Groundhog Day 2018: Liberty Conservative ‘Didsbury Derek’ dispatched into deepest darkness

Posted on February 03, 2018, 1:35 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Derek Fildebrandt as he hoped to be perceived when he went hunting in rural Alberta (photo grabbed from his Facebook account). It didn’t work out as planned. Below: Mr. Fildebrandt as he appeared around the Alberta Legislature, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, and former UCP Caucus member Don MacIntyre (Photo: David Dodge, Green Energy Futures Flickr).

It was snowing in Didsbury on Groundhog Day 2018, when Derek Fildebrandt, former United Conservative Party leadership wannabe and self-described “Liberty Conservative,” was dispatched into deepest political darkness.

Mr. Fildebrandt, elected as a Wildrose Party MLA in the Strathmore-Brooks constituency in 2015 but lately lingering in limbo as a much-diminished Independent for his multitude of political sins, had hoped to be readmitted to the UCP Caucus in the Alberta Legislature by his old friend Opposition Leader Jason Kenney. This outcome had been expected in many political quarters, including this one – mea culpa.

Alas, instead of seeing the end of his period in political purgatory yesterday, Mr. Fildebrandt was cast into eternal exile by Mr. Kenney.

Several of the Ottawa native’s political sins were of the deadly variety, but two turned out to be unpardonable:

The first such was that having been caught in unlawful possession of wildlife – to wit, a deer shot on a famer’s private property in rural Alberta. To this Mr. Fildebrandt pleaded guilty in Didsbury Provincial Court yesterday. He was thereupon fined $3,000.

A plea deal had been worked out – the sort of thing conservative politicians normally decry – and another charge of illegally hunting on private property was dropped.

Given the date, the weather and the location, Mr. Fildebrandt is likely forever after to be associated with groundhogs, and the sobriquet “Didsbury Derek” therefore suggests itself as appropriate.

Perhaps the town north of Calgary can recruit a suitable candidate from the species Marmota monax for the role. If the rodent appears in town on Feb. 2, another full year of winter will be forecast for the province’s “Liberty Conservatives.”

Conservative political parties in Alberta depend on their reliable rural base, and if there’s anything real farmers hate it’s city boys with high-powered rifles trespassing on their property, endangering livestock and humans, and generally behaving like fools with firearms. Of this, it has now been established, Mr. Fildebrandt was literally guilty.

The Ottawa native’s second unpardonable political sin was that he turns out to have been less than completely forthright with Mr. Kenney about it.

Given his loyalty to the UCP and the active role he played in getting Mr. Kenney elected as the party’s leader, it seems likely Mr. Fildebrandt would otherwise have been forgiven for his earlier political embarrassments – among them getting caught renting out his taxpayer subsidized Edmonton condo on Airbnb while claiming expenses from the Legislature and being found guilty of damaging a neighbour’s automobile with his pickup truck and then just taking off. He was fined $402 in December for that crash-up.

Lying to your leader is rarely forgiven in politics, however, and never when the leader is a past lieutenant of former prime minister Stephen Harper. But it could hardly have helped that all these stories broke during a time Mr. Kenney was in the process of asserting himself as the leader of the newly established UCP.

Less than an hour after the court had made its decision, Mr. Kenney issued a blunt press release stating Mr. Fildebrandt had “deliberately misled” party inquisitors and failed to meet the standard of integrity required of UCP members and candidates.

“Given this pattern of behaviour, on November 29, 2017 myself, House Leader Jason Nixon and my Deputy Chief of Staff met with Mr. Fildebrandt. The purpose of this meeting was to question Mr. Fildebrandt on whether there were any other outstanding matters of which we should be aware before considering an application from him to rejoin our caucus,” the news release said.

“We questioned Mr. Fildebrandt extensively for an hour. At no point during that meeting did Mr. Fildebrandt disclose that just 25 days prior he had been charged with the offense which led to the Court hearing today.” As a result of that omission, Mr. Kenney went on, “I can only conclude that Mr. Fildebrandt deliberately misled us in refusing to disclose this outstanding charge. Consequently, neither I nor our Caucus can have confidence in the veracity of his undertakings to us.

“I have therefore decided that Mr. Fildebrandt will not be permitted to return to our Caucus, a decision supported by our Caucus following consultations earlier today,” the leader’s statement concluded.

By permanently skidding Mr. Fildebrandt, Mr. Kenney has proved he is tougher than former Wildrose Party leader and unsuccessful UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean, who tried to kick the Strathmore-Brooks MLA out of caucus for endorsing a Facebook user’s homophobic attack on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne back in May 2016.

