Derek Fildebrandt’s hit-&-run fine is only $402 but the political tariff is likely to be much steeper

Posted on December 19, 2017, 12:55 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Derek Fildebrandt in a pose evocative of his next legal challenge, hunting without permission on private land. Below: Mr. Fildebrandt famously loading jerry cans full of gasoline in his now-notorious big red pickup truck the night before the NDP’s carbon levy took effect on the first day of 2017. Below him, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, another alumnus of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, engaging in the same CTF-style stunt on the same night. The retail price of gasoline promptly fell. Bottom: Alberta Party leadership candidate Kara Levis. All photos grabbed from their subjects’ social media accounts.

The fine that Derek Fildebrandt must pay is only $402, an insignificant sum for a well-off man of 32.

The consequences for the political career of the Independent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks of the fine for hitting another vehicle and then just taking off are likely to be more severe.

For by simply driving away from a minor traffic accident in the parking lot of the Edmonton apartment building where he owned a condominium that morning in June 2016, as the former member of the United Conservative Opposition Caucus was found guilty of doing yesterday in Edmonton Traffic Court, he showed deplorably bad judgment, contempt for the owner of the automobile struck by his big red pickup, and a measurable ethical shortfall.

By loudly telling his neighbour he could prove he wasn’t there and then failing to do so, he added arrogance and the appearance of bullying to the metaphorical bill of indictment for his political crimes. A whiff of dishonesty will always adhere to Mr. Fildebrandt’s not-guilty plea in light of the Traffic Court Commissioner’s verdict yesterday morning.

More than a whiff if you’re a political opponent of the United Conservative Party, which he once contemplated running to lead before opting to back the campaign of the eventual victor, Jason Kenney. “It shows he is very, very comfortable with lying, according to the courts,” NDP Premier Rachel Notley told the Edmonton Journal’s reporter yesterday. “One should wonder whether this is the place for him,” she said, referring to his seat in the Legislature.

We can forgive Mr. Fildebrandt’s political foes, who are legion and members of more than just one or two parties, for the schadenfreude they undoubtedly felt upon learning of the verdict. The former Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator was a bitter opponent of all parties of the centre left, a harsh and relentless critic of public employees and trade unions, and an uncooperative and defiant subordinate to his former Wildrose leader, Brian Jean.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Kenney is prepared to pay the political price of allowing his injudicious young friend back into the UCP Caucus – which Mr. Fildebrandt had left before the hit-and-run incident came to light.

The proximate cause of his departure from the UCP was that he had embarrassed the newly formed party and its new leader by getting caught double dipping by renting out his taxpayer-subsidized Edmonton condo through Airbnb and pocketing the cash. The assumption at the time was that he would soon be invited back by Mr. Kenney, who like Mr. Fildebrandt is an alumnus of the CTF anti-tax Atsro-Turf group.

Mr. Fildebrandt, who was a member of the Wildrose Party Caucus at the time of the parking-lot incident, argued that the damage must have been done by the unknown driver of another, similar large red truck. And it’s true that the witness, who saw her car being struck, didn’t manage to get the truck’s plate number at the time. She recognized her neighbour as the driver, though, which Mr. Fildebrandt argued must have been a case of mistaken identity because his face is well known.

Significantly, Traffic Court Commissioner Stewart Douglas concluded that Mr. Fildebrandt couldn’t prove his assertion he was elsewhere at the time. Apparently none of the more than 20 Wildrose Caucus members who were at the meeting he said he was attending could recall if he was there, and there was no written record of participants.

To add to Mr. Fildebrandt’s troubles, a week ago he was charged with illegally hunting on private land without permission. He is scheduled to appear Feb. 2, 2018, in Provincial Court in the town of Didsbury on that charge. As was observed in this space earlier, this will not stand him in good stead with many constituents of his rural riding east of Calgary.

Of course, Mr. Fildebrandt’s supporters on social media are right when they observe this isn’t a Criminal Code matter. Still, it’s arguably a crime anyway – the crime of having terrible political judgment, the only kind of political crime technically allowed in a democracy.

The punishment for that “crime,” of course, will be meted out in the court of public opinion, not the courts of law.

Kara Levis, Calgary lawyer, announces bid to lead Alberta Party

Kara Levis, a Calgary energy industry lawyer and former president of the Liberal Party’s national women’s commission, announced yesterday morning she will seek the leadership of the Alberta Party.

