A Frenchman once said "Democracy is the name we give the people whenever we need them."
Last month, the U of C alumni magazine the arch profiled Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders as one of the top 35 graduates under 35 years of age. Last week, Anders tactfully demonstrated why they shouldn't have when he called Nelson Mandela a "communist and terrorist" in the House of Commons.
No one really seems surprised. This is, after all, the blunder-prone Anders who arrived at a Chinese New Year's celebration wearing a "China out of Tibet" T-shirt. Last summer, Anders gaily cancelled Summer Career Placement funding for 83 student positions, a decision later overturned. And last week, when Liberal MP John McCallum presented a motion to make Nelson Mandela an honourary Canadian citizen, Anders did his very best for his embattled party by crying out "No!"
It's not actually Anders' "no" vote that chokes me the most. It's not his argument that 30 years from now, Mandela won't be remembered and thus shouldn't receive any recognition. It's not even this claim of "terrorism" against a man who spent 30 years fighting to end apartheid using non-violent means. No, I can happily chalk all that up to a brain addled by a lifetime of "petting."
The real kick in the teeth is Anders' admission that he refused to back the motion because the Liberals blocked the CA attempt to honour the 50th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.
"Democracy is the name we give the people whenever we need them."
Democracy, the responsible representation of the people, was clearly the last thing on Anders' mind last week. I can't speak to the Liberal motives for not honouring the Royal wedding anniversary; I don't want to. My point is that politics shouldn't be conducted in the same spirit as a playground. Anders, like every other MP, bears a significant responsibility to a few thousand constituents and last week he turned his back on that obligation for the sake of a petty grudge. It may seem far-fetched, but there is the distinct possibility that most of Anders' constituents would have preferred to be represented by a yes vote on Mandela's honourary citizenship, rather than by Anders' demands for what he calls "quid pro quo."
Any politician that believes he's been elected to parliament for the sake of trading favours in the old boys' club is in the game for all the wrong reasons. If Anders could honestly say that his constituents wanted to be the few thousand Canadians responsible for not honouring Nelson Mandela, I can't fault him for that. But denying his elected responsibility because the Liberals stole his candy is a shameful neglect of the spirit of democratic government.
This week, the motion for Mandela's honourary citizenship was passed unanimously. Anders wasn't present to shout the motion down and I for one have no problem thanking him for that "favour."