One of the reforms Michael Chong wants to implement is open riding nominations, free from the interference of party leaders. That proposition is currently being tested in Calgary West, where Rob Anders is being challenged for he nomination. The riding's recent history is interesting. Lawrence Martin writes:
Mr. Harper represented Calgary West from 1993 up to 1997, when he stepped out of politics and Anders, then only 25, took over the riding. Before Harper, Jim Hawkes, a Progressive Conservative, held the constituency. Harper worked for Hawkes but then abandoned him, ran against him on the Reform ticket and won.
It was a bitter family feud and animosities between moderates in the riding and core Conservatives remained. Harper wants the riding to stay out of Red Tory hands and has gone to great lengths to make sure of it.
In the run up to the 2011 election, Donna Kennedy Glans -- a feminist lawyer -- challenged Anders for the nomination:
Kennedy-Glans and her supporters won control of the riding executive. They planned a referendum at the next general meeting to show that Anders no longer had support.
It all sounded democratic enough — until party central in Ottawa got into the action. It disallowed the annual meeting and seized control of the riding membership list, of the funds, of the offices. The Kennedy-Glans bid was crushed.
By way of explanation, the party said she was too liberal. She was very moderate, more moderate than Jim Hawkes. But did that mean it was okay to resort to an anti-democratic, banana-republic operation to get her out of the way?
For Mr. Harper -- who preached Reform in his youth, but who even then suffered from a garrison mentality -- that wasn't and isn't the issue. Anders may be a stooge. But he is a reliable stooge.
He is precisely the kind of supporter Harper seeks out and then protects.