Ralph’s alcoholism a smokescreen

By Chris Morrison

This past August the Gauntlet, the fine paper you are currently reading, held the second Annual Ralph Klein pub crawl. Gauntleteers went to the King Eddy, the Cecil, the St. Louis, and the Bowness Hotel. Not every premier has a pub crawl named in his honour. I grew up in British Columbia and never heard of a Mike Harcourt or Bill Vander Zalm pub crawl. I doubt there were many Peter Lougheed or Don Getty pub crawls either.

The reason our present premier has been so honoured by the Gauntlet is that he is a notorious drinker. For example: following a missed morning meeting with Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells in 1995, Klein admitted he often cancels morning meetings because he is hungover. And let’s face it, one does not achieve Klein’s Olympian physique (insert snickers here) by drinking mineral water all day.

Klein’s problem with the sauce reared its ugly head again this holiday season. Following a party on Dec. 12, the premier decided to visit a homeless shelter. A shouting match between Klein and some of the people staying there soon followed. Either Klein asked some of the people if they had jobs or were looking for jobs-his version-or he threw money at them and told them to get jobs-the version given by those who work at the shelter.

Something of a brouhaha in the press followed. Raj Pannu, probably the only politician on the planet to criticize Klein for what happened, publicly questioned whether the premier was fit to lead the province. Before the press could follow this line, Klein admitted to a drinking problem and said he was going to seek help. After this, it seemed every politician and journalist came out to support Ralph in his fight with alcohol. National Post writer Christine Blanchford even wrote a front page article chronicling her own battle with alcoholism and her struggle to beat it.

It is odd that none of the journalists and politicians, save for Pannu, criticized Klein for drunkenly barging into to a homeless shelter. It seems that homeless baiting is an acceptable pursuit in Alberta, encouraged and practised by the premier himself. At least that is what I glean from the-excuse the cliché-conspiracy of silence regarding Klein’s night at the homeless shelter.

Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but I tend to see Klein’s admission of an alcohol problem as a cop out or a political move. Instead of admitting what he did was wrong, he found a convenient excuse. He was drunk. He has a problem with alcohol, so I guess we must forgive him his trespasses. The premier seems to think that any act can be written off with an acceptable excuse. Yes, alcoholism is a serious problem, but don’t use it as a crutch.

You, Premier Klein, made the decision to drink that night. You, Premier Klein, made the decision to go to the homeless shelter and tell the homeless to get jobs. So instead of ducking the issue by owning up to a drinking problem that was already well known, do something about homelessness and poverty in our province. And if you do, I will buy you a drink-non-alcoholic of course.

And if anyone has a problem with what I have written I will just say I was drunk and all will be forgiven.

Feedback on this article can be sent to opinions@gauntlet.ucalgary.ca.

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