, when Klein made a strange, unannounced midnight visit at the Herb Jamieson homeless shelter, witnesses said the premier threw some cash on the foyer floor on his way out the door




thot some of you might get a kick out of it, if you know the alberta premier

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