Politics after the purge?

Julius Caesar was a polarizing figure, renowned by some but reviled by others. After surviving many attacks by Rome’s enemies on the battlefield and serving several terms as consul, Caesar was struck down by a conspiracy and assassinated in the Roman senate.

Much like Caesar, Conservative Rob Anders is a polarizing figure. He has served as Calgary West’s Member of Parliament since 1997. In that time, he’s been praised by his supporters for having clear stances on the issues. At the same time, he’s been lambasted by his critics for his conduct, including questioning the practice of landed immigrants participating in party nomination votes in 2000, calling Nelson Mandela a communist and a terrorist while opposing a motion to give the South African leader honourary Canadian citizenship and then refusing to take his phone call. Most recently, Anders was criticized for comparing the Chinese government to Nazi Germany for their treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in the weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympics.

Despite high-profile opposition, Anders has managed to survive. Many candidates have run against him under the Liberal banner, from Dave Bronconnier before he was mayor in 1997, to former public school board trustee Jennifer Pollock in 2006 and 2008. He’s even survived nomination challenges by former MLA Jocelyn Burgener in 2000 and current MLA Alison Redford in 2004. After all these years, Anders’ luck may be running out.

This past Saturday, hundreds gathered in Montgomery for the Calgary West riding’s Conservative Party annual general meeting and the latest challenge to Rob Anders’ nomination. Following a large-scale media campaign, involving verbal barrages lobbed by both sides, a slate of candidates supporting corporate lawyer Donna Kennedy-Glans swept the election for the riding’s board of directors. This is merely the first of many steps in Kennedy-Glans’ run for the Calgary West nomination, but an important one– while the Conservative Party makes its own rules regarding nominations, it’s up to each riding’s board of directors to oversee the actual process. Replacing the previous board of “true, blue Conservatives” and long-time Anders supporters with new blood will hopefully revitalize the riding, but the media attention drummed up by the very public war of words between Anders and Kennedy-Glans will ensure that the inevitable nomination race will be on the up-and-up.

Ultimately, the victory by the Kennedy-Glans slate is impressive for a few reasons. Despite being a self-professed Conservative for years, Kennedy-Glans is in many ways an outsider, having spent her time in the business world instead of the political arena. Moreover, her bid for the nomination has been tremendously well-publicized through numerous media interviews and her OurCalgaryWest.com website, to the point where it’s frankly impossible for Anders supporters not to see her coming. Rather than conspiring in dark rooms and attacking stealthily, Kennedy-Glans made as much noise as possible during her approach. The fact that she was able to mobilize enough constituents to buy party memberships and endure waits of up to 90 minutes in chilly March weather to sweep the contest speaks volumes about her political savvy. On the other hand, maybe it just signals that even Calgary West’s Conservative voters feel it’s time for a change.

For 12 years, Calgary West voters have endured the representation of Rob Anders. After several unsuccessful opposition campaigns and nomination challenges, the Anders era may be coming to an end, with riding officials noting that a nomination contest could begin within weeks. One can only hope that those heading to the polls bear in mind the potential cost of extending Anders’ reign. Otherwise, as Shakespeare wrote, “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

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