Anders made the comments in an interview with iPolitics, arguing that Mulcair pushed Layton into taking part in the 2011 election campaign by keeping a "knife in his back." Anders says that Mulcair made it clear he was ready to take over if Layton was too sick to lead and that this caused Layton to pay less attention to his health than he should have.
UPDATE: MP Rob Anders has apologized for his comments in iPolitics. His full statement:
“My comments in iPolitics with respect to Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Layton were insensitive and inconsiderate. I apologize to Mr. Mulcair and to Mr. Layton’s family,” the MP wrote.
Layton's widow and fellow MP, Olivia Chow, spoke to the media on Monday afternoon and said she accepted Anders' apology and said there was no dissension among her caucus. She has not received a call or personal note from Anders but has read his statement and said that she would go over and speak to him later this afternoon.
Chow noted that Mulcair like all NDP MPs "loved Jack." She also said that "unity and loyalty is in [the party's] DNA."
"Let's put away all the conspiracy theories and move forward," Chow said. "This is all negative energy."
Chow also invited Mr. Anders to donate money to an upcoming cancer fundraising run, she will be participating in.
"I'm glad that he decided it wasn't the most sensitive thing to say," she said to the media.
The Prime Minister's Office was quick to distance itself from Anders' comments. On Monday morning, PMO director of communications Andrew MacDougall tweeted that "To be clear, Mr. Anders' comments regarding Jack Layton in no way represent the views of @pmharper or the Government."
Pressed by columnist Andrew Coyne regarding the PMO's stance on Anders' views about Mulcair, MacDougall posted "the entire 'theory' does not represent the views of gov't."
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Anders' position, as pointed out by Maclean's Aaron Wherry, is also at odds with the facts regarding Layton's illness. Wherry points out that Layton took part in the campaign after learning his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels were “virtually at an undetectable level,” a sign that treatment of his prostate cancer was going well. It was after the May 2011 election that Layton was diagnosed with a new form of cancer.
It is that cancer, which remains undisclosed, that is thought to have killed Layton.
This is far from the first time Anders has run afoul of his own party. In July, he attacked the government and Treasury Board president Tony Clement for honouring Norman Bethune, a Canadian communist doctor who has become a hero in China.
In March, he was removed from the Veterans Affairs Committee 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.
CBC's Kady O'Malley wondered aloud Monday morning whether Anders will face any "caucus sanctions" for his Layton theory. If reactions on Twitter are any indication, Harper will be facing plenty of pressure to do something.