Rogue One, a Right Wing Wars Story: wherein the Wildrose Party’s Derek Fildebrandt slips his leader’s leash

Posted on December 16, 2016, 1:23 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Wildrose Party Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt going rogue at Rebel Media’s Calgary anti-everything rally last Sunday (CBC photo). Below: Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney as imagined for this story’s rather labored metaphor. (They said I couldn’t do it. Actual PC leadership contenders may not appear exactly as illustrated.) Plus, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, thinking hard about his better way to merge Alberta’s two right-wing parties.

There’s no question about it: Derek Fildebrandt has slipped his leader’s leash.

Mr. Fildebrandt, the Wildrose Party’s “shadow finance minister” as the Alberta Opposition pretentiously calls its legislative policy critics, has never really been what you’d call a team player.

Indeed, back in May when his social media posts started to go way over the top, Opposition Leader Brian Jean tried to fire him for an online endorsement of a homophobic slur directed at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne … and failed.

fatvaderWhen Mr. Fildebrandt’s friends in the party screamed loud enough to make Mr. Jean back down, the former Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Alberta stunt director was able to make a deal with his leader that he’d behave himself in return for staying on the front benches. For a spell it seemed to work.

No more. As of yesterday, when the Strathmore-Brooks MLA openly defied Mr. Jean and called for an immediate merger of the province’s two right-wing political parties during an interview with a small-town radio station, Mr. Fildebrandt is officially completely out of control.

Now, everyone on the right side of the aisle in Alberta politics wants to merge the two right-wing parties – the Wildrose Opposition and the formerly governing Progressive Conservatives, now the third party in the Legislature. They rightly see their disunity in the recent past as among the conditions that set the stage for the unexpected victory by Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats in May 2015.

The problem is how to do it in a way that sees each major player’s particular brand of conservatism emerge on top.

Former Harper Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney has a plan I’ve called a double reverse hostile takeover. He’s running to lead the PCs. If he wins in March, he wants them to swallow the Wildrose. Then (although this part is never quite said out loud) moderate progressive Conservatives will be purged, just as they were in Ottawa by Mr. Kenney’s mentor, former prime minister Stephen Harper. In other words, the Wildrose will in fact have swallowed the PCs.

brian_jeanTraditional big-tent Progressive Conservatives would prefer to soldier on without the radical Wildrosers in their ranks, because they fear their party would be selling its soul for a potential victory by uniting with an extremist Tea Party fringe that is so influential among the Wildrose support base.

Mr. Jean wants the Wildrose to come out on top – but with him as the leader, not Mr. Kenney. Mr. Jean says he has a plan for a merger that’s better than Mr. Kenney’s – he just hasn’t explained what it is yet.

By yesterday, the impetuous and impatient Mr. Fildebrandt – who surely has leadership ambitions of his own – appeared to have finally had enough. So he took to the airwaves with his unite-the-right-right-now manifesto, which in effect means he has taken Mr. Kenney’s side in this Tory Family feud.

But it’s been clear for a while a storm has been brewing – at least since Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s victory south of the Medicine Line, which a lot of extreme Alberta right-wingers like the former president of the Reagan-Goldwater Club at Ottawa’s Carleton University have taken as a sure sign their star is on the rise.

For Mr. Fildebrandt’s part, his social media posts have taken on a nastily aggressive tone again, and he showed up as a guest speaker at an alt-right rally last Sunday in Calgary put on by Ezra Levant’s disreputable Rebel Media organization. That surely couldn’t have pleased Mr. Jean, who is trying his utmost to make his party look moderate and reasonable.

And then there was yesterday’s off-the-cuff interview in Whitecourt, northwest of Edmonton, in which Mr. Fildebrandt called the NDP “too ideological, and too destructive to the future of this province to take chances for our own personal political gain.” As something that sounded like an organ grinder played in the background, Mr. Fildebrandt exclaimed: “I’m willing to put everything I’ve accomplished in politics on the line for this.”

Well, maybe that’s the way he really sees it. But there’s an alternative way to spin this.

For one thing, other than getting elected in a rural riding east of Calgary and ratcheting up an increasingly tense relationship with his leader, Mr. Fildebrandt really hasn’t accomplished all that much.

