Lost by a nose … but what a nose! A 22-year-old Rob Anders in 1994, heckling an Oklahoma politician. Below: Calgary Signal Hill nomination victor Ron Liepert; Mr. Anders as he looks today.

There was blood in the water of the Bow River as it flowed through Cowtown last night.

After a while, it became clear the metaphorical blood had been shed by the ever-embarrassing Rob Anders, who at a mere 42 years of age had served an excruciating six terms as the Reform, Alliance and Conservative Member of Parliament for the Calgary West riding, which will soon cease to exist.

This, however, was not immediately obvious. After more than an hour and a half of waiting for ballot counters in the new Calgary Signal-Hill electoral district to figure out whether Mr. Anders or challenger Ron Liepert had won the hard-fought Tory nomination, the Calgary Herald posted a story saying they both had!

It was soon apparent Southern Alberta’s Website of Record had published a draft version containing two alternative leads, causing a few minutes of confusion before the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., whose employees were victims last week of massive cuts by the federal Conservative government whose nomination Messrs. Anders and Liepert were fighting over, came to the rescue of political news junkies and confirmed the former provincial cabinet minister’s victory.

The CBC reported that about 2,400 of the riding’s 3,250 eligible Tories voted, but said the party refused to release the final tallies. Tweets earlier in the evening had claimed the two were separated by only five votes.

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, and myriad Twitterists took advantage of the hour and half of silence to get up to all kinds of mischief, posting old Youtube videos of Mr. Anders in a Pinocchio nose being humiliated while heckling an American politician and dozing off in the House of Commons, and making jokes about how it takes time to fix a good election.

But in the event, it appears the election wasn’t fixed at all – notwithstanding endorsements of Mr. Anders by the likes of Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself. In retrospect, the PM’s endorsement seemed half-hearted at best, so this may be a rare case of the rats being chased off a sinking ship.

Leastways, the contest obviously wasn’t fixed in Mr. Anders’ favour. So Mr. Liepert, a 64-year-old former AM radio disk jockey and Progressive Conservative minster from the cabinets of Alberta premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford, was eventually declared the victor, leading one Tweeter to crow that party members in Signal Hill had chosen “the lesser of two weasels.”

This may not be a bad summation, actually.

Appropriately born on April Fools’ Day, Mr. Anders’ foibles are almost as well known as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s.

In 1994, he travelled south to act as a “professional heckler” for a Republican candidate in Oklahoma. (He was labeled a “foreign political saboteur” for his trouble by CNN.) He later assailed Ralph Klein as a “cocktail Conservative,” too soft on Ottawa and not nearly far enough to the right.

As Calgary West MP, he voted with the Bloc Québécois to support a proposition that Quebeckers should be able to form a nation any time they darn well felt like it and could withdraw from any federal initiative. His was the only non-Bloc MP vote for the proposition. He also famously called Nelson Mandela a Communist and a terrorist and was the only legislator to vote against giving the South African liberator honourary Canadian citizenship.

Mr. Anders once boasted about how women throw themselves at his feet, explaining that as a consequence he’d taken a vow of chastity. (Just the same, he explained to a astonished and appalled reporter, he had “gone as far as kissing and kind of ‘massaging,’ if you will.”)

In 2012, he was captured on TV falling asleep on TV in the House of Commons. The same year, he accused NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair of hastening Jack Layton’s death.

As for Mr. Liepert, while hardly able to reach Mr. Anders’ sub-orbital levels of idiocy, he was nevertheless the perennial bull in the china shop of Alberta provincial politics.

As a short-tempered minister given the Education portfolio by Mr. Stelmach, he soon roused Alberta’s teachers, hitherto practically a branch of the Progressive Conservative Party, to a state of open rebellion.

Later, as minister of health and wellness, he launched Alberta’s catastrophic experiment in health-care centralization, pushed seniors’ care toward a high-cost private model, watched a crisis in the province’s emergency rooms boil over, and brought in Stephen Duckett, the egotistical and undiplomatic Australian PhD economist, to lead Alberta Health Services into a black hole, where it remains.

Mr. Liepert became so unpopular as health minister seniors would boo spontaneously when he walked into a room. Mr. Stelmach eventually had to shuffle him off to the energy ministry to get him out of harm’s way.

To the astonishment of everyone who hadn’t been paying attention to their political history, upon taking power, former premier Alison Redford jumped Mr. Liepert up to the finance portfolio, his provincial swansong before what obviously turned out to be an insufficiently engaging retirement.

His history with Ms. Redford? He managed her unsuccessful 2004 campaign to … wait for it … try to topple Mr. Anders in Calgary West.

As a result, no love was lost between the two, and Mr. Anders in particular ran a sleazy campaign, claiming Mr. Liepert was backed by “temporary Tories” from Liberal and NDP ranks, portraying the old privatizer as a tax and spend liberal and employing misleading phone calls to attack his opponent.

The conventional Alberta wisdom is now that Mr. Liepert will go on to automatically win the next general election for the Harper Tories and that Mr. Anders has had his last dance, but one wonders.

Even with redrawn boundaries, the sinking of Rob Anders is a political event of sufficient force to register on the Richter scale. Could it be that Mr. Anders’ accusation was true and Mr. Liepert’s ten-minute Tories will return to their own parties while his own gun nut and fundamentalist Christian supporters stay home on election day?

