PHOTO: Derek Fildebrandt, a (former?) Wildrose Opposition MLA and as of right now chair of the Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee. (Photo © David Climenhaga, just sayin’.)
Tomorrow morning, the Alberta Legislature’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts will have the opportunity to grill officials from Alberta Treasury Board and Finance about the state of the province’s public sector pension plans.
This is a chance for the Opposition Wildrose Party to score some points against the NDP Government, which they like to portray as pro-union, since a member of the Official Opposition traditionally chairs the important 15-member all-party committee. As chair, Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt …
Mr. Fildebrandt isn’t a member of the Opposition, is he? And he certainly isn’t the Wildrose Party’s “shadow minister of finance” any more. Is he?
As readers will doubtless recall, the MLA for Strathmore-Brooks was kicked out of the Wildrose Opposition Caucus by Opposition Leader Brian Jean long-distance from Vancouver with a preemptory press release just before midnight Friday after a brouhaha erupted over Mr. Fildebrandt’s apparently accidental endorsement of a homophobic Facebook message by a constituent.
So what happens now? Does Mr. Jean tell Mr. Fildebrandt to step aside as committee chair? And what if he won’t?
Does the Opposition leader cave in to the screams from the party’s loony right for Mr. Fildebrandt’s restoration to caucus, making himself look like a weakling? If Mr. Fildebrandt really is “back within days,” then he will own Mr. Jean! Certainly Mr. Fildebrandt has some bargaining power he didn’t appear to have Friday night.
However you look at it, this is becoming a major embarrassment for the Wildrose Party.
Do the Wildrosers say their intemperate MLA is out of caucus but can remain as committee chair, thus forfeiting their traditional right to name that committee’s chair?
Do they raise it tomorrow morning with the committee’s chair – who is Mr. Fildebrandt and could rule it out of order?
Do they ask NDP MLA Debbie Jabbour, the Legislature’s chair of committees, to kick him out – if she can – and owe those darned social democrats a big favour?
Do they go to Speaker Bob Wanner and ask him to step in?
What do you want to bet all these questions were on the agenda of this morning’s Wildrose Party damage-control meeting as they tried to figure out what to do in well under 24 hours?
If I may be so bold, these are also all questions the Alberta Legislative Press Gallery might profitably occupy itself asking this afternoon.
Speaking of the Press Gallery, I wonder if that august body is willing to reconsider its loudly proclaimed opinion that Ezra Levant and his cronies at RebelMedia.ca are real journalists, now that the Rebel Commandante and company have set up a website called, wait for it … SaveDerek.ca.
If you visit this site, you will find a petition demanding that Mr. Jean readmit the obstreperous Mr. Fildebrandt to caucus post haste and accusing the Opposition leader of being guilty of “political correctness gone mad.”
I ask you – and more importantly, I ask them – is this what real political journalists do?
On a related note, social media users may have noticed a meme cooked up by “Albertans Against the NDP,” a Facebook group, that says “We want Derek back! Share if you agree.”
If the photo they used looked familiar, there’s a good reason for that. It was taken by your favourite progressive blogger – that is to say, me – and apparently grabbed from this blog. Under the circumstances, I don’t really mind, but some credit or a small payment would be appreciated.
The Public Accounts Committee meeting, which is open to the public and the media, is scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Grassland Room of the Edmonton Federal Building, which is a provincial building, but never mind that just now.