Melissa Mathieson & Rob Anders (NFA)

Who squealed on Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders when he was playing Charlie’s Angel with a real gun and a candidate seeking a Harper Conservative nomination in a riding south of the former Cowtown?

The evidence suggests it all began as a friendly gesture by the true believers at the National Firearms Association, Canada’s wannabe answer to the National Rifle Association down in the republic to our south, who posted the snapshot of Anders and Melissa Mathieson on the group’s Facebook page.

After all, like Anders, the NFA boys were just trying to do a favour for Mathieson, who is trying to wrest the Tory nomination in the federal riding of Macleod from another Conservative candidate deemed insufficiently pro-pistol by the friends of firepower.

Front runner John Barlow, you see, made the mistake of not hysterically yapping at the RCMP for daring to pick up abandoned weapons from empty houses in High River, in the heart of Macleod, during last June’s floods. This prompted a bizarre brouhaha by members of the black helicopter set, who have all but accused the Mounties of being in cahoots with aliens from Area 52 to seize Albertans’ assault rifles!

Given what appear to be the prevailing sensibilities in Macleod, Barlow might have done better to demand a judicial inquiry in shocked tones.

Still, whatever the intention of the picture’s original posters, it has certainly suddenly swung quickly around to bite Anders on his ample keester. A week, as they say, is a long time in politics.

Anders, alert readers will recall, is at once Canada’s Worst MP ™ and Canada’s Most Embarrassing Legislator ™ — the Parliamentarian best known for falling asleep on the job while CPAC’s cameras rolled and for calling the late Nelson Mandela a terrorist while voting against honorary Canadian citizenship for the South African hero.

Not coincidentally, Anders is facing the most serious challenge in his deplorable 17-year political career in the person of Ron Liepert, a former provincial Progressive Conservative cabinet minister who with Calgary West slated to be redistributed into oblivion is also seeking the Tory nomination in the same new riding.

But it wasn’t Anders’ butchy pose in a 4.5-litre hat with what appears to be like a .44 calibre revolver, back to back with Mathieson, who seems to be holding a shotgun, that caused the stuff to hit the fan. That kind of thing is pretty well de rigeur in certain political circles in Calgary.

Rather it was one of the targets in the background, a poor quality drawing of a bearded man in a turban — in other words, the kind of crude racist taunt that holds an entire identifiable group of human beings up to hatred, contempt and violence.

The NFA types and other “gunnutz,” as they style themselves, were quick to race to the comments sections of local online news sources to denounce this complaint as the snivelling of liberals and other would-be gun grabbers. What’s the big deal, they whined. It’s supposed to be Osama bin Laden… It’s supposed to be a zombie… They’re the cheapest targets around… Yadda-yadda.

Apparently it didn’t occur to any of them that they might not be doing Anders any favours in his fight to get the nomination in the new riding called Calgary Signal Hill that includes not only a couple of large evangelical churches and a Bible college, but a substantial mosque and a diverse and educated populace.

In other words, while it may be a pretty conservative slice of real estate by Canadian standards, it’s inside the borders of a city that elected and reelected a Muslim mayor, has plenty of voters who don’t see gun ownership as the be-all and end-all of mature masculinity and might even find being represented by someone as insensitive as Anders a trifle embarrassing.

Certainly leaders of the Calgary Muslim community didn’t see things quite the same way as Anders’ most loyal and best-armed pals.

Souheil Merhi, chairman of the Muslim Council of Calgary, was quoted nationally saying the photo promoted hatred by portraying Muslims as terrorists and “people who should be shot or belittled.” This, unsurprisingly, prompted a stream of vituperation bordering on outright hatred in the comments section of the NFA’s Facebook page.

Mind you, it’s not astonishing that the gunnutz — a pretty insular set, by all accounts — didn’t get it, but it is a mild surprise that Anders didn’t look around when he showed up at the shooting range and twig to the potential negative impact of the image on his prospects.

After all, while he’s widely thought to be as dumb as a second coat of paint, he obviously has a certain kind of low political cunning that has served him well with the undemanding voters of his former riding, which disappears in the latest redistribution, and he really should have seen this coming.

Given the provenance of the picture’s appearance online, readers, even those who self-identify as gunnutz, can forget the theory that the appearance of the suddenly controversial photo on an Edmonton political blogger’s site, whence it found its way into the mainstream media, was part of a sinister plot associated with Liepert and his imaginary Liberal and New Democratic allies.

Still, Liepert is not exactly a political virgin, so you can hardly blame him and his supporters if they take advantage of a gift so kindly offered to them on a platter by Anders and his hapless allies in the firearms fringe who forgot that Calgary Signal Hill is not Macleod before taking careful aim at their favourite MP’s feet.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...