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Former Calgary MP Rob Anders faces tax evasion charges

Former Calgary MP Rob Anders — a long-time crusader for lower taxes who helped found the Conservative Party of Canada — has been charged amid allegations of tax evasion during the time he held his seat, federal prosecutors have confirmed to CBC News.

Calgary West MP, who held seat from 1997 to 2015, was a long-time crusader for lower taxes

Former Calgary MP Rob Anders, shown in 2012, faces five charges under the Income Tax Act with alleged offences between 2012 and 2018.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Former Calgary MP Rob Anders — a long-time crusader for lower taxes who helped found the Conservative Party of Canada — has been charged amid allegations of tax evasion during the time he held his seat, federal prosecutors have confirmed to CBC News.

Anders faces five charges laid earlier in September under the Income Tax Act with offences alleged between 2012 and 2018, as first reported by the National Post on Tuesday.

The former Calgary West MP held his seat from 1997 to 2015, first for the Reform Party and then for the Conservative Party.

He faces:

  • Three charges of making a false or deceptive statement for the tax years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
  • One charge of obtaining or claiming a refund to which he was not entitled or in amounts greater than to which he was entitled for the tax years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
  • One charge of evading payment of taxes between April 1, 2012, and June 30, 2015.

Prosecutor Tyler Lord said the Crown will proceed summarily — meaning if Anders is found guilty, the penalties are less than proceeding by indictment.

'Self-interested hypocrisy'

If convicted, Anders could face up to two years in jail and fines between 50 and 200 per cent of the evaded taxes.

"I thank you for the opportunity but I have been advised to decline comment at this time," said Anders in response to a request for comment from CBC News. 

The timeline of the alleged offences is particularly damaging, says Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.

"Because [MPs are] involved, at a very minimum, in voting around taxes, they are in charge of the public purse," said Bratt.

"Especially a self proclaimed tax-fighter who said when he left office that his regret was not cutting taxes enough, to then discover that this person allegedly cheated on their own taxes is quite hypocritical

"There's a degree of self-interested hypocrisy here."

Anders' controversial history

Anders was known for his strong social and fiscal conservatism and was a controversial political figure during his time in office. 

He gained attention for his sometimes inflammatory statements, including his opposition to granting honorary citizenship to Nelson Mandela, branding the South African leader a communist and a terrorist.   

Anders faced more criticism in 2012 when he called Bill C-279 a "bathroom bill."

The private members bill proposed to amend the hate crimes section of the Canadian Human Rights Act to include "gender identity" and "gender expression" as prohibited grounds for discrimination.

The same year, Anders was booted from the Veterans Affairs Committee after making controversial comments and falling asleep at a meeting.

Bratt says he doubts the charges will tarnish Anders's reputation.

"His reputation, I think, was already pretty tarnished," said Bratt.

Anders voted for 160+ tax cuts as MP

Anders, a staunch conservative, supported initiatives from the Harper government to offer various tax breaks to Canadians. He was also an outspoken proponent of getting rid of the GST.

In fact, when then Prime Minister Stephen Harper endorsed Anders in 2014 for the Conservative nomination in the newly created riding of Calgary Signal Hill, he noted the MP had voted for more than 160 tax cuts since being elected.

After losing the nomination battle to former Alberta finance minister Ron Liepert in 2014, Anders said his only regret was that the Harper government hadn't cut taxes more.

Upon leaving office as an MP, Anders was set to collect a pension of nearly $100,000, once he turns 55, according to a Canadian Tax Payers Federation estimate.

When Anders was first elected as a Reform Party member in 1997, the party's platform included a pledge for its MPs not to accept a pension.

Former MPs Preston Manning, Lee Morrison and Werner Schmidt, who were elected in 1993, are believed to be the only three original Reformers who opted out of receiving a parliamentary pension.

Anders was spotted at a Wexit rally last November and currently serves as the president of the Firearms Institute for Rational Education.

According to its website, the organization's objectives are "to educate and train young minds to the reality of laws and guiding the way to influence the political system" and "to educate all groups that may encounter guns on the realities of firearm legislation, ownership, and the handling of guns."

Anders was issued a promise to appear and is scheduled to be in a Calgary court on Oct. 30.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

With files from Scott Dippel

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