Or, even better, that Mr. Anders might run as an independent to bleed off the vote of the sizeable Conservative lunatic fringe in the riding.

These seem like improbable scenarios to this former Calgary resident, but hope springs eternal on the dusty plains of Alberta. After all, a Liberal very nearly knocked off Calgary Centre MP Joan Crockatt in November 2012, and may have a better chance to do so next time.

Mr. Anders could also get the nod from his friends in the party to seek another Calgary riding’s nomination, thereby surviving to make a fool of himself another day.

Nevertheless, the defeat of Mr. Anders by Mr. Liepert last night marks the end of an era in Alberta.

That is, except for the fact he will continue to serve as the MP for Calgary West until an election is called, leaving plenty of time for new embarrassments.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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  1. We’re assuming that boss-Harper won’t unilaterally tell the party that Anders is running in the riding..period. Granted, it is much less likely in the post-Eve Adams era, but this is Calgary and Anders, so you never know.

  2. The idea that “…’temporary Tories’ from Liberal and NDP ranks…” would vote for Mr Liepert is so ludicrous as to defy quantification. Alberta Grits & Dippers know Mr Liepert all too well, and to suggest any would sign federal Conservative party cards to support him is laughable.

    Mr Liepert’s provincial record will still haunt him, however, and I think he will have a (metaphorical) target painted on his back for the next general election. Let us all hope this is the last “election” Ron Liepert ever wins.

  3. I’m calling the whole thing a fraud. They don’t want to give the numbers…fine…I’m saying the fix was in. Prove me wrong which of course you can’t. 🙂

  4. So in Progressive Calgary Ron Liepert is a shift to the centre. I hope the voters in Calgary have been voting for Anders out of habit (anti Ottawa) and not because their core values are that of Rob Anders.
    So what now for Mr. Anders, who has never actually held a non political job in his life? Looks like a natural for a Harper Senator.
    So has Calgary got the ?alls to unload Anders friend and kindred spirit Jason Kenney next election?

  5. I’m afraid the hatred and bitterness in this Tory camp will pale in comparison to the hatred and bitterness between the Liberals and NDP in the next election. To be playing in a riding near you in 2016.

    It will be like the aftermath of a medieval battleground, with the Harperite vultures tripping over the severed heads and limbs of their opponents (NDP’s, Liberals, let’s face it, it won’t really matter anymore) in their journey towards another majority.

  6. To Expat Albertan’s point, I can’t shake the feeling Mr. Harper allowed his old friend Mr. Anders to be skidded because he (the PM, that is) has no loyalty to anyone but himself, and Mr. Anders posed a threat to the party’s survival. I have been saying for months that Mr. Anders needed to win because his presence made such powerful evidence the voters in Calgary are no example to anyone sensible. For this reason, I think Bert’s Senate suggestion is unlikely. No, Mr. Anders will be cast to the wolves. As for Badbeta, I’d scoff, but I can’t quite shake the feeling he/she might be right. It’s not inconceivable the fix WAS in, given the point above, and it is evocative that the party won’t reveal the numbers, which as noted were said to be very close early in the evening. Religious and market fundies, as well as gun nuts and the various varieties of hater that gathered around Mr. Anders’ banner should conduct themselves accordingly. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Finally, Jerrymacgp is probably right about Libs and Dippers – only we progressive voters can fix that.

    1. Anders has seemed to disappear during some federal election campaigns, showing up in BC instead of Calgary. I get the feeling he could be deep into applying new election “methods” that they learn from the Republicans.

    2. The idea that Harper is ruthless enough to jettison anyone is very much rooted in historical fact so I can see why you might think he’d take the opportunity to rid himself of Mr. Anders except that it begs the question why did he wait this long and why would PM hopeful Jason Kenney also endorse such an obvious mulligan as Randers. Given that’s Stephens’ old riding, I’d wager there is a very dry skeleton or three, rattling around there somewhere keeping even the big boss in check and that it was denizens of the AB PC machine who have done this putsch, pretty much guilty as charged with a Redford style membership drive. If so, it’s still right to reasonably hope that the Anderites (or are they Randians?) might yet provide some real entertainment with challenges to the voting kabuki and if it were to be a Shakespearian worthy move on Harpers’ part, well then let loose the hounds and grab the popcorn.
      As to Rob’s future I would thank my good fortune if he were to run as an independent against Leipert,, or I could die and proceed directly to heaven if he would become enraged, resign, and then run as an independent in a by-election against Leipert, with the whole country able to focus the glory that is Harper conservatism during next falls sitting. Once in heaven I would ensure that Alison leaves the witness protection program, joins the Libs and runs against them both while releasing a ghost written tell all memoir so as to ensure a rapture like fever for all flavours of conservative.

  7. Pogo,
    You’re no Stephen Leacock however I still love your comment. Excellent writing and a wonderful sense of humour about the big picture. What are your thoughts on the statements coming from the conservative caucus that Harper may be suffering from the same depression and mental illness his grandfather had when he went missing in the Maritimes and was never found. The PM may need real help and not the kind of help he relied on from Pierre Polievre, Duffy, Wallen, Anders and as Harper describe another one of his personal friends that noble First Nations leader Patrick Brazeau. The leader of the Harper Government has been hard to figure out. When you cannot figure out a person you need only have to look at the people he surrounds himself with.

    King this case is closed.

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