Only hours after Calgary MP Rob Anders said he was mulling a run for the leadership of Alberta's official opposition, the president of Alberta's Wildrose Party confirmed Friday that the door was closed to the federal politician.
"This is case closed. We have a six-month membership rule, he isn't a member and won't qualify as a leadership candidate," said Jeff Callaway. While the party can offer a membership waiver, Mr. Anders won't be getting one.
There have been rumours for weeks that Mr. Anders was considering a run. On Friday morning, the sitting MP wrote an e-mail where he intervened in provincial politics by calling on Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to cut spending as oil prices slide.
Mr. Anders said at the time that he was still undecided on the Wildrose job. Nevertheless, he issued the release challenging how Mr. Prentice, the Progressive Conservative premier, is coping with plunging budget revenues.
"As a very wise man once pointed out, the First Law of Holes is, stop digging," the MP wrote.
Earlier the same morning, the Wildrose finance critic took aim at Mr. Prentice's statements over previous days that Alberta's 10-per-cent flat tax was a detriment to the province's low- and middle-income earners.
"Premier Jim Prentice's musings about implementing a regressive sales tax and attacking Alberta's single-rate tax as being an obstacle to poor and middle-income families are inaccurate," wrote MLA Drew Barnes.
Due to the precipitous decline in the price of oil, now hovering below $50 a barrel from a recent high this summer of $100 per barrel, the province faces a budget deficit that could hit $7-billion this year. According to Mr. Prentice, it could take as long as five years to eliminate the deficit.
Mr. Anders said Friday that the premier should make an "unequivocal commitment" to not raising taxes.
"Mr. Prentice and the Alberta PCs are digging a debt hole that will make it tougher on Alberta families and seniors, going forward. I call on Mr. Prentice to make the spending reductions necessary to keep the province of Alberta's debt hole from getting any deeper," he said.
While the Wildrose currently has an interim leader, Mr. Callaway confirmed Friday the party will elect a new leader on June 6. The opposition lost leader Danielle Smith when she led a mass-defection of nine MLAs to Mr. Prentice's government in December.
As Mr. Prentice prepares a spring budget that he promises will include a five-year spending plan, Mr. Anders proposed a review of the government of Alberta's capital project spending, "such as the Calgary and Edmonton ring roads, that could be put on hold or cancelled altogether."
The MP urged Mr. Prentice to "limit remuneration for any new hires or promotions in the senior levels of Alberta's public service to no more than the total salary paid to the Prime Minister of Canada."
According to the province's sunshine list of salary disclosures, 16 bureaucrats earned more than the Prime Ministers' $327,400 salary between 2012 and 2014.
Mr. Anders also called on the premier to institute a government-wide spending review.
"Mr. Prentice and this government should immediately conduct a program-by-program review of spending across every government department, and ask some key questions. First, is this spending unnecessary to the health and quality of life of Albertans? Second, will this spending require deficit spending or increasing Albertans' tax load? Third, is this something that could better be done by the private sector? If the answer to any of these questions is 'Yes,' that should make the spending a prime candidate for a reduction or to be cut altogether," he urged.
A staunchly conservative MP who has attracted controversy in his time in Ottawa, Mr. Anders labelled Nelson Mandela a communist and "terrorist," and voted against giving the South African leader honorary citizenship.
He also compared the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the Nazi-held 1936 Berlin Olympics and was forced to apologize to a group of veterans he called "NDP hacks" after they criticized his behaviour.
Representing Calgary West since 1997, Mr. Anders lost two recent nomination battles for the Conservative Party and will not be an MP after the next election. He was first defeated for the Tory nomination in the new riding of Calgary-Signal Hill last April and then lost a battle four months later for the nod in the nearby Bow River riding.