PHOTOS: Former Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson in the steps of the Alberta Legislature in November 2014, joining union members protesting against Tory premier Alison Redford’s anti-union legislation. Below: Mr. Anderson with Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith and Liberal MLA David Swann. Below them: Former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and Independent MP Brent Rathgeber.
Say hello to Rob Anderson, newest member of Alberta’s political blogging elite.
The very same. The storm toss’d former House Leader and finance critic of the Wildrose Party, one of the few politicians to duplicate Winston Churchill’s notorious feat of crossing the floor twice in opposite directions, has announced he has taken up blogging.
Mr. Anderson, who lately practices law in the Calgary suburb of Airdrie, which he once represented as an MLA, calls his blogging effort “The Recovering Politician.” In his first post, he professes relief at being able “to speak out on several issues without the need for a political filter.”
There are those who might suggest that if someone is really serious about recovering from politics, writing a political blog might not be best the way to do it, but that, I suppose, must be left to Mr. Anderson himself to determine. As far as anyone knows, there is no 12-step program for this affliction.
There are also those who might be skeptical Mr. Anderson actually intends to do much more than take a short rest from politics. For that, we will have to wait for Mr. Anderson’s answer.
The former Mormon missionary to Taiwan was elected as a Progressive Conservative in the riding of Airdrie-Chestermere in the 2008 provincial election and crossed the floor of the Alberta Legislature in 2010 to join the fledgling Wildrose Party.
He was re-elected as a Wildroser in 2012 for the slightly renamed riding of Airdrie, which had been redrawn to sever the pricey residences surrounding Chestermere Slough. He was one of the 17-member (subsequently smaller) Opposition Wildrose Caucus’s most visible and effective MLAs until December 2014.
During that period, Mr. Anderson built a reputation as an aggressive attacker in Question Period, which naturally made him a strong performer in opposition but unpopular with the governing PCs under premiers Alison Redford and Dave Hancock. Known to be politically ambitious, he was also dogged during that time by rumors, which he always denied, that he was after then Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s job.
Regardless, in the fall of 2014, once the Tories had picked Jim Prentice as their leader and saviour, both Mr. Anderson and Ms. Smith seemed to lose their keenness for opposition. Soon after, Mr. Anderson made conciliatory noises in the Legislature about co-operating with the Tories – which at the time were greeted with incredulity.
In December 2014, down came the other shoe, in the form of a summons to a meeting in an Edmonton hotel by Preston Manning, the great uniter of right-wing political parties and the godfather of the Canadian conservative movement.
Soon after, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Smith led the majority of the Wildrose caucus across the floor to the PC benches and the metaphorical embrace of Mr. Prentice – enabling Mr. Anderson to show what Mr. Churchill, the late wartime British prime minister, called “a certain ingenuity.” (The entire Churchill quote, glossing his own floor-crossing, which had left a bad smell for a spell, goes as follows: “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat.”)
What had seemed at first blush to be a political coup for the PCs soon went sideways. The defection proved so unpopular that Mr. Anderson even received a death threat, although if it were from a Wildroser betrayed or a Tory a affrighted at the prospect of having Mr. Anderson back in the party’s ranks seems never to have been established.
Perhaps more important to what happened next, the Tory caucus rebelled at Mr. Prentice’s welcome to the Wildrose members – who were all rumoured to have been promised cabinet posts – and that deal went pear-shaped too within hours.
At that point – quite unlike Ms. Smith, who behaved with remarkable naiveté throughout – Mr. Anderson had the wit to accurately read the handwriting on the wall and get the hell out of Babylon while the getting was good. In terms of a future revival of his political career, this means he wasn’t around to share in the ignominy of seeing his recently re-adopted Tories nearly wiped out by the New Democrats led by Premier Rachel Notley.
Instead, Mr. Anderson returned to the practice of law with the Airdrie firm of Warnock, Rathgeber and Company. He had studied law at the University of Alberta after graduating from Brigham Young University in Utah, where he majored in communications.
Now, Mr. Anderson wrote in his first and so far only post that he “will provide a no-bull, politically incorrect, and hopefully helpful take on political and other relevant topics of the day.”
This, he went on, will be written “from the perspective of someone who has seen inside the heart of the provincial political beast, got out of it alive and mostly intact. …” Now being “entirely unreliant” on politics for his financial wellbeing, he added, means he can feel free to “tell it like it is.”
Or perhaps like it isn’t. At any rate, Mr. Anderson promises to expose the “cult-like practices” of today’s political parties, to continue to advocate for a union of the right that includes libertarians, and to examine “how Alberta slid into a quasi-socialist state while no one was looking.”
On that last one, um, he may encounter some informed disagreement about just how socialist, quasi or otherwise, Ms. Notley’s NDP government actually is. (Hint: Not very.)
With Yours Truly, Dave Cournoyer and Susan Wright to keep track of, readers of Alberta political bloggery will be relieved to learn they should not be overtaxed by Mr. Anderson’s exertions. He promises to file no more than one or two posts a month.
As an aside, if Mr. Anderson is indeed contemplating an eventual return to politics, he needs to be aware that blogging and political success are not necessarily naturally compatible activities.
The Rathgeber named in Mr. Anderson’s law firm, though, is Dale Rathgeber, brother of now-independent St. Albert Member of Parliament and frequent blogger Brent Rathgeber, another former Tory with a background in the law who may soon have an opportunity to take up blogging full time.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.