Rob Anders’ recent trouble with the law reminds us of the former Reform party and Conservative MP’s past thoughts about the laws of nature.
Twenty-one years ago, Anders made up half of the party’s much-remarked-upon parliamentary chastity caucus, of which Jason Kenney was the other half, or the only admitted additional member anyway.
In January 1999, the two parliamentary bachelors boasted in the Ottawa Citizen about their eccentrically chaste lifestyles — although Anders did admit in the story that “I’ve gone as far as kissing and kind of ‘massaging,’ if you will, but that’s as far as I’ve gone.”
Kenney held firm on religious grounds and wouldn’t admit to even that.
But both men, according to the mildly disbelieving tone of Citizen reporter Glen McGregor’s story and others like it, were obviously determined to take the oral out of morality.
Something about this always makes me think of John Keats rhapsodizing odes to Grecian urns.
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
In other words, she’s chastely painted permanently to a spot on a pot and, chased, can never be caught. Capiche?
If one were to ask either of these gentlemen today, “What’s a Grecian Urn?” … they’d doubtless name a small sum in drachmas and suggest it was a suitable wage for Alberta public employees.
Well, more than two decades have passed, and while we may not know how that chastity thing is working out, we do know a lot about what the former Calgary members of Parliament are getting up to nowadays.
Kenney, of course, is the premier of Alberta and no more need be said about that just now beyond the fact a large number of Albertans feel they are getting royally … well, never mind that just now.
Things have not been going so well for Anders, however, a hater of unions (of all kinds, apparently) and vocal opponent of taxes reputed in his electoral heyday to have been Canada’s worst MP. He was the only MP to vote against giving honorary Canadian citizenship to Nelson Mandela. He once accused then-NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of having hastened the death of Jack Layton.
The occasionally sleepy parliamentarian successfully fought off nomination challenges from the likes of Alison Redford and Donna Kennedy-Glans in his Calgary West riding. But after losing his parliamentary seat in a riding redistribution, despite endorsements from then-PM Stephen Harper and Kenney, he failed before the 2015 federal election to get the nomination in either of two Calgary area ridings.
In Calgary Signal Hill, the slightly redrawn version of his former riding, Anders was beaten by former provincial politician Ron Liepert. Liepert may once have been called the worst health minister in Alberta history, a title he can no longer claim, but he was an old-style Tory who was no fan of Anders, or of Kenney for that matter.
Since then, humiliatingly, Anders has been reduced to occupying himself with such activities as presiding over the Firearms Institute for Rational Education (FIRE, geddit?), campaigning for well-known tax avoider Donald Trump south of the Medicine Line, and renting out his Calgary residence on Airbnb.
Now he has been charged with tax evasion, allegedly committed while he was an MP.
The National Post reported yesterday that Anders faces five separate charges related to tax evasion, mostly said to have taken place during the years he was an MP. According to the Post’s sources at the Canada Revenue Agency, the accusations are “extremely serious.”
The “CRA has historically gotten convictions in over 90 per cent of similar cases,” the newspaper that back in the day would have lionized Anders reported gleefully.
While this is interesting, of course, it is important for us to remember that Canada remains a country of the rule of law and citizens who stand accused at bar are innocent until they have been proved guilty.
Anders is scheduled to have his first day in court in Calgary on October 30.
He will be eligible for his full parliamentary pension in eight years.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: Rob Anders/Facebook