Rob Anders comes under fire

By Katy Anderson

Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders–notorious for both not showing up to candidate forums and calling Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela a terrorist and a communist–had his nomination overturned by a judge last week.

Honorable Judge G.C. Hawco ruled Fri., March 16 that the Calgary West riding association did not follow its own rules regarding the nomination process and had a biased nomination committee.

“I am satisfied that the decision of the panel was not correct and that its decision must therefore be set aside,” said Hawco in his ruling. “As a result, the acclamation of Mr. Anders also must be set aside and the new nomination meeting and process must be set in place. Ms. [Colleen] Mason should be replaced as chair of the [nomination] committee.”

Both Anders and the Conservative Party of Canada declined comment.

Active Conservative member and prominent Calgary businessman Walter Wakula was prepared to contest Anders for his seat in parliament in the September 2006 nomination process before Anders was acclaimed. He hopes to challenge Anders in a new nomination race.

“The problem was that the party had established rules and then they broke them,” said Wakula. “Not only did they break the rules of process, they also had a biased nomination committee. It was impossible for myself or anybody else to get in.”

A group of 11 Calgary West members filed a complaint with the party during the course of the nomination process, said Wakula.

“This is a mix of former Alliance reformers, former Progressive Conservatives and some young people,” said Wakula. “It’s an interesting mix, the party is thinking it’s a bunch of red Tories that are trying to disrupt things because they don’t like Rob Anders. That’s not the case at all, this is quite a broad cross-section of members.”

Wakula, an active member of the nomination board, said that a meeting should take place soon or be at risk of being in contempt of the court. The possibility of an upcoming federal election also adds urgency to the 30-day process.

“It’s a black eye for the party,” said Wakula. “What’s interesting is [when] the members made this appeal back in August, all they were trying to do was to get another week or two added on to the process and for the party to follow its rules. That’s really all they were after and now, after having it ignored, it’s been in the courts five times and the party has lost five times.”

Wakula, who is also a University of Calgary senate member, said he remains loyal to the Conservative party despite this dispute.

“I don’t feel abandoned by the party,” said Wakula. “There are certain individuals in the party–certainly local individuals at the riding association level–[who] gave an agenda that says they don’t want anybody else but Anders. Nationally, one or two individuals in the party are pushing this. I believe that perhaps [Harper’s] director of political operations may be trying to protect Anders because he is perceived by the political operations people in the party as being an excellent organizer, an excellent campaigner, helping other MPs out in their elections and being a leader in a Washington Republican-based group that trains people in how to run elections. There’s a few people that I believe are trying to protect him, but certainly not the party overall and certainly not Mr. Harper.”

Calgary West Liberal candidate Jennifer Pollock was also apprehensive about the riding association’s motivations.

“If I say charitably, I think they believe that the Conservative reputation would be better if the media and members have an open election and free discussion about Rob Anders,” said Pollock. “I know many Conservatives in this riding have not been pleased with his performance in office. If I’m not being charitable I’d say that the concept of ‘power corrupts’ comes into play. Mr. Anders has been elected four times. After being in power that long the idea that you would be voted out by your own party is something you just won’t let happen. You have enough influence with people on the constituency board and you use that. It’s a corruption of the democratic process.”

Pollock said that it is always easier to win against someone who is not already an incumbent, but that in her last campaign, many volunteers came forward because she was running against Anders. She lamented that regardless of who the Conservative candidate for Calgary West is, the leaders of the national parties will determine the vote.

“If I’m elected, that means [Stephane] Dion’s the prime minister,” said Pollock. “If they elected Liberals in Calgary, there’s a wave across the country.”