PHOTOS: Once and future United Conservative Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt in a favoured pose. Below: Mr. Fildebrandt, nowadays the Independent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks, with UCP leader Jason Kenney. Both photos were grabbed from social media.
Just when we thought it would never be safe to go into a farmer’s field with a high-powered rifle ever again, it starts to sound as if United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney may be willing to forgive Derek Fildebrandt and invite him back aboard the UCP Mother Ship.
I base this on a report published by the Calgary Herald, which is the closest thing the UCP has to its own Alberta-grown version of Pravda.
Exactly like stories in Pravda – which means “Truth” in Russian, and back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union was the name of the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party – reports are seldom completely straightforward. Usually, you have to read between the lines to get a sense of what’s actually going on.
So the story that says Mr. Kenney “wouldn’t discuss” Mr. Fildebrandt’s fate goes on to quote him discussing it at considerable length.
The discussion took the form of Mr. Kenney saying his party’s once (and future?) Strathmore-Brooks MLA, who was found guilty of hit-and-run charges in Edmonton Traffic Court on Monday, couldn’t possibly rejoin the UCP Caucus until “he’s resolved any outstanding issues.”
Those outstanding issues, the uncommunicative Mr. Kenney went on to guardedly communicate, include “another legal issue” the UCP’s former finance co-critic must deal with.
My, my, aren’t these Conservatives circumspect when it comes to dealing with their own!
The legal issue Mr. Kenney referred to and obviously would prefer not to say aloud, goes back to Mr. Fildebrandt’s hunting adventure near Sundre on Nov. 4. The MLA faces two charges, unlawful possession of wildlife and entering onto private land without permission, after being busted hunting on private property. He is scheduled to appear in Provincial Court in Didsbury on Feb. 2. Mr. Fildebrandt has indicated he intends to plead guilty.
The hit-and-run charge and the illegal hunting charges occurred in addition to Mr. Fildebrandt’s political problems, which stemmed from the fact he was caught renting out his taxpayer subsidized Edmonton condo on Airbnb last August while claiming his MLA’s housing allowance. In that case, as they say, no laws were broken. But the resulting brouhaha became the proximate reason for Mr. Fildebrandt’s voluntary expulsion from the UCP Caucus.
“I don’t see us dealing with any prospective admission,” Mr. Kenney told the Herald’s reporter, “until all of that’s been dealt with.” (Emphasis added.)
Which, if you ask me, is as good as a statement of intent that the UCP will welcome Mr. Fildebrandt back as soon as Mr. Kenney has concluded he can get away with it – subject to the usual caveats, of course, about anything you read in Pravda, which officially ceased publication in Russia in 1996, and other publications not dissimilar in nature.
Speaking of which, according to the Calgary Herald report, Mr. Fildebrandt was “found guilty in relation to a hit and run” (emphasis added again), a formulation one seldom sees in daily newspaper court reporting.
Does this mean the Herald doesn’t think that Mr. Fildebrandt is actually guilty? Is it a subtle suggestion the court got it wrong when it didn’t accept the MLA’s claim he couldn’t have hit his neighbour’s car in the condo’s parking lot because he was at a Wildrose Party Caucus meeting at the time? Or perhaps it’s a reference to his lawyer’s reported thought that Mr. Fildebrandt may have bumped the car with his giant truck so softly he didn’t notice. (This, as I observed earlier in a comment-section discussion of my own experience in such matters, is always possible in a large and manly truck like Mr. Fildebrandt’s big red Ford pickup.)
The Herald’s view of Mr. Kenney himself and anything he does is certainly clear enough and does little to disabuse readers of the uncomfortable sense the once-reputable publication has become a house organ for the UCP.
The UCP leader ended his conversation with the Herald’s reporter by observing that it “was not a question for the United Conservative Party” whether Mr. Fildebrandt should run again in Strathmore-Brooks in 2019 or whenever the next Alberta general election takes place.
It will become one, however, should the Opposition party permit him to rejoin its Legislative caucus.
That said, recent history clearly indicates that having pleaded guilty to being illegally in possession of the carcass of a deer shot on private land and thereafter been fined for the offence is no impediment to membership in the UCP Caucus.