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

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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.

Categories Alberta Politics