Suspension of maverick MLA didn’t amount to much, even before Wildrose leader’s apparent flip-flop

Posted on May 31, 2016, 2:07 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt appears to be ahead in the race with his party leader, Brian Jean, this past weekend at least. (Photo grabbed from Mr. Jean’s Facebook page.) Below: Blogger Dave Cournoyer and a smiling Mr. Fildebrandt.

That was quick!

Not much more than 48 hours after Brian Jean announced in a terse news release that high-profile shadow cabinet member Derek Fildebrandt had been suspended from the Wildrose caucus, the Opposition leader appears to have caved in to pressure from the party’s clamorous far right to readmit the often truculent Strathmore-Brooks MLA as quickly as possible.

Whether or not Mr. Fildebrandt agrees to the mild terms sought by his leader, if the intention of Mr. Jean and his advisors was to neutralize the Fildebrandt problem, the short-lived suspension seems to have had the opposite effect.

CournoyerMoreover, it now appears the party never did the paperwork necessary to make the suspension official, so it is a moot point whether Mr. Fildebrandt was ever suspended at all!

The official reason for Mr. Fildebrandt’s brief spell in the doghouse was an injudicious social media message that seems to have unintentionally implied the Wildrose finance critic endorsed a constituent’s homophobic point of view.

There were, of course, other reasons, not least that Mr. Fildebrandt has been a loose cannon on deck throughout the past year, embarrassing Mr. Jean several times, culminating in his insulting performance in the Legislature last Thursday during a visit by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The party insists it approved his message, but regrets the timing. Still, it seemed at times as if he also had his eye on Mr. Jean’s job as leader.

Officially, the Wildrose Party says there are conditions Mr. Fildebrandt must meet before he may return – a gesture possibly designed to help the leader save face under embarrassing circumstances. Party officials won’t say what the conditions are.

However, blogger Dave Cournoyer reported yesterday on his Daveberta.ca blog that a source within the party informed him there are five conditions Mr. Fildebrandt must agree to meet to be allowed to return to the caucus:

  1. He must accept a suspension until the end of the current session
  2. He will be “on probation” for three months, until Sept. 1, 2016
  3. He must commit to some form of “personal improvement”
  4. He must give no media interviews except to media within his own rural constituency
  5. When he returns, he will no longer hold the high-profile finance critic’s portfolio

In fact, the government says, Wildrose Party officials never took the required step of formally informing the Speaker’s Office Mr. Fildebrandt had been suspended from his caucus. As a result, the Assembly’s web page continues to show Mr. Fildebrandt as a Wildrose MLA and the party’s finance critic. At best, therefore, the “suspension” was purely symbolic.

Fildebrandt-RWildrose communications staff did not respond to my question about whether the Speaker had been informed, or to my request for confirmation Mr. Cournoyer’s report of the list is accurate. However, the Daveberta.ca blogger has been reporting on Alberta politics for a decade, so it is said here readers can take his scoop to the bank.

A suspension until the end of the current session is not very meaningful. The session probably won’t now end on Thursday because of the impact of the Fort McMurray fire, but it will only run another week or so after that until MLAs break for the summer. After that, sittings are scheduled to resume on Halloween, well after the end of Mr. Fildebrandt’s “probation.”

According to the Calgary Herald, meanwhile, the conditions included “professional development training and anger management courses.” If that is so, it is interesting, since no one from the Wildrose Party has said anything publicly about Mr. Fildebrandt having problems managing his anger.

Judging from the tone of at least some comments on social media, Mr. Jean’s latest move does not seem to have placated the Wildrose Party’s angriest fringe, which the claimed suspension of Mr. Fildebrandt had riled up considerably.

It remains to be seen if Mr. Fildebrandt will submit to this discipline even temporarily. At the moment the ball seems to be in his court.

Either way, it is hard to believe the leadership of Mr. Jean – who had looked good through the Fort Mac fire, in which he lost his own home and several other houses he owns in the community – has not been diminished by this brouhaha.

Whatever Mr. Fildebrandt now decides to do, it is easy to suspect he will be emboldened. Having reversed course on the suspension, it seems likely Mr. Jean’s troubles with his turbulent MLA are far from over.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

21 Comments to: Suspension of maverick MLA didn’t amount to much, even before Wildrose leader’s apparent flip-flop

  1. CuJo

    May 31st, 2016

    “If that is so, it is interesting, since no one from the Wildrose Party has said anything publicly about Mr. Fildebrandt having problems managing his anger.”

