I know, I know. Beating dead horses is unpleasant. But there’s still something that bugs me about Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s recent transformation into the Brave Alcoholic.
As we all know, Ralph Klein dropped by an Edmonton homeless shelter ten days before Christmas for a “lively policy debate” of the yelling-at-the-homeless variety. Klein later claimed he was just there to chat with residents and learn what their situation was like. Presumably he did so, for he excused himself by “cheerfully” telling the homeless people to “get a job.” He then tossed some cash on the floor as he left. I, for one, have never seen anyone toss money or swear at another person in good spirits, but that’s the Klein’s story anyway.
It was at this point, amidst growing criticism—which included a full page of admonitory letters in the Edmonton Journal—that Ralph Klein had a revelation. He was an alcoholic. Well, actually, wait, he’s not quite an alcoholic.
“I don’t know, the word alcoholic is subjective. I do know I have a problem and I do know I’m going to deal with it,” confessed a teary-eyed Klein at a press conference.
What courage, I thought. He almost admitted to being an alcoholic.
I guess most people considered Klein’s admission to be close enough to the real thing. Before you knew it, the media trotted out addiction counselors for advice and made Klein into some sort of hero for revealing his “devil” in public. In their lead editorial, The Globe and Mail applauded the example Klein set for others like himself. In the National Post, Christie Blatchford, a former alcoholic, wrote a sympathetic column entitled “I know how Klein feels.”
Unfortunately, Klein received all his support by promising nothing. By his own admission, he’s drunk to get through speeches and missed meetings because of hangovers. Clearly, drinking has affected him on the job. Even so, he refuses to quit his job or alcohol entirely. As it stands, Klein is nowhere near the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous: admitting you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable. And yet we applaud like seals.
Conveniently, the homeless shelter story has disappeared while Klein has enjoyed a ten-point rise in the polls.
I certainly don’t doubt that he was drunk or that he’s an alcoholic. He likes to gives slurred, incoherent speeches. The best was last year when he he won the election and blurted: “Welcome to Ralph’s World!”
Klein’s admission—for what it’s worth— confirms what many suspected was drunken behaviour. But has Klein promised any real change to his lifestyle? He’s says he’s still going to drink, just less. That’s not courage, just an easy escape.