Explaining Derek Fildebrandt’s ambitions: Jason Kenney vows to stifle ‘bozo eruptions’ in the UCP

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PHOTOS: Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney. He vows to find ways to ensure there are no bozo eruptions in the ranks of the United Conservative Party. This will not be easy. Below: Frequent eruptor Derek Fildebrandt, who says he’s considering running for the leadership of the UCP himself; former Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, whom Mr. Kenney once called an “asshole,” then pressed the reply-all button on his email, in a famous bozo eruption; and federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu (Photo: Robert Thivierge, Wikimedia Commons).

Sometimes one news story helps illuminate another.

Consider, for example, Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt’s announcement yesterday he’s pondering a run for the leadership of the as-yet-embryonic United Conservative Party.

Mr. Fildebrandt made his plan public at almost the same moment as Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney was telling a crowd in the Edmonton suburb of St. Albert that if the two parties merge and he becomes leader of the UCP he will take measures to ensure candidates prone to what are known in Alberta as “bozo eruptions” are sidelined.

Now, Mr. Kenney may just be looking for a way to make sure he gets to control who runs for the UCP. Still, there’s no question that ever since the notorious Lake of Fire brouhaha in 2012, bozo eruptions have been a problem for the Alberta right. And since it could be argued Mr. Fildebrandt is a bozo eruption waiting to happen, each story tends to put the other into context.

As it happens, Mr. Kenney made his vow to suppress bozo eruptions on the fifth anniversary of one of his own: It was on June 19, 2012, that Mr. Kenney famously called St. Albert resident Thomas Lukaszuk, then Alberta’s PC deputy premier, “a complete and utter asshole” in an email, then hit reply-all.

I didn’t attend last night’s Kenney Fest in St. Albert – where I live as well – so I can’t tell you if Mr. Lukaszuk, who now spends much of his time on social media, made it out to hear Mr. Kenney’s remarks.

Regardless, Mr. Fildebrandt, MLA for Strathmore-Brooks just east of Calgary, says he has a leadership campaign team in place should they be needed. They’re just waiting for Wildrose Party members to actually endorse the unnatural union with the Progressive Conservative Party now headed by Mr. Kenney.

This news will not come as a complete revelation to the readership of this blog, which asked three weeks ago: “How else but as a draft campaign brochure are we to explain Mr. Fildebrandt’s rambling paean to Maxime Bernier, the unexpectedly unsuccessful longtime front-runner to lead the Conservative Party of Canada, which appeared in the pages of the National Post?”

Mr. Kenney’s plan, however, may offer a more insightful explanation for Mr. Fildebrandt’s hints than mere youthful ambition.

“Let’s be honest about this,” Mr. Kenney told about 350 souls at St. Albert’s finest hostelry, “I’ve heard it every day for the past year – every single day – I’ve heard about the one or two bozo eruptions that have imposed a lasting brand problem on the Wildrose Party. And we cannot afford that to happen to this new party.”

Accordingly, he vowed, “I will propose a rigorous screening process for prospective candidates to red light those who have advocated truly hateful views or who have serious reputational problems.”

This could create a problem for at least half the current Wildrose caucus, but we’ll stick to the case of Mr. Fildebrandt for the moment.

Much depends, of course, on how low the PC leader plans to set the bar when he talks about “reputational problems,” and whether sitting MLAs would be exempt from rejection’s red glare.

But, as alert readers are certain to recall, Mr. Fildebrandt has quite a history of this sort of thing.

Back in May 2016, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who also has ambitions to lead the UCP, fired Mr. Fildebrandt as the party’s “shadow minister of finance” and suspended him from the party’s caucus for praising another Facebook account holder’s homophobic smear of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. This decision was soon rescinded after the anger of Mr. Fildebrandt’s supporters shook Mr. Jean’s resolve.

Since then, Mr. Fildebrandt has demonstrated his loyalty to Mr. Kenney by defying Mr. Jean – a lesson that may or may not be lost on the PC leader.

Mr. Fildebrandt is also well known for alleging the NDP hoodwinked voters by keeping its promises, an opinion that caused general hilarity from coast to coast.

Covering most of the bozo bases, Mr. Fildebrandt has also refused to answer news conference questions from a respected reporter while loudly proclaiming her to be seeking work in the premier’s office (she wasn’t), praised climate change deniers, and, as a Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative, dismissed an international conference on women’s poverty as “a feminist pow-wow.”

Speaking of the CTF, back in 2014 he announced suddenly he was leaving the supposedly non-partisan Astro-Turf group after a blogger reported he had been recruited to run for the Wildrose Party by then leader Danielle Smith.

Naturally, much depends on how Mr. Kenney defines “bozo eruption.” This would presumably not include publicly calling a fellow Conservative an asshole or saying that schoolchildren who join gay-straight alliances should be outed to their parents.

Nevertheless, the new leader’s effort to ensure the UCP doesn’t drown in another Lake of Fire raises the possibility Mr. Fildebrandt’s ambitions may be nothing more than a simple case of self-preservation.

Trudeau Government dumps Cons’ anti-union legislation, and about time too!

The Trudeau Government’s Bill C-4, which repeals the Harper Government’s anti-union legislation, received Royal Assent on Monday.

For some reason, this important development went virtually unreported by mainstream media.

“Our government was elected on a commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations, and I am proud that today Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, has received Royal Assent,” Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said in a news release.

The bill repeals Conservative legislation designed to undermine and weaken labour rights in Canada generally by attacking unions in the federal jurisdiction.

CLC President Hassan Yussuff thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for keeping his election campaign promise to repeal the bills.

The promise took longer to keep than expected because unelected Conservative senators fought a bitter rear-guard action to save the anti-union laws – which were almost certainly unconstitutional but had not yet been tested in court when they were repealed.

Laws repealed by the Liberals included an act designed to smother unions in red tape by forcing them, their suppliers and employees to spend millions of dollars producing expense reports not required of other organizations and companies. Another was intended to make it more difficult for workers in workplaces in federal jurisdiction to organize unions.

The Liberal bill returns the card-check system of automatic certification when enough employees in a workplace sign union cards, which works well in many Canadian jurisdictions but aroused near-hysteria on the right in Alberta when the NDP recently introduced a weaker version of the same thing in its labour law revisions.

“By passing Bill C-4, the federal government has demonstrated it understands the importance of fair labour relations, and the critical role unions play advancing rights for all Canadian workers,” Mr. Yussuff said in his news release.

Ms. Hajdu echoed that sentiment in hers: “Our government knows that a healthy labour movement is essential to building an economy that works for the middle class.”

Categories Alberta Politics Canadian Politics