Brian Jean’s Wildrose Party leadership is now unquestioned: the fall of Derek Fildebrandt explained

Posted on May 29, 2016, 12:50 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Brian Jean will be in the background no more … Back in 2015, Derek Fildebrandt was dominating the conversation, refusing to answer questions from a Globe and Mail reporter who had annoyed him, as his former party leader looked on, apparently bemused (CBC photo). Below: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, from her Twitter page, and a very cool Lyndon B. Johnson, who, astonishingly, didn’t even have a web page when he became president of the United States!

The Wildrose Party’s Legislative caucus has without doubt homophobes in its ranks. Derek Fildebrandt, notwithstanding many flaws, is not one of them.

But it was an injudicious social media message unintentionally implying the Wildrose finance critic endorsed a homophobic view that brought him down.

Wynne This is a genuinely ironic climax to a situation in which Mr. Fildebrandt behaved abominably – although not in that particular way – and which demonstrates at least three profound truths about politics, and perhaps life:

Profound Truth No. 1: He who challenges the leader risks everything

Profound Truth No. 2: We are all potentially just one Tweet or Facebook message from oblivion, or at least unemployment

Profound Truth No. 3: They who take up the sword shall perish by the sword

Just before midnight Friday, Mr. Fildebrandt was banished from the Wildrose Party by its leader, Brian Jean – a fate from which there is no codified process of appeal.

The proximate cause of his harsh dismissal by Mr. Jean – who, tellingly, was at the time in Vancouver in the company of his ruthless former bench mates in the defeated government of Stephen Harper dealing with the issue of gay marriage only a decade too late – was the notorious Facebook message. One of Mr. Fildebrandt’s constituents had taken a homophobic shot at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is gay, and an inattentive Mr. Fildebrandt thoughtlessly seemed to endorse it.

The original message also praised Mr. Fildebrant for the insults he had hurled at Ms. Wynne during her visit to the Legislature the day before. When Mr. Fildebrandt realized his error, he quickly tried to take it back. Alas for him, it was too late.

Mr. Jean, who of late the high-profile Mr. Fildebrandt by turns seemed to challenge and ignore, took the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot, and he struck hard.

LBJ2A terse news release from the Wildrose Party appeared: “This evening, Mr. Fildebrandt made an unacceptable comment on social media that does not represent the values of the Wildrose Caucus. He has been suspended from our Caucus effective immediately.”

Chop! The next bump you hear – probably tomorrow morning, when the Legislature resumes sitting – will not be the sound of another shoe dropping!

The Wildrose Party now says there will be no further comment on this matter. Still, it’s hard to believe Mr. Fildebrandt’s apparent unwillingness to acknowledge the authority of Mr. Jean and the anger stirred up by Thursday’s ruckus in the Legislature didn’t play a role.

As of now, Mr. Jean is the unquestioned leader of the party. Anyone who challenges him knows what fate awaits.

There is nothing for Mr. Fildebrandt to do but beg for forgiveness. Whether it is too late remains to be seen. No one here is privy to what has been said or done in the Wildrose Caucus chamber, but surely nothing like this would have happened if there wasn’t more to it than an inattentive and arrogant MLA mistaking a “Mr.” for a “Ms.” on his smartphone, something that could have happened to almost anyone.

Mr. Fildebrandt was immediately contrite. He was too late. In a statement on his Facebook page, he expressed surprise and pleaded to be taken back.

“I receive on average of 800 comments on my public Facebook page daily and I do my best to respond personally,” he tried to explain. “I did not read a comment posted to my page by a constituent as carefully as I should have. If anyone felt that I shared those sentiments, I do not, and I apologize.”

“My colleagues know that those views do not reflect my own opinion and they recognize that I made an honest mistake. …” Perhaps, one wonders, some of them know this because the original comment reflects their views.

“I accept this decision. …I look forward to rejoining my Wildrose colleagues in holding the government to account. …”

Realistically, Mr. Fildebrandt doesn’t have much choice but to grovel. As an Independent MLA he will have no power. Any dreams he had of leading the party in Mr. Jean’s wooden but determined stead are dashed. Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous dictum is right, even when you reverse it to fit the facts: “Son, in politics you’ve got to learn that overnight chicken shit can turn to chicken salad.”

After Thursday, no other party in the Legislature would touch Mr. Fildebrandt with the proverbial bargepole, even if they might once have been inclined to do so. He is not chicken salad!

Forgiveness is Mr. Fildebrandt’s only hope – and forgiveness, if it comes, will come with conditions. One will be the political equivalent of a peace bond. Another is almost certain to be demotion from the high-profile finance critic’s shadow portfolio.

What else can he contemplate? Founding the political wing of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, whence he sprang? If he goes into the next general election without a political party, he is done for.

