CALGARY – Controversial Conservative MP Rob Anders may not find the welcome mat out as he attempts to make the move from a big-city riding where he lost his nomination to a brand new rural one.
Earlier this year, Anders lost a bitterly fought nomination battle in Calgary Signal Hill, which takes in a large part of the constituency that he has represented in Ottawa for 17 years.
He is now seeking the Conservative nomination in the riding of Bow River east of Calgary. It covers a large swath of southern Alberta, including the communities of Strathmore, Brooks, Taber and Vauxhall.
Anders’s entry into the race has residents talking and is causing some resentment, says Brooks Mayor Martin Shields, who is one of three other candidates seeking the nomination.
“I was not happy and not pleased,” Shields said in a recent interview. “If you lose your own nomination in your own riding, I think it’s a message that maybe running somewhere else, where you’re not from, is not something you should do.
“When there was a drop-in candidate, it became more apparent that we really need to have somebody local run.”
Rolly Ashdown, a reeve in Rocky View County, is also seeking the nomination in a vote expected the third week of September.
“I’ve heard that from a lot of people. I think the basics are they’d like to see someone local,” he said. “It does make a difference being from here. It gives you familiarity, that’s for sure.”
Candidate Gerard Lucyshyn, a former Mount Royal University economics professor, agrees.
“If he wants to try his hand again, I guess that’s up to him. Most people that I’ve spoken to in the riding have indicated they want somebody local and somebody that is in the community and lives here and shares the same interest,” said Lucyshyn, who lives in Langdon.
Anders has not responded to four requests for comment from The Canadian Press, but in a news release announcing his plan to run, he said he shares many of the same views as his potential constituents. Anders said he now lives in Chestermere, a town just east of Calgary that is within the new riding.
“There is a lot of work to do in Ottawa: personal-property and gun rights that need protecting; taxes that need cutting; and family values that need to be fought for,” he said. “The new riding of Bow River shares these values and I would be honoured to represent it in Ottawa.”
When Anders appeared at a fair in Brooks last month, it did not go unnoticed by one of his Conservative caucus colleagues.
“Just heard that Rob Anders MP-Calgary told a crowd on Saturday in Brooks, he was the MP for this area. FYI — Rob I am still the MP,” Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne said on Twitter at the time.
A waiver from the Conservative party is required when a candidate has been defeated in one nomination race and wants to run again. The party did not responded to a request for an interview on whether Anders has been granted the waiver. The party also hasn’t responded to a request for a list of candidates.
That issue hasn’t stopped the campaigning.
Recently, the Wildrose party, Alberta’s right-leaning official Opposition, received a number of complaints after robocalls went out from a former Wildrose leader endorsing Anders.
“He has openly supported me and the Wildrose party for years on the provincial scene,” Paul Hinman said in the call.
It prompted current leader, Danielle Smith, to issue a statement clarifying that the Wildrose is not endorsing Anders. One of her members of the legislature from the area did the same.
Conservative party officials chastised Anders during the Calgary race last March for what they said were misleading phone calls that might have left the impression they had come from his rival Ron Liepert. Liepert ended up winning the nomination.
Anders is known for his strong social conservative views and gained attention for his sometimes inflammatory statements, including his opposition to granting honorary citizenship to Nelson Mandela, branding the South African leader a communist and a terrorist.
Anders once compared the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Berlin Games, which were held when Germany was under the control of Adolf Hitler.
He faces an uphill battle, suggested David Taras, a political scientist from Mount Royal University.
“The problem is he’s not a local and, if there is a strong local candidate that has profile, then he really becomes the outsider,” said Taras. “He’s bringing the baggage of his defeat. He’s been defeated, he was defeated by a lot of the people who presumably knew him best.
“Once you have the image of someone who has lost and can’t hold your own riding — and then you say, ‘OK, elect me’ — I think that’s really hard.”
— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter