Outspoken Tory MP Rob Anders is joining Sun News in criticizing his own government for paying tribute to communist hero Norman Bethune.
The MP for Calgary West went on Sun News Thursday and denounced the government's $2.5 million in funding for a new visitors' centre at the Bethune Memorial House in Gravenhurst, Ont. Bethune was a Canadian born doctor and card-carrying communist who died in 1939 while tending to future Chinese ruler Mao Zedong's troops.
"You don't need taxpayer money to go ahead and memorialize somebody who was a fan of the biggest killer in human history," Anders told Sun's Krista Erickson, referring to Bethune's connection to Mao.
Anders compared the spending to the $11 million in savings the government expects to save by eliminating the penny. We were unclear on the connection, but it seems Anders is a fan of small change.
Much was also made about how Mao is responsible for more deaths than Hitler or Stalin, a frequent refrain of late on Sun News.
Anders was hesitant to directly criticize Stephen Harper or Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who was on hand to open the visitors centre on Wednesday. But he is calling on Canadians to write to the PM, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Clement asking them to redirect funding away from the project.
The Tories have paid increased attention to Bethune's legacy of late, largely because he is a national hero in China where the Conservatives seek to expand trade relations. A Chinese delegation was in attendance at the Gravenhurst ceremony on Wednesday and the Chinese national anthem was played.
Clement said in a news release that the Memorial House will be an emblem of friendship between the two countries and he has stood by his government's spending on the project, pointing to Bethune's medical innovations.
Clement and the Tories have faced intense criticism from Sun News over the last few days for honouring the legacy of someone who supported Mao and global communism. Host Charles Adler joined the attack on Thursday, calling Clement China's "useful idiot."
The phrase, often erroneously attributed to Lenin, refers to a communist sympathizer in the West. Communists in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and elsewhere often cynically made use of these sympathizers while secretly holding them in contempt.
Clement also faced criticism for hypocrisy this week after attacking a former newspaper editor on Twitter for moving to Cuba. Clement launched the online salvo on the same day he praised Bethune in Gravenhurst. Stephen Wicary, the journalist in question, is moving to the Caribbean nation so his wife can take a position with a charity there.
Anders sits on the far right of the Conservative caucus and has historically shared close ties with the Prime Minister, a fellow Calgarian. In fact, Anders took over Harper's Calgary seat in 1997 after Harper resigned to take a position at the National Citizens Coalition. Harper has described Anders as "a true reformer and a true conservative."
Recently, however, Anders has fallen out of favour with the party. He was removed from the Veterans Affairs Committee in March after being caught sleeping through the proceedings. Anders was also forced to apologize to two veterans advocates whom he called "NDP hacks" and "Putin supporters" for bringing his slumbers to attention. Both advocates turned out to be Conservatives.
Last November, a video of Anders nodding off in the House of Commons went viral. Anders blamed a recent car accident.
Anders, therefore, seems to have little to lose by speaking out against his own government's actions. Described recently in the press as an "embarassment" and "one of the worst MPs in Parliament," perhaps Anders is already angling for a post-political life as a Sun correspondent. One can only hope.