After several false starts, businessman and failed 2007 mayoral candidate Alnoor Kassam 'officially' kicked off his 2010 bid for the mayor's chair. But first, there were some issues to address.
Sensing the media, the public, and his opponents would be quick to dredge up allegations he stole millions of dollars from Kenya, which plagued his $1.5-million campaign, Kassam went on the offensive.
From his press release:
During the 2007 campaign, several articles were printed which repeated accusations that Alnoor had absconded with money from Trade Bank in Kenya. These articles are readily available through an internet search. However, the articles are contradicted by a legal judgment rendered by Daphne Shaw-Dyck of the Immigration and Refugee Board. She notes that ”the evidence against Kassam does not stand up to scrutiny” (paragraph 224). This is partly because the statements of witnesses against him were visibly “self-serving, defensive, vague, and unreliable”(224). She goes on to note that there was independent evidence that one of the principal witnesses had, in fact “given orders with respect to” the scheme of which Alnoor was accused (224). She determines that “Kassam did not obtain anything capable of being stolen”(229), and systematically refutes every related charge (p 229-233). Consequently, she concludes that it is not probable that Alnoor has committed an offense prosecutable in either Kenya or Canada (234,2). The controversy, therefore, has no basis in fact."
Hoping to stave off potential criticism of his business acumen, Kassam briefly addresses the recent bankruptcies of three of his hotels in Ontario in the same press release.
However, notivceably absent was another controversy that plagued Kassam in 2007 — "economic evictions." During Calgary's real estate boom rental vacancies drop to near-zero levels, prices skyrocketed and renters were forced to pay up or ship out.
Many Calgary landlords became littlemore than profiteers — forcing many renters, often low-income earners, to either pay through the teeth or move out so the property could be converted into condominums and sold in the lucrative real estate market.
Meanwhile, the province and Calgary city council, predictably, sat on their hands while the invisible hand of the free market did its thing. Rent control? We'll have to study that and get back to you never.
For his part, Kassam hiked rental rates for his properties by as much as 400 per cent. One of his tenants in Mount Royal saw his rent go from $650 to $2,500 a month. It was a "wretching decision" for Kassam who told the Calgary Herald:
"Morally, yes, it's very difficult what I am doing. I am not doing this with glee and joy," Kassam said. "I have a lot of concern, and my heart goes out to them."
In the end, he said, it's a business decision.
"The economics of buying the property and renting it out only work at those types of numbers," he said. "The property has deteriorated without any investment."