If things keep going the way they’ve been unravelling since the party’s leader and sole MLA was pushed to step aside in early November by persons widely suspected but officially unknown, she may get the job without a fight.

It’s no slur on Ms. Levis, who is an obviously accomplished person, to suggest that it seems increasingly likely whoever pushed Mr. Clark to quit as leader committed a major blunder if they had the interests of the Alberta Party at heart.

Mr. Clark had his flaws, but media liked him and he had a talent for keeping the Alberta Party in the limelight. This is an important service to a party that had big aspirations but only one MLA until NDP floor-crosser Karen McPherson came along.

Now it will still have only one MLA – who can be forgiven for being disgruntled, which is presumably why he has ruled out running again for his own job – and a leader outside the House, whoever that turns out to be.

Meanwhile, Edmonton radio host Ryan Jesperson, touted for a few days as the high-profile answer to the all party’s troubles, has dropped out of the race before dropping in.

So if the Alberta Party leadership race was supposed to be a generator of excitement about the party, which now apparently aspires to become Progressive Conservatives 2.0, this increasingly looks like a non-starter.

The winner of the leadership race that may or may not turn out to be a race was first scheduled to be announced on Feb. 7. The party moved that back to Feb. 27 when no candidates could be found.

Well, now they have one.

23 Comments to: Derek Fildebrandt’s hit-&-run fine is only $402 but the political tariff is likely to be much steeper

  1. Frank

    December 19th, 2017

    When I read or hear about Derrick Fildebrandt’s name in the news I just sigh and say to myself, “what has he done now”? It seems that this guy courts controversy. Lately he is a client of legal system. First, the hit and run charge which has just concluded on Monday that did not work out in his favour of an aquital. Secondly, the accusation now of illegal hunting in early November is obviously going to cause more problems with his supposed return to the UCP Caucus.

    My conclusion is that he is not returning to the UCP ranks. I follow his Twitter page and he never sent a congratulatory tweet on Jason Kenney’s byelection win. That is the first clue that since his charge of illegal hunting and upcoming court appearance in February show that he is now ” persona non grata” a liability, and too toxic to have around Jason Kenney and the UCP. As his constituency is changing because of the electoral boundary commission that orders have been sent upon high from the UCP ivory tower that Derrick Fildebrandt is going to be kicked to the curb.

    And who does he have blame for this? He can look in the mirror and see that person face to face. HIMSELF.

    Reply
  2. Jerrymacgp

    December 19th, 2017

    To be 100% fair to the Alberta Party, you erred in stating they only have one MLA. They have two, since Calgary-MacKay-Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson joined their “caucus” after leaving the NDP’s and briefly calling herself an Independent.

    I wonder, though, whether this is the poisoned chalice of Alberta Politics? Isn’t Greg Clark the first Alberta Party MLA to be elected as such, as opposed to having been elected under another party banner and only later joining the AP? So they toss him out just weeks after his “caucus” doubled in size.

    In reality, the Alberta Party is nothing more than a way for people to run as Liberals without that still toxic (in this province, anyway) party label. Having both the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberal Party is redundant, and either one or the other should fold, or they should merge.

    Reply
  3. Mimi Williams

    December 19th, 2017

    The Alberta Party has two MLAs.

    Reply
  4. Midge

    December 19th, 2017

    I know you don’t mean to be dismissive, but Alberta Party has 2 MLAs.

    Reply
  5. J.E. Molnar

    December 19th, 2017

    Any rebranding of the Wildrose Party — now known as the UCP — must include a pledge by Jason Kenney to end these horrific bozo-eruptions. You’d never see Stephen Harper tolerate such political upheaval, which has been occurring on an almost daily basis within the UCP since the merger. Harper would have turfed people like Fildebrandt, Ron Orr, Jason Nixon, Rick Strankman et al so fast there heads would be spinning as they exited the legislature.

    Jason Kenney obviously has a lot to learn about the party he inherited, but surely coming to grips with bozo-mania would be his first priority — if not for political survival, at least for improving political decorum in the Legislature. Albertans deserve at least that much from conservatives.

    Reply
  6. Magda

    December 19th, 2017

    I think we can safely say goodbye to DF and his career. He’s become someone who went from up-and-comer to has-been without ever lingering between the two. I think he knows it too, since his reported response to the wildlife officer who arrested him was much more humble than the arguments he put up around his hit-and-run. He’s obviously been warned that his ability to stay off the front page with his little problems will determine whether he’s on the slate for the next election. He was afraid – and it showed.