Despite his support from the Wildrose base, he has pretty well burned his bridges with Mr. Jean. If the Wildrose were to win government under Mr. Jean, it seems unlikely the leader would put his dangerously fractious critic in his real cabinet.

Likewise, moderate PCs don’t want Mr. Fildebrandt around – in fact, he would serve them nicely as a way to demonstrate to urban voters they’re a saner, less extreme conservative alternative.

So Mr. Fildebrandt’s only hope from the perspective of personal political gain may be to go rogue and roll the dice for a victory by Mr. Kenney, the chubby Darth Vader of Alberta politics.

Rogue One: A Right Wing Wars Story, coming to a public forum near you this week!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

28 Comments to: Rogue One, a Right Wing Wars Story: wherein the Wildrose Party’s Derek Fildebrandt slips his leader’s leash

  1. That Dawg

    December 16th, 2016

    I suspect this was Derek’s petulant response to his party removing him as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, something that went largely unnoticed by most media, except for the CBC.

    Word is that the Rosies are shuffling their critic portfolios, although nothing has been revealed yet. One wonders if Mr. Fildebrandt is now critic of anything more than just his own party and their leader…

    http://www.assembly.ab.ca/committees/publicaccounts/index.html

    Reply
  2. David Climenhaga

    December 16th, 2016

    Great catch, Dawg. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Reply
  3. Jim Storrie

    December 16th, 2016

    I don’t know what a ‘pubic forum’ is but I hope I’m never invited to one.

    Reply
  4. Jono

    December 16th, 2016

    I am quite bothered by today’s right-wing labeling everyone they don’t agree with as “ideological” as if being ideological is one of the worst things one can be. Although their market fundamentalist ideology may differ from the Alberta NDP’s, they are JUST as ideological as anyone else! Perhaps they are getting the term mixed up with idealistic, but it seems that the Alberta NDP have been quite pragmatic in their approach to governing. It’s time to stop using “ideology” pejoratively!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 16th, 2016

      The Wildrose Party is the most ideological party in Alberta politics. Some say this is transference, in the psychological sense, but I see it as a deliberate strategy to obfuscate. Caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Accuse the person who caught you of stealing cookies.

      Reply
      • December 16th, 2016

        It was a tactic of the Liberals and NDP federally to label anything the Harper Conservatives did as “ideological”, in contrast to their ideas which are supposedly based not on ideology, but on fact and science and data.
        It just so happened that everything centre-left happened to be based on fact and science and data. Who knew?!
        Conservatives grew annoyed with the pejorative and have simply turned it around, suggesting that they have the copyright on common sense, and practicality while the NDP are slavishly devoted to a Marxist rulebook.

        Reply
        • Murphy

          December 18th, 2016

          Not that there is a scintilla of evidence to support your assertion that the NDP are in any way a manifestation of Marxist thought, but were that true, the underlying tenet of Marxism is dialectical materialism. The basic tenet of Harper’s brand of Reformakonism is magical-thinking, both the social conservatism of the fundy weirdos and the “unseen hand”, trickle-down rubbish that passes for economic theory. So you were correct in your assessment that the left has ideas based on fact and science and data, and the right does not. So you get a half-point for that.

          Reply
  5. Philip Akin

    December 16th, 2016

    Did you mean public or, indeed, pubic in your last sentence? Interesting images either way.

    Reply
  6. albertaD

    December 16th, 2016

    I responded the way you did to the quote “I’m willing to put everything I’ve accomplished in politics on the line for this.” I actually snorted my coffee out my nose when I read that. Easy to put everything on the line when “everything” means “practically nothing”.

    Reply
  7. J.E. Molnar

    December 16th, 2016

    Derek Fildebrant’s desperate attempt to jump the shark was fashioned partly by the Alberta Prosperity Fund super PAC that predicted in the summer a doomsday scenario would likely befall the right if Rachel Notley and her government were successful in getting pipeline approval for Alberta.

    Fildebrant, sensing an NDP sledgehammer about to deliver the knockout blow to the aspirational hopes of the right, has now taken it upon himself to lash out at his own leader with a Brutus-like strike. The right is running scared and in a panic, while the NDP merrily soldiers on with pipeline approvals, a growing financial election war chest and sensible and prudent legislation passed in the last session of the legislature.

