Calgary West Conservatives battle for leadership

By Ryan Pike

After weeks of jockeying, the fate of the Conservative nomination in the Calgary West riding now rests in the hands of the party’s voters. Ballots were mailed out to Conservative Party members across Canada asking whether they want their sitting Member of Parliament to be automatically named the party’s nominee or if a nomination contest should be held.

Two Conservatives who will be paying close attention to the vote are sitting Calgary West MP Rob Anders and Donna Kennedy-Glans. Kennedy-Glans has been spearheading the Our Calgary West campaign since early this year with the goal of running against Anders for the party’s nomination in the next federal election.

The Kennedy-Glans campaign scored a victory last week at the riding’s annual general meeting when a slate of candidates representing Our Calgary West secured 27 of 30 seats on the riding’s Conservative board of directors. The board oversees the riding’s nomination process, but a race will not be held unless two-thirds of the party’s members in Calgary West send in ballots asking for one.

“If the threshold is not met, I am personally still going to ask the party to allow a nomination contest on the basis that we haven’t had a nomination contest since 2003,” said Kennedy-Glans. “They have created special rules in Calgary West that have precluded nomination contests in the past, so it seems fair that they could do the same on the flip side.”

The two-thirds threshold for a nomination race was introduced by the Conservative Party’s national council last month. University of Calgary political science professor Dr. Lisa Young felt that the rule change gives incumbents a distinct advantage in nomination challenges, but noted that the rationale for the rule is simple.

“It’s a fairly unstable political period and to have your MPs fighting off people running for the nomination in their riding, it means you’re going to have a proportion of your caucus that doesn’t have their eye on the ball in Ottawa,” said Young. “I can understand why the parties have done these things to protect their incumbents. That said, it doesn’t do much for democratic openness.”

Democratic openness in the riding is one of the goals for Kennedy-Glans, a former corporate lawyer who transitioned into work as a corporate consultant and currently operates Canada Bridges, a registered charity assisting foreign governments with integrating people in the workplace.

“We’ve gone into peoples’ homes and gone into schools to talk about democracy,” said Kennedy-Glans. “We’re not running a smear campaign, that’s a definite strategy. We’re all about governance and transparency and that’s why we’re very excited with this new board that’s been elected.”

Kennedy-Glans’ quest for the nomination is the fifth challenge to Anders’ candidacy since he first won the nomination prior to the 1997 election. Anders said his experience as an MP and loyalty to the party are why Calgary West’s conservatives should continue to support him.

“I think that I’m a true blue Conservative,” said Anders. “I’ve held my membership in the party continuously for a very, very long time, I’ve donated $13,000 to the movement and fought for the current prime minister Stephen Harper in both of his leadership races. I’m a Harper loyalist.”

Young noted that regardless of the result of a potential nomination race, it’s unlikely that Calgary West will be represented by anything but a Conservative should an election occur.

“Rob Anders is not a strong candidate,” she said. “There’s a lot of opposition to him, even among Conservatives that live in Calgary West, and he’s still elected by a very comfortable margin. I think that tells us that anybody could run as the Conservative candidate and still win handily.”

Nomination ballots are due in Ottawa by April 30. According to party policies, any resultant nomination processes would begin within 90 days.

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