    Anger is a core ‘value’ of the far right and Fildebrandt is a typical purveyor of said anger, despite his youth. Like Harper, Derek is pursuing a career in politics without the bother of having had a ‘real’ job and his chosen vector for success is to be a lick-spittle spewing, anti-government, angry old man well before his time.

    PS
    Who wears jeans to go for a jog? Oh wait. It was a photo-op. It doesn’t need to make sense.

    Reply
    • Tom in Ontario

      May 31st, 2016

      It could make sense, perhaps the lads enjoy chafing their legs by jogging in jeans. Self inflicted punishment seems de rigeur for Wildrosers these days.

      Reply
    • Donnie McLeod

      May 31st, 2016

      Visceral anger is an extension of fear and proof we evolved from plankton eating fish. So the toxic discourse of conservatism is proof of evolution. We can park our sub human thinking process and use the other thinking process. That leads to thoughtful discourse, liberalism.. This is proof we progressed beyond monkeys. Don’t think of it as right and left picture it as fish thinking and progressed thinking. Thinking like a fish is just a bad habit.

      Reply
    • spranch

      May 31st, 2016

      yeh, i can think of a few people in the Wildrose caucus that might benefit from some anger management. maybe send them to the spa for the weekend or something, chill ’em out a little. maybe that would make them stop yelling so much? that’s what i’d do, if i was in the leader of the Wildrose Party.

      Reply
  2. jay

    May 31st, 2016

    Ouch–that jogging picture doesn’t exactly showcase Brian Jean, does it? Fildebrandt, by contrast, looks quite presidential.

    Reply
  3. Fritz Kropfreiter

    May 31st, 2016

    Brian Jean was never on very solid ground when it came to Fildebrandt. The fact of the matter is that the whole Wynne dissing thing started at the Legislature with the rude actions of the core of the party. Mr. Jean himself sat when others stood courteously (if not enthusiastically). Fildebrandt then was allowed to take the insult to the next level by berating the guest while Jean sat impotently by. I am not remotely convinced that Fildebrandt’s social media gaffe was merely an oversight, given his bellicose right wing nutjob nature, but feel it was the action of a young bully who doesn’t understand the idea of boundaries. He is the poster boy of neo-conservative millenials and, no doubt, sees himself as some sort of messiah for the movement. Ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.

    Reply
  4. Maria

    May 31st, 2016

    Great photo, not only is Fildebrandt in the lead, Brian Jean’s demeanor also speaks volumes. The ‘grassroots’ of the Wildrose clearly are in charge.

    Reply
  5. Sassy

    May 31st, 2016

    No doubt about it, the party brass is clever (publicly) putting the career decision in Fildebrandt’s hands. He can remain as a ‘small poppy’ or resign. With Fildebrandt’s craving for attention and obvious need to be in the limelight and in control, I think I know where this is going.

    If he leaves, the party leadership can deny responsibility and somewhat appease Fildebrandt’s fans. I’m sure the Wildrose and their backers are working out a good ‘placement’ for Fildebrandt, because a betrayed millennial with his inside knowledge, temperament, and social media reach, could be dangerous.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    May 31st, 2016

    Why are some radicals up in arms about Fildebrandt’s performance on Thursday when Wynne was there? He should be commended for standing up for our finances and against the savages of socialism be it in Alberta or in another province that seeks to influence us. More people should be following Fildebrandt’s lead.

    Reply
    • Blaise

      May 31st, 2016

      Because Wynn’s government has the final say on building permits for energy east in Ontario and more importantly is currently an ally in attempting to persuade other provinces to allow pipelines to go through.

      Embarrassing someone who you need as an ally isn’t a wise course of action.

      Reply
    • Albertan

      May 31st, 2016

      Radicals? There are the ‘lake of fire’ radicals and the radicals who threatened to assassinate Premier Notley and who also issued misogynistic, violent and sexist threats toward other female AB NDP MLAs? Those hilly billy radicals who support the Wildrose TeaParty?
      And for those of us who watch politics closely, the AB Notley NDP more closely resembles a Red Tory Peter Lougheed fiscal and progressive conservative style of politics than any other politics in AB right now, with some really great social democrat values to boot……possibly a pretty darn good balance.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      May 31st, 2016

      Dear Brian,

      Us socialist are coming for your money. You’ve been warned.

      Now go and do what other rich selfish anti-social fascists do and hide your money, or go and hide with your money.

