Oh how the mighty have fallen…

By Chris Morrison

A Calgary landmark will not be torn down. The King Edward Hotel, built in 1905, will be transformed from a low-cost hotel featuring rhythm and blues to a low-cost transitional housing unit for the working poor, ranging in cost from $300 to $350 a month. This is good for many reasons.

First, the City of Calgary, which owns the King Eddy, recognizes that rent is too high. These people generally earn minimum wage and cannot afford their own apartment and, as many reside at the various drop-in centres around the city, those seeking roommates are not likely to give up a room to one of these people.

Second, by turning the King Eddy into a low-rent building, the city is saving part of its heritage. The King Eddy is nearly 100-years-old, something very rare in a city with a propensity to tear down any building older than the designated hitter rule (1973).

Third, by housing the working poor in the same building as one of Premier Ralph Klein’s favourite drinking haunts, Ralph will be able to-excuse the cliché-kill two birds with one stone. No longer will Ralph have to get drunk at one place then trek across the city to argue with those less fortunate. At the new King Eddy, Ralph can do both at once. What a time saver!

Alright, this is not a column about the need for affordable housing, although that would be a more noble subject. No, I am marking the one-year anniversary of Klein’s most recent election victory. The Conservatives won 74 out of a possible 83 seats. They basically wiped out the provincial Liberals and mercifully ended the career of former Conservative leader wannabe. then Liberal leader, Nancy MacBeth.

The province was awash in oil and gas money. The debt was nearly paid off and there was talk of doing away with provincial income tax. Pundits from other provinces-okay, Ontario-waxed endlessly on Ralph’s sure hand and his political genius.

What a difference a year makes.

Before last year’s election Klein appeased the doctors and nurses with double digit pay raises. Using the large surplus, he gave hundreds of millions to education; Mount Royal College received $94 million and the University of Calgary received nothing.

In the same budget that ignored the U of C, another surplus was announced. Just a comment on the large surpluses reported year after year by the various Klein governments: Am I the only one to notice that every year they were larger than expected? You don’t think Klein was purposely underestimating the expected surplus in order to look like the political genius he is not? Think about it.

The surpluses seemed too good to last-and they were. As oil and gas revenues have been much lower than expected, the government has had to adjust the numbers, at least twice as far as I can recall. And since the Conservatives passed a law that prevents running a deficit, Ralph sliced and cut the budget to keep the province in the black. Where’s the "Alberta Advantage" now, Ralph? What about all of that talk of a diversified economy? I thought Alberta was more than oil and gas. Eedjit, without oil and gas we’re just Saskatchewan with foothills!

It is fitting that the first anniversary of Klein’s largest majority sees him battling the province’s teachers. Before last year’s election, he magically found the money to pay the doctor’s and nurses, thus avoiding a big campaign headache. One year on, there does not seem to be any money left. Maybe the teachers’ raises were spent on the cheques Klein sent out to buy the voters last year and ease the burden of increasing energy bills. It does not matter. What does is that Klein, without the benefit of oil and gas money, is looking more like B.C. cabinet minister, incompetent and ignorant, than the political genius National Post and Calgary Herald writers were proclaiming him just one year ago.

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

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