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Conservative MP Rob Anders rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday September 26, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conservative MP Rob Anders rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday September 26, 2012.

(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Backbench Tory MP apologizes for saying Mulcair 'helped to hasten' Layton's death Add to ...

Conservative MP Rob Anders apologized Monday for his suggestion that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair “helped to hasten” the death of former party leader Jack Layton.

In a story published Monday morning, Mr. Anders told the online publication iPolitics that he believes Mr. Mulcair pushed the former NDP leader into working harder than he should have during the past election campaign.

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“He would have taken more heed of his health. He might not have rushed into that election campaign with somebody with a knife in his back,” Mr. Anders said.

Facing an angry online backlash and attempts by the Conservative government to distance itself from his comments, Mr. Anders issued a statement of apology early Monday afternoon.“My comments in iPolitics with respect to Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Layton were insensitive and inconsiderate,” Mr. Anders wrote. “I apologize to Mr. Mulcair and to Mr. Layton’s family.”

Mr. Layton died in August 2011, shortly after announcing that he had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time.

Just a few months earlier, Mr. Layton had led the NDP to the best election result in the party’s 50-year history, sweeping much of Quebec and taking the place of the Liberals as the Official Opposition.

A spokesman from Mr. Mulcair’s office called Mr. Anders’s comments “repulsive and hurtful.”

“As someone who worked closely with both Mr. Layton and Mr. Mulcair, I cannot comprehend how anyone could say something like that,” Karl Bélanger wrote in an e-mail.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Monday morning that the MP’s comments do not reflect the government’s perspective.

“To be clear, Mr. Anders’s comments regarding Jack Layton in no way represent the views of [Prime Minister Stephen Harper] or the Government,” PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall wrote on Twitter.

This is not the first time Mr. Anders has caused controversy for the Conservatives. In July, the outspoken MP for Calgary West publicly criticized the government for memorializing Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor who treated China’s Communist fighters during the second Sino-Japanese war.

In September, he said he was concerned about Chinese state-owned companies investing in Canada because China is not a “benevolent” state.

Earlier this year, Mr. Anders apologized for comments to a veterans-advocacy group after they criticized him for falling asleep during a presentation to a Commons committee.

Follow on Twitter: @kimmackrael

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