It’s been a tough year for both Member of Parliament Rob Anders and the Wildrose Party of Alberta. Both suffered setbacks in 2014, bright political futures ruined by the slings and arrows of fate and fortune. You may say that given the circumstances, Anders and Wildrose were made for each other, but just as Anders announced that he was mulling a bid for the leadership of Wildrose, a party official has told the press that, sadly, the timing doesn’t work.
An article in the Globe and Mail chronicled Anders most recent political miss. “This is case closed,” said Jeff Callaway, the president of the Wildrose Party. “We have a six-month membership rule, he isn’t a member and won’t qualify as a leadership candidate.” And although Callaway did confirm that the party could issue a membership waiver, Anders would not be receiving one. Ouch.
Back in December, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and nine other MLAs defected to the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, leaving only five Wildrose MLAs to sit in opposition, tied with the third place Liberals. (Point of Order: Why are Wildrose still Official Opposition if they’re tied with the Liberals? According to the Edmonton Sun, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky of the Alberta Legislature used the parliamentary precedent of incumbancy as the tie-breaker.)
The Wildrose have set a leadership convention date for June 6, which would technically leave Anders out of the running before his shoe laces were even tied. But where did all this rumor mongering about Anders running for Wildrose leadership come from? Anders said he was mulling the possibility after sending out an email blast that attacked current Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and his managing of Alberta’s economy in the wake of plummeting oil prices, which will put the provincial budget in the red with a significant deficit for the coming fiscal year.
“As a very wise man once pointed out, the First Law of Holes is, stop digging,” Anders wrote promising that he wouldn’t introduce new taxes to cover the potential $7 billion deficit in the Alberta budget.
“Mr. Prentice and the Alberta PCs are digging a debt hole that will make it tougher on Alberta families and seniors, going forward. I call on Mr. Prentice to make the spending reductions necessary to keep the province of Alberta’s debt hole from getting any deeper,” he added.
Among the measures that Prentice is considering to close the budget gap is a 10 per cent flat tax on all Albertans and the potential introduction of a sales tax or other new levies like increased gas taxes or healthcare premiums. A Mainstreet Technologies poll, however, showed that only 15 per cent of Albertans were in favour of a tax option; 43 per cent, like Anders, favoured spending cuts.
Adding an additional amount of uncertainty to this scenario is a report in the Calgary Herald, which hints that a spring election may not be out of the question and that Prentice himself has refused to rule out the possibility even though Alberta, like Ontario, has fixed election dates with the next provincial election scheduled for sometime between March and May 2016. A Wildrose source told the Herald that they were aware of the possibility, but they didn’t want to be “jumping at the politics played by the government.”
As for Anders, it looks like this is his third failure to find political life after the next session of the House of Commons, losing not one, but two nomination contests in newly created Calgary ridings last year. With leading the Wildrose out of the question (for now?), Anders will remain “that guy,” the one guy, that voted to not make Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of Canada because he was a Communist and a terrorist. C’est la vie.