After howls of outrage by Mr. Fildebrandt’s supporters – including a “Save Derek” campaign on Rebel Media – Mr. Jean folded and meekly readmitted his then finance critic to the Wildrose tent. I imagine Mr. Jean allowed himself a grim smile of satisfaction yesterday.

Mr. Kenney will be a tougher nut to crack for Mr. Fildebrandt’s supporters – if any remain. Indeed, there was no mention of Mr. Fildebrandt’s difficulties yesterday on the alt-right video blog that championed his cause in 2016.

It is highly unlikely Mr. Fildebrandt’s Alberta political career, which appears to be done to a turn, will ever recover.

He could return to his role as Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, since the position is now occupied by an interim director, although he left that supposedly non-partisan organization abruptly in November 2014 after a blogger reported he was being recruited to run for the Wildrose Party.

It seems more likely Mr. Fildebrandt will serve out his term in Strathmore-Brooks until the next election, and then return to his home province of Ontario, where the pastures are bound to be greener for a person like him than they are now in rural Southern Alberta.

Fatally self-absorbed yet barely self-aware to the bitter end, Mr. Fildebrandt Tweeted his last word yesterday with the observation “Revolution devours its own children.” This doubtless confirmed for Mr. Kenney, who may not wish to be perceived as a revolutionary plotting a Parisian Terror or worse, that he had made the right decision.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre suddenly leaves UCP and politics

The United Conservative Party Caucus also lost a member yesterday with the sudden resignation of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre.

Mr. MacIntyre, best known as being among the UCP Caucus’s most aggressive climate change deniers, said in a 13-word Tweet late in the day that he is leaving politics to focus on his family.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney acknowledged Mr. MacIntyre’s departure in an even more economical news release, which required only 12 words.

Media swiftly reported the reason for Mr. MacIntyre’s departure from politics, then abruptly withdrew their stories in whole or in part. Anyone who was paying attention yesterday afternoon knows the reason, and traces of the stories linger on the Internet.

I expect at least one news organization with a legal department will attempt to remedy this situation over the weekend, after which reasonable discussion of the public interest can take place.

21 Comments to: Groundhog Day 2018: Liberty Conservative ‘Didsbury Derek’ dispatched into deepest darkness

  1. David

    February 3rd, 2018

    My initial thought when I saw the picture of Derek and the dead deer was that his political career was as dead as that deer. Later I began to wonder if he would have a miraculous resurection due to the forgiveness by the dear leader. However, I find Kenneys statement today too clever and self serving. Derek never denied what he did publically and it was fairly clear he was guilty so why did Kenney wait until now? Was there some faint hope his former friend would wiggle out of the charges, if so then lying to the leader was not the fatal sin, it was the conviction by the court. In hindsight Derek’s career was dead when he shot the deer, today was the funeral and final internment.

    The UCP losing two members in one day is worse than careless. The casualty rate since Kenney arrived is getting noticeably high. I suppose grafting a rural rump and an urban rump together may not create a healthy and thriving party. Kenney may try to pass off all the losses and departures as normal, but something seems off here. Maybe the Conservative elite barely noticed a slight shudder on the upper deck today, but there are noticeable holes and casualties below. The UCP may not be as unsinkable as it leader likes to portray.

    Reply
  2. Expat Albertan

    February 3rd, 2018

    “Given this pattern of behaviour, on November 29, 2017 myself, House Leader Jason Nixon and my Deputy Chief of Staff met with Mr. Fildebrandt.”

    I cringe at the incorrect use of the reflexive personal pronoun ‘myself’, so common in today’s discourse.

    As to Don MacIntyre, don’t keep us in suspenders, Dave…what was the original story of his retirement?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      February 3rd, 2018

      I’m afraid I have no choice but to keep you in suspense, Expat, although as noted you can likely still figure it out for yourself by simply Googling Mr. MacIntryre’s name and clicking “NEWS.” (Hint: When the staff of the Lethbridge Herald went home last night, they hadn’t yet pulled their story. At 10:15 this morning, it was still there.) Clearly, a proper discussion of this situation is in the public interest. Clearly the suppression of that discussion about an elected public figure is an outrage against democracy, regardless of the honourable intentions of the ban on free speech. But it is going to have to be up to one of those multi-million-dollar corporations with a legal department and a burning desire for public subsidies, or in the case of the CBC, with the public funds already in the bank account, to make the case in court or go out on a limb and act defiantly in the defence of the public interest. Don’t look at me! DJC

      Reply
      • Curtis

        February 3rd, 2018

        At 11:35 this morning, all references to pending charges were gone.

        Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        February 3rd, 2018

        Well the stories are down, but the Google headlines are still up, so I get the idea.

