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Small-town hotels in trouble and the Tories are to blame

My name is John May. I am the manager of Bowden Hotel in Bowden.

I have been the manager here for 13 years but have worked here for 22 years and before that I worked in the Daysland hotel for three years so I have 25 years in the industry. In those 25 years I have seen a lot of changes. From being closed on Sundays and Good Fridays and election days until 8 p.m. to being open every day of the year except Christmas Day.

In 2006 before the provincial election, the Conservative MLA for our area Luke Ouellette was seeking re-election he came to the hotel and told me that if we re-elected him and the Ed Stelmach government, that they would leave the no-smoking law to the local municipalities themselves. But after three months in office, they put the no-smoking law into effect.

With just that one law, we lost 30 per cent of our business. That is a big loss for a small town hotel.

When I started at this hotel we employed 12 people now we have four employees.

Before the no-smoking law, I would have farmers and retirees come in, in the mornings to visit and drink draft beer. As a group they would spend $300 to $500 a day depending on the time of year. But they no longer come in because they have to go outside to have a smoke and when you are 55 or older, you will not go outside in bad weather.

In 2012, the Redford government brought in the .05 drinking and driving law and with that we lost another 20 per cent of our already declining business.

So in six years with these two laws, we lost 50 per cent of our business.

With no compensation from the government for our lost business, instead they raise the prices on the products that we need to serve our remaining clientele. Just two weeks ago while in Kalispell, Mont., I had seen a 24 pack of Kokanee bottles for $18.95 in a corner store. Here to get that same product from Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, a government-run operation, it costs hotels $41.83.

How can they get that what is made right here in Canada that cheap in the U.S.A.?

As a manager of a small town hotel, I have had enough. The Alberta government keeps saying they want to help small businesses. If that’s true, why not compensate the small town hotels so they can keep the doors open?

Why not offer a one-time payment of $4,000 per seat in the bar for each rural hotel instead of trying to put them out of business.

With what former premier Alison Redford charged Alberta taxpayers for her personal expenses, that amount would save this hotel and maybe even a couple more.

The Alberta government is suing the tobacco industry for billions of dollars.

While they spend all this money on these things, I know of three small town hotels that have closed their doors in the last year with three more very close to the same thing. And that’s just between Red Deer and Calgary.

A lot of the small town hotels around rural Alberta are the meeting places for a lot of people and organizations. Also they are the first job for a lot of kids after graduating high school so they can still live at their parents to save money for university.

The closing of these establishments means they have to either drive to the bigger centres to find jobs or move to a city.

I believe that the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party will lose a lot of votes in rural Alberta because of this. These problems might not be as evident in the bigger centers and cities but in a small town of 1,500 people, it is a major concern.

John May


Bowden Hotel

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