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'regular occurrence'

Rob Anders arrives on Parliament Hill on June 7, 2001. A day earlier, the Canadian Alliance MP was the sole voice in the House of Commons to object to bestowing honourary citizenship on Nelson Mandela.TOM HANSON

A veterans advocacy group is furious at a Conservative MP who fell asleep during their presentation and later accused them of being "NDP hacks" when they criticized his behaviour.

Jim Lowther, president of Veterans Emergency Transition Services, said he was dumbfounded when Calgary MP Rob Anders slept through the group's presentation on supporting homeless veterans Tuesday in Halifax.

"He was out like a light for about five minutes," Mr. Lowther said. "He came in late, didn't ask any questions and then fell asleep. Wow ... I couldn't believe my eyes."

Mr. Anders – the same MP caught falling asleep during Question Period in November in a video that went viral – rubbished Mr. Lowther's claims.

"It's a smear job," Mr. Anders said, categorically denying that he fell asleep during the presentation. "I had a car accident and I'm still facing the repercussions of that."

When pressed, Mr. Anders refused to say if he had fallen asleep at any other meetings or legislative sessions aside from the one caught on video.

But Liberal MP Sean Casey, who is vice-chairman of the veteran affairs committee, said Mr. Anders did nod off – but it wasn't his place to wake him.

"It's a regular occurrence," Mr. Casey told The Globe, adding he first noticed Mr. Anders sleeping in the fall. "I sit across from him when we meet in Ottawa and I've seen his neighbours poke him awake sometimes."

Instead of explaining his behaviour, Mr. Anders accused the veterans advocates of being "in the pocket" of NDP MP Peter Stoffer.

"They praised Vladimir Putin, at one point, for the way he deals with veterans, and then he just went on and on praising Peter Stoffer," Mr. Anders said. "[Mr. Lowther]is the same guy who tried to crash one of the Prime Minister's rallies and is on NDP press releases."

While Mr. Stoffer, the Opposition veterans affairs critic, did not respond to an interview request Thursday to clarify if he played any role, Mr. Lowther said he is a "card-carrying Conservative" and that Veterans Emergency Transition Services is apolitical.

"I've been called a Canadian hero – I did two tours of Bosnia and one in Afghanistan – and now I'm a NDP hack? Never been called that before."

David MacLeod, the group's director of policy and communications who made the presentation on Tuesday, said Mr. Anders was being "ludicrous" in thinking he supports the Russian president.

"I'm an ex-intelligence officer and worked on the NORAD closure. ... How likely do you think it is that I support Vladimir Putin?" Mr. MacLeod said. "I was just saying Russia, which doesn't always treat its vets well, had a hospital for Afghan and Chechen vets who had post traumatic stress disorder."

Mr. MacLeod said he, too, is not an NDP supporter. In fact, he has voted for Peter MacKay in his Central Nova riding and is a member of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party.

"It's just stupid to say we're NDP hacks and frankly, I don't think this reflects well on the party," he added. "[Mr. Anders]should have just said he was sorry he fell asleep and that would have been the end of it."

Mr. Casey, the committee vice-chairman, said it's up to Mr. Anders to offer an explanation for his lateness at the meeting and sleeping on the job.

"Given the number of times it's happened, I assume it must be something to do with a medical condition because it's not like he doesn't care," Mr. Casey said. "Whenever he does ask questions, Mr. Anders is very insightful."

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