        Reply
    • Curtis

      February 3rd, 2018

      “I cringe at the incorrect use of the reflexive personal pronoun ‘myself’, so common in today’s discourse.”
      I thoroughly agree. Toss in the overused ‘impact’ and ‘impacted’, and we can call it a Daily Double.

      Reply
  3. Magda

    February 3rd, 2018

    Gotta disagree with you there, Dave: Fildebrandt committed only one political sin. He failed to appreciate that his usefulness to JK was over once JK became leader. DF’s value and true talent lay in his constant efforts to show that Brian Jean was an ineffective leader. That talent was not needed anymore.

    Strangely, DF seems to realize that. He tweeted yesterday that “The revolution eats its children”. Dawn (finally) breaks over Marblehead, to abuse another quote.

    Reply
    • Curtis

      February 3rd, 2018
      Reply
      • Val Jobson

        February 3rd, 2018

        So is Derek going to be Danton to Kenney’s Robespierre?

        When Kenney stumbles while speaking in the Legislature, someone should yell “The blood of Derek chokes thee!”

        http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h33-fr4.htm

        Reply
  4. February 3rd, 2018

    When I first saw the CBC story the cynic in me wondered if there was some collusion going on between Jason Kenney and Derek Fildebrandt – in return for backing Kenney up on the misleading claim, Fildebrandt could still have a job in the organization. A revised version of the story, however, reported that Fildebrandt tweeted “Revolution devours its own children.”. That sounds to me like Derek is going to have to get a real job.

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      February 3rd, 2018

      He could run for dogcatcher but that’s the most difficult job to get elected to, as in “He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.” So how about Airbnb rental agent, deer hunting guide or valet parking lot attendant?

      Reply
  5. February 3rd, 2018

    With regards to Mr. MacIntyre, it appears our gracious host is also not saying, presumably falling under the same force field the news organizations are under. While said news organizations have indeed pulled their stories, the search engine traces of them remain, which is just enough to get a gist of the idea.

    Reply
    • Simon Renouf

      February 4th, 2018

      Mr. MacIntyre was also a member of UCP’s “Task Force on Rural Crime”. No comment other than to observe that presumably that gig is over also.

      Reply
    • Sassy

      February 5th, 2018

      Saw it before it was pulled. This is serious. I’m happy to see #timesup and #metoo is making its way into rural Alberta. He’s telling constituents he is retiring from politics.

      Reply
  6. February 3rd, 2018

    I’m very pleased to see this guy was shown the door. No loss imo.

    Reply
  7. Magda

    February 4th, 2018

    Okay, quick question: how many people believe this meeting actually took place? I don’t. I think there was a terse phone call between DF and JK, informing him of his banishment to the outer regions of the political right, and then DF found out about the meeting the same we did: be reading about it in the UCP news release.

    It takes a certain amount of sadism to set this up, but JK is capable of it. Nixon’s not going to contradict JK, not after his own screw-up and because he was a big cabinet post. DF swallowed real hard and took it because the only hope he has for Alberta employment once JK is premier (yeah, yeah, I know but in the UCP-verse this is a foregone conclusion) is to be a lobbyist.

    And of course, JK has him on a tight leash because if JK is displeased with DF in any way then JK will let it be known quietly that he doesn’t want to see DF in Edmonton – at all – after the next election. And no one will hire him. So shutting up and taking it is very much in DF’s long-term eating-and-staying-alive interest right now.

    Comparing JK to Trump is so ridiculous because EVERYTHING JK does is strategic and cold. Trump lies like he breathes, without thinking about it. JK is far more dangerous.

    Reply
  8. Brett

    February 5th, 2018

    Birds of a feather.

    Kenney has already demonstrated that he will do anything, say anything in order to get elected.

    The other side of the coin, Fildebrandt has proven himself unworthy to hold public office of any sort.

    This is about power, political machinations. Do you really think that Kenney really cares that Fildebtrandt fibbed, that he did a hit and run, or that he was guilty of shooting the deer on private land?

    No, he only cares that it became public. The only thing left was for Kenney to turn the situation to his advantage. Which he quickly did.

    Reply
  9. Aloysius

    February 6th, 2018

    So Fildebrandt would have been forgiven for the unethical use of a taxpayer subsidized resident to generate personal income,would have been forgiven for a hit-and-run, and would have been forgiven for the criminal taking of a deer…. but God forbid he would lie to Jason Kenney!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      February 6th, 2018

      By omission. Yes. What’s your point? DJC

      Reply
  10. Brett

    February 6th, 2018

    Oh my, a politician lied to another politician. I think this is called practicing for the election.

    Reply

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