    Bye, bye, Derek. Glad we hardly ever knew ya!

    Reply
  7. December 19th, 2017

    On the news yesterday Mr. Fildebrandt’s lawyer speculated that his client may not have been aware that he hit the vehicle. The neighbour who made the complaint also testified that she heard the bang from her apartment. If true, Fildebrandt must have known he hit something.

    With regards to the hunting, I would love to know more about Fildebrandt’s excuse that he did know he was on private land. Until I reread David’s caption, I thought the photo above was of the actual deer he shot, which is obviously farmland. My memory of the Sundre area is a lot of forest among cleared land, so it might be conceivable that he indeed thought he was on Crown land.

    In order for Mr. Fildebrandt’s excuse to be true the private land would have to be forested and unfenced, which begs the question, what does the land owner use the land for? You can’t grow crops in a forest and the lack of fence takes away the grazing idea.

    The only other scenario I can think of would be the landowner wants to maintain some wilderness and doesn’t want hunters on it. (My understanding is that Ducks Unlimited pays farmers to maintain duck habitat, and there is an organization called ‘Buck for Wildlife’) If this were the case I expect the land would be thoroughly posted, telling hunters to keep out.

    In an earlier post Farmer B mentioned ‘dealing with hunters hunting without permission’. My guess is that he just tells them to leave, rather than phone the authorities. There must be something about Fildebrandt’s situation that was egregious enough that warranted the landowner to go to the hassle of filing an official complaint, which will probably require him to testify in court. I really wish some media outlet had gone to the trouble of asking the landowner what he thought of Fildebrandt’s excuse that he was not aware he was on private land. David, can somebody in your Sundre Division look into this?

    Farmer B, I will look forward to your comments on my speculations.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 20th, 2017

      Bumping someone with a large truck and not knowing it is not completely implausible, in my view, although smacking them hard enough to bend metal probably is. Manoeuvring in an Edmonton parking lot in a truck not dissimilar to Mr. Fildebrandt’s, I was once accosted by an angry driver who insisted I’d hit his truck. If I did, I didn’t feel a thing. I gave him my business card and told him to call me if he found any actual damage. He never called and after a few weeks I forgot about it. Nevertheless, if he hadn’t run up to me I would have simply driven away, none the wiser. I doubt I would have thought I was in a meeting in another part of town at the time of the bump, non-bump or whatever it was that happened. DJC

      Reply
      • anonymous

        December 20th, 2017

        And bumping someone with a hellfire missile is inconsequential. Only in Alberta.

        Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          December 20th, 2017

          It was a GMC Yukon. Same difference, basically, I guess. DJC

          Reply
    • Farmer Brian

      December 20th, 2017

      Bob, I have to agree. I have never hunted in the Sundre area so I cannot speculate on the fenced versus not fenced land. All I can say is that in my area most land is posted if they do not want hunters but as I said before we always check with landowners first. As for hunters hunting without permission, yes they are asked to leave and I have not reported a trespasser to Fish and Wildlife as of yet.

      As for Derek, personally I think his political career is done.

      Reply
    • December 20th, 2017

      Specifically, Farmer B, I am wondering

      1. If you have ever looked into, or been told by a neighbour, how much of an inconvenience it is to press an illegal hunting charge and

      2. How plausible it is for a landowner to own land that you could not tell it was privately owned.

      Reply
    • Kang the barbarian

      December 20th, 2017

      Bob: I’m not in the Sundre Division of the Alberta Politics Research Center, but I have harvested fields like that for over 40 years. If you look at the photo of Mr. F with his unfortunate trophy, you will note the line of taller vegetation in the background heading straight to the bluff of trees. That would indicate there was a broken knife guard on the rancher’s mower causing that incompletely cut strip.

      The dried material near the UCP end of the trophy is obviously alfalfa. Both are clear signs the field was seeded and was cut and baled for cattle feed. So if this is a photo of the alleged trespass scene, it would be hard to mistake the field for unoccupied crown land.

      Most of us do not bother pressing trespass charges because of the reasons you note. Usually the urban hunters I catch trespassing have the good grace to apologize with a face saving excuse – many claim to suffer from acute myopia. The ones who try to brazen things out may well have a close encounter with the RCMP.

      Reply
    • Ken

      December 20th, 2017

      Doesn’t really matter what the private landowner wants to do with the land. And fenced or not, posted “no hunting or not”, it is a hunter’s responsibility to be aware of where they are. Every time a hunter gets caught doing this (even if it doesn’t make the media), it gets more difficult for the rest of us to find land on which to hunt.