This is what happens in politics when you “live by the sword.”

Mr. Fildebrandt gave no quarter to any political enemy. He goaded opponents to foolish anger, then ridiculed and attacked their response, a technique he honed as an operative of the CTF. He refused to answer questions from a prominent journalist who offended him. He showed no mercy or empathy to those like NDP MLA Deborah Drever also caught posting foolish things on social media. He mocked her to promote his hobbyhorse, recall legislation. As he demonstrated with his attack in the House on visiting Premier Wynne, he never knew when to quit.

Now the decision to quit has been made for him by, of all people, Brian Jean.

As an astute Alberta political observer of my acquaintance put it, Mr. Fildebrandt may not be a homophobe, but he is “a blindly partisan nincompoop and it was bound to catch up to him.” In other words, he is the victim of hubris.

Luckily for him, there is no recall legislation in this province.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

11 Comments to: Brian Jean’s Wildrose Party leadership is now unquestioned: the fall of Derek Fildebrandt explained

  1. Tom in Ontario

    May 29th, 2016

    Unfotunately for Mr. Fildebrandt, he took no heed from the aforementioned Lyndon Johnson. Had he displayed to Mr. Jean the fealty required by LBJ, he would still be a front bench member of the Wildrose caucus.

    President Johnson speaks. “I don’t want loyalty, I want LOYALTY. I want him to kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses. I want his pecker in my pocket.”

    Reply
  2. AM

    May 29th, 2016

    Alberta Politics has become quite interesting in the Last year or so…

    Reply
    • Calgary Observer

      May 29th, 2016

      Indeed. I’m hoping the Wild Bros Party is comic relief to bad Cable over the dog days of summer.

      Reply
  3. Velo

    May 29th, 2016

    Too bad it happened now. Would have been better if this all went down closer to election. As society struggles with bullying/intolerance it is nice to see this one get called down to the principal’s office!

    Reply
  4. Maria

    May 29th, 2016

    so it took a little over 1 year for the blowhard to blow himself up.

    Reply
  5. May 29th, 2016

    “Luckily for him, there is no recall legislation in this province.”

    Not sure a recall would be effective given Fildebrandt’s overwhelming support during the general election last May, and that the riding has historically elected those with a rightward idiotology.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Fildebrandt#Electoral_history

    Reply
  6. Marti d'Entremont

    May 29th, 2016

    LOL, David. Hubris indeed.

    Reply
  7. Sassy

    May 29th, 2016

    I wish the media would emphasize that Fildebrandt is a very recent Albertan. We (long-time Albertans) are all getting a nasty reputation due to imports like Harper and Fildebrandt. Since Fildebrandt has a history with conservative politics in Ontario, it makes sense he relished the opportunity to bash Wynne, a home-town liberal, in a public legislature setting. He was showing off to his old friends and enemies back in Ontario. I think Brian Jean and the party brass set him up for that spectacle so they could knock him down. He’s a loose canon, a show-off, and much too ambitious . I don’t think there will be any forgiveness offered because the party leadership wants him out. Fildebrant will realize it sooner, rather than later, and move on. Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, our province looks bad because the majority of Canadians in other provinces won’t distinguish between the Wildrose crazies, the PC corrupt, and the NDP.

    Reply
    • David

      May 30th, 2016

      Perhaps Mr Fildebrandt was set up, but so too could a pyromaniac argue that it was someone else’s fault for leaving matches lying around.

      As I see it,he has two choices. He can try to be a martyr – he will get support from some in the Wildrose who agree with what he has said and done, but not the party leadership and he will learn about being in the political wilderness. The second option is he can accept full responsibility for what he has done and eat some humble pie. If he appears to have learned something from this and seems willing to be more of a team player, perhaps they might eventually let him back in. However, I suspect they are no hurry to do so, it might take some time for the lessons to sink in and a few attempts before the humility seems genuine.

      Reply
  8. ken

    May 29th, 2016

    So , Kathleen Wynne,the premier of Ontario, who is one of the key people to negotiate a pipeline agreement through Ontario native lands and rural communities is mercilessly slagged by Mr. Fildebrandt, Wild Rose finance critic. The Wild Rose caucus endorsed his plan of attack beforehand. Brian Jean is culpable.

    One must conclude that the Wild Rose party has a latent anti pipeline stance and possibly are closet environmentalists.

    Reply
  9. Carley

    May 31st, 2016

    My support for the Wildrose Party is done. I thought Mr Jean did a great job in Ft. McMurray but all that work is irrelevant now. I think the words were unfortunate in the house but they had been approved by Brian Jean himself. It isn’t about a mistake on Facebook. It isn’t like Mr. Jean has never made a mistake? Guess only he is perfect.

    Reply

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