Surely Special Ed deserved a rest. What with his battles with Mayor Bronco over money, homelessness, greedy landlords, the tree-huggers giving him grief over greenhouse gas emissions, the infection ravaged St. Joe's Hospital in his own riding victimized by the Tory government's utter failure in heath care restructuring, the rapid evaporation of Tory support in Calgary, and the loss of the Klein riding of Calgary Elbow to the Liberals, surely it was time to lay back and rest for awhile and enjoy the summer. Hopefully, to be reenergized and rejuvenated to join the battle for his political survival in the fall. By God, he deserved it.
Ah, sorry Premier, no such luck. The return of ex-Premier Ralph to the political limelight were to disrupt his plans. Klein had caused Stelmach some grief once before. It was when Klein announced within days after pocketing his legislature retirement allowance of 600 grand that he was taking a lobbyist job with a major blue-chip law firm. This no doubt caused Klein's protege, the current Premier, some embarassment. The haste in Klein's announcing his new post seemed to be in the minds of many, somewhat unseemly and mercenary (See DARRYL RAYMAKER BLOG, 'MORE PUNGENT ODORS FROM TORYDOM,' January 19, 2007).
And now Klein had done it again. On Wednesday it was reported that the ex-Premier was giving two speeches - one in Calgary on August 7th, and one in Edmonton on August 9th - in an effort to find Alberta investors who were prepared to kick in with 150 grand each to get a piece of a 30 million dollar resort development in Cheongsong county in South Korea.
The resort, to contain the usual garish combination of golf courses, hotels, condos and the rest of it, was to be developed by Spring Fresh Investment and Development Inc. It was ballyhooed in the promo literature as 'the Banff of Korea.' And Ralph was to be the developer's shill - the keynote speaker at the meetings.
The Company's VP Carson Cole said that Klein was being paid for the speeches and if he stuck with the company, he would receive some options. The smooth talking Cole said, "Well, quite frankly, we need a front guy . . . we needed a front guy that could attract people to show, you know . . This is high risk. Ralph Klein's perfect. Everyone knows he's a gambler." Indeed, we do. One recalls Klein, during his last term in office, leaving a First Minister's Conference in Ottawa on Health Care while it was still in session, in order to get in on the slot action at the casino in Hull before returning to back to the old grind in Edmonton.
It must have been particularly jarring for the current Premier to have heard this 'Banff in Korea' news. After all, his government wants the 'cooling off' period for lobbyists who have worked for the government to be 1 year after leaving government service. Although Klein is within the present rules, he has only been away from the Premier's office for 7 months.
However, there was more for the Premier to be concerned about with this 'Banff in Korea' stuff than merely the Ralph Klein shill. In addition to Klein being the keynote speaker, Tories Doug Griffiths, MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, and Thomas Lukaszuk, MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs were listed as 'guest speakers.' And so, from the advertisements, it was easy for a reader to conclude that the MLA's along with Klein were helping to promote the project. The developer went even further in implicating the two MLA's by sending out an Email that said that they would be providing a 'blessing' for the project.
The MLA's, upon discovering the slimey inferences that were being drawn about their involvement as promoters of the project, were quick to deny that was the case and advised the developers of such. They said that they thought they were attending the meetings to talk about international trade and Alberta's role in the world economy, and in no sense were they promoters of the project. By Thursday, both Griffiths and Lukaszuk withdrew from the event stating that they did not want to appear as promoting the project.
Also on Thursday, Klein himself withdrew from the meetings citing 'legal reasons' for his withdrawal. There was no elaboration on the 'legal reasons.'
There the matter rests. But does the Premier? Not yet.