      Reply
  8. MgS

    December 19th, 2017

    One minor correction: The Alberta Party has 2 MLAs right now: Greg Clark and Karen McPherson

    Reply
  9. December 19th, 2017

    What’s next on the Fildebrandt file? Won’t surprise if he gets caught trying to walk out of a Walmart with a couple cans of peas he “forgot” to pay for.

    Reply
  10. David

    December 19th, 2017

    I was really beginning to wonder if anyone with a pulse was interesting in running the Alberta Party. I suppose it is good news, that finally after more than a month of their “leadership race” there finally is a candidate. Maybe, not one of the more high profile people people speculated about for a few days right after the leadership race was announced, but at least a candidate that sounds serious and perhaps competent. There were rumors someone would announce after Christmas, but perhaps the Alberta Party was worried people would soon start to mock their candidate free race (as opposed to the policy free race by certain UCP candidates named Kenney) and decided something needed to happen sooner.

    I suppose it remains to be seen if all the more high profile candidates have rediscovered their families temporarily (it is the Christmas season after all) or permanently, perhaps some might still step forward in January. However, with the leadership race scheduled to finish in February, they do need to come forward soon or risk having Ms. Levis win by acclamation. That would not be a good end for a party that decided holding a leadership race would help raise the party’s profile. It is kind of like someone deciding to hold a Christmas party to raise their social profile – what is the result if almost no one comes?

    However, I suppose the Alberta Party can be thankful for one thing – at least Fildebrandt hasn’t joined them and announced he is also running for leader. Well that would raise their profile a lot, but not in a good way. Perhaps the Alberta Party will do a bit better than another small party earlier this year that had no leadership candidates until almost the last minute when two finally stepped forward – perhaps to avoid an acclamation. Hmmm … maybe the candidate that did not win that race might be interested in the Alberta Party now.

    Reply
  11. David Climenhaga

    December 20th, 2017

    My thanks to Midge, Mimi, MgS and Jerry for reminding me about Karen McPherson, the second Alberta Party MLA. Plus, of course, my apologies to Ms. McPherson. This is what happens when you put in a full day at work, spend an hour and a half at the dojo, write a blog post about Derek Fildebrandt … and then decide at the last minute to write a second bit about the always forgettable Alberta Party while flying on autopilot. Not a good excuse, but it’ll have to do. Embarrassing, but then if you believe my critics, I don’t have much credibility anyway. Might as well just press on to my 10th Anniversary post in eight days. Ms. McPherson can take it as a compliment that I still think of her as a New Democrat. The post has been half-heartedly amended. DJC

    Reply
  12. brett

    December 20th, 2017

    I guess that it is up to the UCP constituency in Strathmore to give him the nod in the next nomination and after that the voters in Strathmore.

    I can imagine how they feel. We had to suffer through Rob Anders in Calgary West at the federal level. For far too long.

    In Anders’ case the votes never got the pleasure of punting him. The constituency assoc. was finally able to get him off the ballot. Just hope that he does not show up as a candidate in a UCP constituency nomination in East Rubber Boot.

    Reply
    • Lars

      December 20th, 2017

      Well, that tells you something – the voters never kicked Anders to the curb, despite repeated opportunities. The constituency association knew that Robbo was not electoral poison in his riding, despite his glaring deficiencies. So did the federal Reformatories. They only ditched him in the last election, when it was becoming obvious that there was no room for deadwood on the federal slate. So I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the voters of Brookes-Strathmore took Derek back to their bosoms again – after all, who can resist a bad boy?

      Reply
  13. Jerrymacgp

    December 21st, 2017

    The richest irony of Fildy’s illegal hunting charge, is that the Wildrose Party from whence he came was all about property rights, and here he is (allegedly) trespassing, armed and in pursuit of wildlife, on a farmer’s private property … guess he’s lucky this didn’t happen south of the Medicine Line—he might have been shot, since that has become the normalized response to trespass in that benighted country.

    Reply
  14. Murphy

    December 21st, 2017

    One more reactionary Ontario clown pretending to be more Albertan than the Albertans. Hopefully Fildebrandt hangs onto that preposterous hat. With his non-existant work history, I can see some Midnight Cowboy action in the cards for him.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 21st, 2017

      Speaking of which, Mr. Fildebrandt also seems to like to dress up in Süddeutschland tracht. DJC

      Reply

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