PHOTOS: Rob Anders, who once said he has taken a vow of chastity, presumably as he sees himself. Is he about to embark on a crusade to lead the Wildrose Party? Below: Derek Fildebrandt, also touted as a possible Wildrose leader, and former Alberta PC cabinet minister Ron Liepert. Mr. Anders, looking manly with one of his friends from the Law Abiding Gun Owner community, not long before he lost the Conservative nomination in Calgary Signal Hill to Mr. Liepert. At bottom, Martin Shields.
Just when we’d despaired of ever hearing again from Rob Anders, the man who will be Canada’s worst Member of Parliament only a little longer, he announced “a sense of mission and duty” has made him contemplate a run at the leadership of Alberta’s foundering Wildrose Party.
Thank God for small favours!
When the unintentionally comedic Mr. Anders told the Calgary Sun about his ruminations, he must have meant a sense of mission and duty to Alberta’s political bloggers and commentators, since it seems unlikely the man’s bizarre enthusiasms and pronouncements would do much good for the poor Wildrosers, so recently deprived their previous marginally competent leadership.
Then again, you never know. This is Alberta, after all, and to give Mr. Anders his due, he is a fierce campaigner with a reputation of having personally out-worked most volunteers on his many campaigns during his 17 years as MP for Calgary West until he was abandoned by the Harper Conservatives last year, possibly because he had finally started to embarrass them. As far as anyone knows, other than his loony right beliefs, Mr. Anders has no personal bad habits. He has no family and politics seem to be his life.
Still, I imagine Alberta Premier Jim Prentice is cheering this development. The premier clearly would prefer that there be no embarrassing remnant of the Wildrose hanging around the Legislature to remind Albertans of the sleazy deal that made it virtually certain the PCs could return to power once again. If Mr. Anders were chosen as their leader, that would likely seal their fate. From Mr. Prentice’s perspective, it’s better to have the NDP as official Opposition, since they can be dismissed as tax and spend socialists.
Before we get too enthusiastic about the potential for future blog posts, though, it behooves us to remember Mr. Anders’ announcement signals an effort to raise money for a bid to stay in politics and at the centre of attention, not necessarily an actual intention to run. It does provide proof, though, that you just can’t keep a really lousy MP down.
The last couple of years, especially 2014, have not been particularly kind to the eccentric Mr. Anders. First, his Calgary West riding was redistributed away from him after six terms as Calgary West’s MP. No one in the Conservative Party of Canada hierarchy seems to have been too upset about that.
Then, in mid-April, he lost the nomination in the new Calgary Signal-Hill riding to former provincial Progressive Conservative Cabinet Minister Ron Liepert, a bull in the china shop not unlike Mr. Anders in many ways. Being seen cavorting with rural Alberta’s gun nuts just before the nomination vote presumably did Mr. Anders little good in an urban riding full of soccer moms. No one in the CPC hierarchy seems to have been very upset about this loss either.
That vote must have galled Mr. Anders, since Mr. Liepert once led one of the serious attempts to unseat him, managing the unsuccessful 2004 nomination campaign of a brilliant young Calgary lawyer named Alison Redford, who, had she been elected, would certainly have had a spectacular Parliamentary career, and perhaps even been prime minister one day. Oh well, what could’ve been, eh?
Mr. Anders then tried again in the new Bow River electoral district, a rural riding east of Calgary, and lost again in late September, this time to a local worthy from Brooks named Martin Shields.
That was when the blogosphere really started to mourn his expected departure in earnest. We thought we had lost him forever and that he would settle down quietly in his new house in suburban Calgary once his former patron, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called the federal election that will put him out to Parliamentary pasture.
The prevailing wisdom around these parts was that he’d end up working for an anti-union lobby group or something similar before fading into obscurity. But now, let the bells ring out and the copy flow, he is back one more time.
To recap, Mr. Anders was born on April Fools Day 1972 and rechristened “Canada’s Worst MP” by a conservative newspaper columnist. The Winnipeg-born arch-conservative has been serially demonstrating since he was elected to the House of Commons at 25 in 1997 that he isn’t the sharpest knife in the Parliamentary cutlery drawer.
He’s done this on a variety of topics, ranging from his opinions about Nelson Mandela (he called the South African hero a communist and a terrorist), to his weird conspiracy theory about the circumstances surrounding Jack Layton’s death from cancer (he suggested Thomas Mulcair worked him to death), to his choice of locations to catch forty winks (at his desk in the House, as the cameras rolled).
Back in 1994, before he was an MP, Mr. Anders 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 Alberta’s 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. He was the only legislator to vote against giving Mr. Mandela honourary Canadian citizenship.
He 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 presumably appalled reporter, he had “gone as far as kissing and kind of ‘massaging,’ if you will.”)
In any other province, Mr. Anders’ political career would likely have been finished years ago.
As it happens, Mr. Anders is not the only angry youngish conservative man pondering a tilt at Alberta’s political windmill.
The name of former Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta director Derek Fildebrant is also being touted by Sun Media as a potential Wildrose leader, perhaps in hopes of generating interesting stories about an actual contest.
Mr. Fildebrant’s name had been publicly mentioned as a possible Wildrose candidate before the entire Wildrose project went kaplooie in December, shortly before he he left the supposedly non-partisan CTF to pursue a career in communications for an oil well drillers’ trade association.
Like Mr. Anders, his criticisms of the Prentice PCs have been so harsh it is hard to imagine either man would ever be welcome in their ranks.
What’s left of the Wildrose Party says its leadership convention will be held some time between St. Patrick’s Day and Sept. 17. They’d probably be smart to go with the earliest date possible, since Alberta’s next provincial general election may be all over but the weeping by fall.
One final thought about Mr. Anders, though, for Mr. Prentice and progressive bloggers too. Since he seems to be harder to put down than a movie zombie, we should be careful what we wish for. You never know, we might just get it!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.