Leaving so soon, Mr. Anders? Here’s your hat.
Long before Canadians had the Ford Brothers to humiliate them around the globe, there was Rob Anders, the hardy perennial of the Canadian loony right — elected six times over 17 years by the inattentive voters of Calgary West.
But last night, Anders, renowned across the land and throughout the world as “Canada’s Worst MP” and the man who dismissed Nelson Mandela as a “terrorist,” was rejected by Conservative Party members in the rural Bow River riding, which covers a vast tract of land east and south of Calgary.
It was the second time in the last six months Anders, born on April Fools Day 1972, has suffered that fate in a nomination vote the hands of local Tories, who are seemingly as fed up with his antics as the rest of us.
Anders’ double defeat is a huge loss to the Canadian blogosphere, which will miss his comedic value; both opposition parties, to whom he was a useful symbol of Conservative lunacy; and the country’s most extreme gun nuts and social conservatives, who were apparently his only remaining supporters.
Conservative Party members in the new Bow River electoral district elected Martin Shields, mayor of the Town of Brooks, site of the massive meat-packing plant at the centre of Canada’s largest meat products recall in 2013 and one of the larger communities in the huge and sparsely populated area.
Back in April, Anders was sent packing by the urban voters of another new riding created in the last redistribution of Alberta’s federal electoral districts, Calgary Signal Hill. They chose instead Ron Liepert, the former Alberta health minister, a politician almost as controversial as Anders himself.
Given that the new Calgary Signal Hill riding occupied much of the same territory as the old Calgary West district, it’s not at all certain Anders would not have been skidded by his own party even without redistribution. He was increasingly recognized as an embarrassment serious enough to pose a threat to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
That said, it is probably a mistake to over-analyze Anders’ defeat in a geographical area where the local Conservative Party candidate, no matter how bizarre, is normally a shoo-in in the next general election.
So perhaps it was not Anders’ bizarre behaviour — falling sleep on camera in the House of Commons, suggesting NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair caused the death of former leader Jack Layton, striking butchy poses with his latest firearms, voting against honorary citizenship for Mandela and, in his youth, working as a professional heckler in the United States — so much as his lack of local connections that caused his electoral demise this time.
Shields was a well-known mayor in one of the riding’s main rural communities. The two other candidates — one from a semi-suburban community east of Calgary and the other from a rural area — did not have his support base. As for Anders, despite his enthusiasm for guns and pickup trucks and his formidable talent as a campaigner, was seen as a carpet-bagger, and a weird one to boot.
Most of the interest in Anders second, desperate bid for a nomination came from outside the riding.
Now that he has been handed his great big hat a second time, one would expect Anders just to take his generous Parliamentary pension and go quietly away. Don’t count on it.
That, alas, is probably too much to hope. He will remain the MP for Calgary West until the next federal election, plenty of opportunity to embarrass the nation. And he will likely turn up shortly as a spokesperson for one or another far-right think tank, lobby, crowd-funding agency or “charitable” foundation. Manning Centre, c’mon on down!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.