Liepert beats Anders, but who had the better patter?

Calgary's enigma loses the big nomination fight in Signal Hill

Ron Liepert speaks after defeating Rob Anders during the Calgary Signal Hill federal Conservative nomination on Saturday, April 12, 2014. (Larry MacDougal/CP)

Ron Liepert speaks after defeating Rob Anders during the Calgary Signal Hill federal Conservative nomination, in Calgary on Saturday, April 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

Rob Anders has met with his comeuppance at last, and although the setback to the man’s career might be temporary, I am bursting with hope that people will stop asking me to explain how and why Calgary voters keep returning Rob Anders to the House of Commons. There are never fewer than two dozen identifiably insane idiots in the House, but if you are an Alberta writer with a national audience, you have almost certainly been asked about Anders more than anybody or anything else.

I don’t have a proper answer. I don’t know the man even slightly, as I do know a few of the Old Reformers. Anders’s questioning of the sainthood of Nelson Mandela did not seem to me to be the worst opinion crime in recorded history. Falling asleep in a committee hearing is probably something we could catch a lot of members of Parliament doing, but since it was Rob Anders who got busted, it was made an issue. I am tired of all the WTF questions, and more tired still of the bizarre idea that Anders stands out amidst this particular Conservative caucus for cynicism and contemptible behaviour. What planet have you all been living on exactly?

One thing I do know is that Rob Anders is not an idiot, though anyone who repeats a phrase as often as he mentions tax cuts will tend to become indistinguishable from one. But as an approach to explaining his success, I would suggest close study of the interviews he and Ron Liepert gave to the Calgary Herald in the run-up to their nomination battle over Calgary-Signal Hill. The two men were asked “What will be your priorities if elected?” As a gesture to history I’ve transcribed their answers. The nasty, senseless Rob Anders goes first:

Well, I wanna end some waste in government; I wanna cut taxes; I wanna get tough on crime. Y’know, we’ve already done a number of things on crime, but I’ll give you an example: my private member’s bill. What we wanna do is create a mandatory minimum for rapists. Right now they get three years and they walk in two. I wanna make it so that on their first offence they get eight years and in every subsequent offence they get 10 years. So if there’s three convictions, and many of these people are repeat offenders, then they would get eight, plus 10, plus 10, for a total of 28 years, whereas right now they can serve it concurrently and get sentenced to three years and walk in two.

Ninety-eight per cent of all convictions involving sexual assault are just sexual assault, OK. Two per cent get processed, in a sense, as aggravated sexual assault. But over 60 per cent, 62 per cent, of the survivors have evidence of bleeding or bruising, and then so they should be processed as aggravated sexual assault. But they get plea-bargained down. So I wanna create a whole new tier. And we have DNA evidence and all these types of things available to us that weren’t available in 1983.

I think it’s gonna mean that perpetrators spend longer time behind bars. It’s gonna encourage them to get rehabilitation because—y’know, these people need more than two years of rehab if they’re a rapist. And I wanna see them get that. And I also wanna protect the victims, the survivors.

And here’s benevolent, super-experienced Ron Liepert:

Well, we’re certainly taking it one step at a time, and I’m not looking too far beyond Saturday, when the nomination vote is held. I don’t believe in assuming that anything is a given. That being said, what I have committed to folks that if we’re successful on Saturday is that we will start to see a new era of engagement, listening to constituents, and then reflecting constituents’ views at the caucus level federally. And I would clearly wanna hold up to that commitment.

Yes, Anders’s answer to the question is law-and-order pandering. It is also very specific, detailed law-and-order pandering. Asked about his personal agenda for his future as an MP, he has a real idea, backed up with statistics and observations, that he could probably do much to carry out as policy. He even throws a scrap over his shoulder to the rehabilitation-minded liberals who read the Herald.

And what does Liepert have? He’s “committed” to “a new era of engagement.” He will “listen” and “reflect.” He might as well have farted into the microphone.

If he did, he probably would have won the Signal Hill nom anyway. Calgarian Conservatives proved Saturday night they are tired of Anders’s act, to the point of being willing to turn toward the superannuated hard man of the Stelmach-Redford provincial PCs. But that act had a long run on the big stage, and its appeal to Conservatives is not altogether a mystery.