By Jon Roe
There’s something to be said about political cronyism. Rob Anders’ bid to be his party’s candidate for the riding of Calgary West for the fifth time hit a bump after his acclamation was overturned Fri., March 16. A Calgary judge determined that Anders’ acclamation wasn’t acceptable and the riding association wasn’t following the proper nomination process. The anti-Anders group was composed of 11 Tories who claimed the party didn’t advertise the important dates or search for any other qualified candidates.
It seems what’s at work here is a case of cronyism over fair and open politics. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a strong supporter of Anders, despite his past indiscretions–such as being the lone dissenting voice on a bill to give Nelson Mandela honourary Canadian citizenship. Anders went as far as calling Mandela a terrorist, and wouldn’t answer a call from Mandela when the first freely-elected South African president called to address Anders’ concerns with him. Anders decided to take the radical and inexcusable stance on Mandela after the Liberals voted down a bill of his to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II.
Harper held the post as the member of parliament for Calgary West before Anders took it over from him in 1997. There’s obviously a close relationship there, and it would be pretty easy for directives to fall from on high, telling the local party association to tilt things irresponsibly in Anders’ favour.
Anders hasn’t been the greatest representative in his riding. Beyond the Mandela incident, which garnered international criticism, reflecting poorly on the riding, Anders has done very little for post-secondary education despite representing the University of Calgary’s riding. But this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering it’s pretty obvious what Anders thinks of the U of C when he deemed it more important to knock on doors in B.C. than to show up for a forum held on campus during the 2006 election campaign (“The candidates come to campus, mostly,” Emily Senger, Jan. 12, 2006).
The majority of the time, the incumbent gets the party’s nomination if the party controls the riding. But regardless of how good or terrible the incumbent is, the process should be fair and open, allowing for the ridings’ local members to decide who they want to run. Clearly, the nomination for the Conservative candidate in Calgary West wasn’t.
Luckily, riding members now have an opportunity to finally oust Anders and they should take full advantage. It’s unforgivable that he’s been re-nominated and then re-elected four times by increasing majorities (51.79 per cent in 1997, 54.04 per cent in 2000, 55.9 per cent in 2004 and 58.7 per cent in 2006). Though part of the responsibility for keeping this embarrassment in his seat falls on the population of Calgary West, who apparently don’t care if their chosen candidate denounces internationally respected Nobel prize-winners for petty reasons, having the Conservatives field an alternate candidate would be a good start.