CALGARY – The self-proclaimed “poster boy” for blue Conservatives is facing a daunting challenge from a former Alberta Progressive Conservative cabinet minister in the battle of Signal Hill.
Calgary MP Rob Anders, first elected as a Reform MP in Calgary West in 1997, is looking for another term in office in the rejigged riding of Calgary Signal Hill but faces a stiff challenge from Ron Liepert, who left the Alberta legislature in 2012.
Over 3,000 party memberships have been sold in the past couple of months. The results of the nomination will be released tonight.
Anders, who is no stranger to controversy, has painted the nomination fight as a battle between blue and red Conservatives. He has accused Liepert of signing up what he calls “Instant Tories” from Liberal and NDP supporters in a bid to unseat him.
“I’m definitely a poster boy for the blue Conservative side of things and they don’t like that and Ron Liepert openly threatened our members of the federal party that if any of us dared back the Wildrose Alliance in the last provincial election campaign there would be repercussions,” Anders said in a March 27 interview.
“Basically this is him taking a swipe at me for backing Wildrose.”
Anders refused to do any interviews this week.
Anders is known for his strong social conservative views and has gained attention for his sometimes inflammatory statements. For example, he opposed granting honorary citizenship to Nelson Mandela, branding the South African leader a communist and a terrorist.
Liepert, who is 64, thought he had left public service in 2012 but found himself on the ground floor in January with a group seeking to remove Anders as MP.
“At the end of the day you can only complain about something so long before you have to do something about it and I’m glad I did,” Liepert said in an interview this week.
“The reaction has been totally consistent from day one – people saying ‘thank goodness and we’re prepared to support you’,” he said.
“I believe it will show in the results and I think if it doesn’t, residents have no one to blame but themselves.”
Liepert said Anders has focused his entire campaign on attacking him personally and said nothing about his record as an MP for the past 17 years. Liepert said his opponent’s reputation and changes in redistribution are in his favour.
“You are always not ready to accept that you’ve got anything in the bag. The riding has changed significantly. A lot of the support that the incumbent enjoyed in those last two challenges are no longer in this riding,” Liepert said.
“Secondly, I believe my track record, my name recognition has been a positive factor. I’m not suggesting that everybody likes me, but it has helped.”