These are the first words anybody outside Alberta will think of when they see the name Ralph Klein in the headlines one more time. They might as well get to work chiseling it into the headstone.
Klein made the famous remarks as mayor of Calgary in January 1982 at a meeting of the Calgary Newcomers’ Club, pointing out in the midst of a housing crisis and a crime wave that 70% of his city’s convenience-store thefts and 95% of its bank robberies were being perpetrated by criminals from outside Alberta, with Quebeckers, in particular, overrepresented.
The source of his figures was the provincial government, and they were acknowledged to be accurate.
(Peter Lougheed, who was premier in 1982, would call Klein’s remark “stupid” in an interview many years later, but admitted “We were the place that people from all across Canada were going to in those boom times…we really did get the creeps and bums.”)
Calgary, at that moment, really was being beset by lowlifes from Eastern Canada—low-skilled migrants without jobs waiting for them, migrants whose arrival was being facilitated by provincially funded hostels and shelters.
Is “bum” really too intense a word for a bank robber?