      Reply
  7. Filostrato

    May 31st, 2016

    The advice of the dear departed ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper was that one should not dwell, or linger, or something, in the past. The past, to the tighty-righties, is a very familiar country. They do things exactly the same way now as they did then unless forced by diminishing power to make small concessions to the law of the land, the democratic process or human rights. The fact that the likes of Mr. Fildebrandt is considered to be a legitimate representative of people in his constituency, bolstered as he is mostly by anger and self-righteousness, is pretty scary. Is being a rude heckler considered to be the way to go now? Nice. I imagine his attitude have more to do with misogyny and insecurity than homophobia. Poor dear.

    Slightly off-topic – I still can’t understand why the pundits insist that the Con party has to regenerate and rebuild itself. Why? It was formed by two near-moribund shreds of other parties, a Frankenparty, if you will. The deal was sealed by a lie and betrayal and what emerged is something that is completely unrecognizable. The only thing they seem to crave is the return to power. In all the blatherings of the last few days, I never heard them utter even a tiny shred of self-doubt or regret for their views or actions. The Libs are center-right enough for me at the moment.

    Reply
  8. David

    May 31st, 2016

    While Mr Jean may not be a charismatic leader, he at least seems somewhat reasonable compared to the mostly perpetually angry (or is that perpetually petulant?) mob that may or may not be following him.

    If he was over ruled by his caucus on suspending Mr Fildebrandt, they may live to regret it the next time there is a bozo eruption. Mr. Harper as Mr. Jean saw first hand could be very harsh at times, but at least his party gave the leader power the power to dish out punishment as he felt necessary. A leader who can’t do that is somewhat neutered as no one will fear them. While fear isn’t the motivator for everyone, I suspect it may be the thing to keep someone like Fildebrandt in line.

    I suspect the lesson Fildebrandt got out of this brief time out is “I am too important and can get away with anything” as opposed “I need to be more careful” which might have been the effect of a real suspension. I am also not sure this will go over well with voters, many who were genuinely put off by Fildebrandt’s behavior in the legislature. The brief time out will make it appear the party is condoning this sort of behavior, but I perhaps that was always the case – the brief “suspension” over the posting was just to hide that.

    Reply
  9. Pogo

    May 31st, 2016

    Ok. Help a brother out. Am I nuts, or did WRP try for the third time, to commit political suicide? I mean alienating pretty much every sane conservative in Alberta is not an astute move. Am I right? Whoa, these guys are post modern millennial psyop, fuckin’ ninjas!

    https://youtu.be/lkeZ2P4SiY8?list=PL7EFDFE4E4305FA9C

    Reply
  10. Dave

    May 31st, 2016

    Wow, the WR base is running the leader. These misogynists are too wild even for the WR party.

    They seem to be proud of people who behave as bad boys.

    My advice is for them to seek help and fast. These things can be treated.

    Reply
  11. Expat Albertan

    May 31st, 2016

    Here’s something to consider: Derek has high ambitions in politics but not necessarily in Alberta. Given that the Conservatives are seeking a new leader (and their convention just happened to coincide with DF’s outburst), he is young and telegenic, and that his outburst went out across the country, it makes one wonder if he didn’t have something bigger in mind. Just sayin’.

    Reply
    • Northern Loon

      May 31st, 2016

      Yep, Derek is one of those “eastern bastards” that King Ralph wanted to freeze in the dark. Or is he only here for himself like the CPC ads against Michael Ignatieff suggested? It seems unlikely that Derek will settle for being a member of the WRP as opposition unless he is in command.

      Another possibility for Derek is to run in the relatively safe federal seat once Stephen Harper vacates as there may be more opportunity for getting on the news, and national news at that once he starts attacking the Liberals.

      His ambition is too transparent.

      Reply
  12. Max

    June 2nd, 2016

    Lol didn’t you write two days before this that now Brian Jean’s leadership was now unquestioned and that Fildebrandt had no future? No mention of that in this article! Oh well, I guess you got it about as wrong as Brian Jean did!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      June 2nd, 2016

      Good point, Max. Yes I did. I was fooled by the fact I thought Brian Jean had some, you know, intestinal fortitude, as well as some common sense. (Most of us, after all, wouldn’t have started something like that if we weren’t prepared to finish it.) Even with my low opinion of the Wildrose Party, I have been shocked at the incompetence of its leadership and the extremism of its membership. So, you’ve got me there alright, buddy. I’ll never overestimate the WRP again, though. Here’s a prediction: Mr. Jean, having proved that fortune doesn’t favour the chickenhearted, will soon rekindle his passion for crossword puzzles and disappear into history. I wouldn’t be surprised he’s privately ready to concede that Danielle Smith had it right when she tried to skate to the PCs. DJC

      Reply

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