Former oilpatch exec hopes to unseat Rob Anders

Donna Kennedy-Glans says MP is inaccessible and narrow-minded

Rob Anders and Donna Kennedy-Glans don’t agree on much but they agree on at least one thing: they haven’t seen much of each other since Anders was first elected in Calgary West under the Reform banner in 1997.

“There’s no sense of relationship with the MP” says Kennedy-Glans a corporate lawyer and former Nexen vice-president. Like many other political observers she describes Anders as a lacklustre representative who’s inaccessible narrow-minded and lacking in empathy. “It’s been really hard to get involved in federal politics in this riding for the last little while” says Kennedy-Glans who’s lived in Calgary West for almost 25 years. “I’m finding that’s where a lot of people are at.”

Kennedy-Glans hasn’t been on Anders’s radar either — until recently. “I’ve been campaigning for the Conservative cause in this riding for around 20 years. Haven’t seen her” says the MP with a dismissive laugh. For much of that time Kennedy-Glans was working internationally first as a businesswoman and later as a consultant who trained community leaders in developing countries like Yemen. Much of her work involves mediating amongst governments companies and advocacy groups. “There are times when it’s really quite horrible being in the middle of all that” she says.

It may be a tough gig but Kennedy-Glans now faces an even tougher task: she’s gunning for Anders’s seat and hoping to become the Conservative nominee in Calgary West. It would mean that instead of being represented by a man who famously labelled Nelson Mandela a terrorist residents of that riding could be represented by a woman with a more nuanced approach to international affairs. “Living in a polarized world is easier because we can throw things at other people and if you don’t believe in what I’m saying then you must be wrong” says Kennedy-Glans who’s currently writing a book on Islam and gender. “I’ve worked too long internationally to ever accept that.”

Anders by contrast is big on “standing up for gun owners” and “standing up for the traditional family.” He really doesn’t like Liberals and is doing his best to paint Kennedy-Glans as one of them describing her as a “disgruntled Liberal” who’s trying to enlist Liberals into the Conservative party so they can “take over” the riding association’s March 28 annual general meeting (AGM) by stealth. “If she wants to run for the Liberals and be the Liberal opponent of mine in the next election campaign she’s welcome to it” says Anders. “But that’s where she belongs.”

It’s worth noting that Kennedy-Glans attends a theologically conservative Lutheran church and met her husband at a Progressive Conservative convention in 1981. Nevertheless Anders uses the word “Liberal” 26 times in our 14-minute phone conversation mostly in reference to Kennedy-Glans and her husband. Some have noted that Anders’ overuse of the tag is a throwback to ‘50s-style American politics — except that he uses “Liberal” instead of “communist.” “It does smack of McCarthyism which is kind of an old way of being I think” says Kennedy-Glans.

Name calling aside Kennedy-Glans faces some major obstacles. For one the Conservative party recently made it easier for incumbents to hang onto their seats. Unless two-thirds of the members in a riding vote for a nomination contest the incumbent is acclaimed. “I think what it does is it opens up the process and says if members have a problem with their sitting member and if they really want to see a nomination they can go ahead and do so” says Anders who consistently wins landslide election victories.

But for Kennedy-Glans the new policy “flies in the face of democracy.” Also important to both Anders and Kennedy-Glans is the Conservative riding association’s March 28 AGM where a board of directors will be elected by party members. The board is responsible for managing nominations in Calgary West and Kennedy-Glans says the current board isn’t transparent enough. “I spent two months trying to find out where the minutes of the AGM for this riding association were” she says. “I still haven’t seen them.”

She plans to table a list of new directors at the meeting. And even if she’s blocked from contesting Anders’s nomination this time around she plans to keep up the fight for better representation in Calgary West. “We’re going to stay on it regardless of what happens.”