What did Klein really do? What was Kleins legacy?
Did he "trim the fat"? He certainly balanced the budget from the $8B deficit we had when he took office, but did he do it in a way that made sense? Did his method of achieving this leave us better off? Let's look at the facts.
Myth 1) Klein got extreme public spending under control.
A) Public spending was not out of control on governmental operations. Getty had already cut public spending by $3B between 86' and 92' in real terms.
B) Public spending was out of control on private sector subsidies. The total spent in the same time period on private subsidies as the $3B public cut was $11.2 billion to agriculture, oil, and gas.
C) Klein's response was to further cut the operational.
The verdict? Klein did not cut operational spending because it was out of control, he cut it because his ideology dictated that he support his friends in private industry, and financial realities (the collapse of oil prices) dictated that he fund their addiction to free money out of other programs. This decision was not fiscally conservative, it was crony capitalism.
Myth 2) Klein was a fiscal conservative that balanced the budget with wise decisions.
A) As state above, programs that were already cut were cut again, while subsidies were continued.
B) A large portion of the money used to pay down the deficit came from selling off profitable public assets and other programs at below market value. This includes the Alberta Energy Company and the provincial registry system.
The verdict? Klein was not a fiscal conservative. He covered up his own incompetence by selling off public assets in bad deals. This gave the illusion of balancing the budget, while in reality all that he did was eliminate predictable, long term public revenue streams. The literal opposite of fiscal conservatism.
Myth 3) Klein created a responsible governmental structure that could replicate balanced budgets sustainably into the future.
A) As stated above, the balanced budget was obtained through asset sales at a loss. This only gives the illusion of balancing the budget, and has no long term impact.
B) Klein's decisions directly limited the governments ability to predict long term revenues.
C) Klein's flat tax was only possible even under his austerity level spending given asset sales and royalties. It was impossible, even under low levels of spending, as a long-term model.
Myth 4) Klein's austerity policies and tax breaks led to economic prosperity.
A) Klein's austerity caused a direct and immediate economic slowdown just as oil prices were recovering.
B) Alberta's economy grew thereafter directly proportional to oil and gas prices.
The verdict? Klein's policies were completely ineffectual. The only thing that mattered was the price of oil. The only thing that I might give him is that he rubber stamped every single oil related project that came across his desk without even a thought to the environmental impact, which definitely accelerated development. However, as we're about to start finding given the slowdown and counties and municipalities are already warning, the long term result of this is that when sites shut down the taxpayer will be on the hook for millions to billions.
None of this even touches on his mismanagement and meddling in operations that he didn't just cut without the slightest research or forethought. The state of our infrastructure, education, healthcare, public research and innovation, urban development, regional growth and coordination, and a lot more were set back decades by this boorish incompetence.