    Watching the frantic exploits of the right in trying to unite itself is like watching my grandmother herd her cats — entertaining but very frustrating.

    Reply
    • J.E. Molnar

      December 16th, 2016

      This is the actual quote from Alberta Prosperity Fund, the super PAC, (with thanks to Progress Alberta).

      “If there’s a doomsday scenario and [the Alberta NDP] actually get a pipeline built. If that ever happens they’re going to govern for the next twenty years.”

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        December 16th, 2016

        One can only hope.

        Reply
  8. Geoff

    December 16th, 2016

    I read yesterday that there will be a job opening in Fort Mac for the position of Mayor shortly plus the WRP have registered two other political party names for some reason, the Wildrose are back to being in utter free fall.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 16th, 2016

      Media and the blogosphere reported last May that the Wildrose Party had registered the names Alberta Conservative Party Association and Conservative Party of Alberta Association, either to eventually use them itself or in an attempt to prevent someone else from using those names. Alberta legislation also prevents parties from adopting names that could be confused with the name of another registered party.

      Reply
  9. CuJo Calgary

    December 16th, 2016

    “Mr. Kenney, the chubby Darth Vader of Alberta politics.”
    Perfect except there’s no son named Luke, unless he was immaculately conceived. 😉

    Reply
  10. Wee but amusing typo

    December 16th, 2016

    Er, “pubic” forum.

    Reply
  11. David Climenhaga

    December 16th, 2016

    Freudian slip? It was bound to happen sooner or later. To all those who commented on the amusing error in the last line of this piece, I am always grateful to my readers for their editorial services. It has been corrected. DJC

    Reply
  12. brett

    December 16th, 2016

    Alberta politics seem to be sliding these days. I don’t care what Mssrs Kenney, Jean, or Filderbrandt to. I have no intention of voting for them or for their party.

    I voted NDP for the first time in the last election. It was a gamble. If an election were held today I would do exactly the same but with confidence that I was voting for the right party.

    Seems to me everything is moving right. NDP have moved just left of centre, Conservatives have joined Wildrose to just right of Attila the Hun.

    Seems the federal Consevatives are going the same way with their Canadian values and Bear Spray platform.

    Reasonable people are running out of alternatives.

    Reply
    • Alfredo Louro

      December 16th, 2016

      I think the NDP is courting precisely those people who up till now considered themselves moderate conservatives and who do not identify with the right wing extremists that have appropriated the conservative name for themselves.Sandra Jansen’s conversion is a symptom of that, I think.

      Reply
  13. Alvin Finkel

    December 16th, 2016

    Derek Fildebrandt accuses the NDP government of “destroying” Alberta. That’s absurd. They are in fact constructing Alberta, or restoring it, depending on which word is most appropriate for an ambitious infrastructure program. Since the Klein years, conservative governments in the province stopped spending money on infrastructure in order to keep taxes on the masses low enough to disguise the absolute giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy. Our hospitals, schools, and roads were heading for Third World status even as the oil price boom made Alberta one of the wealthiest places on earth. The NDP government is spending money to maintain infrastructure and to catch up with provincial needs. That doesn’t come cheap, especially when oil prices and therefore government revenues have dropped. Add that infrastructure work to the government’s efforts at economic diversification and compare to the conservatives’ focus on one industry and depriving citizens of needed infrastructure and tell me who are the ideologues and destroyers, and who are the pragmatists and creators.

    Reply
    • Mike in Edmonton

      December 16th, 2016

      Has anyone else noticed that right-wing politicians accuse left-wing politicians of doing things that right-wing politicians do routinely? Derek Fildebrandt is an extreme example (Donald Trump was much worse, so far).

      If Derek really wants to be a leader, maybe we could convince him to lead other Ontario radical-right expats back home….

      Reply
  14. 9 sided

    December 16th, 2016

    Next election may not be Right vs. Left but Trogs vs. Progs.

    Reply
  15. Alfredo Louro

    December 16th, 2016

    All this commotion is purely about personal ambition and greed. These people seem to be completely uninterested in any kind of policy discussion.

    Reply
  16. ronmac

    December 16th, 2016

    All this talk about the PCs and Wildrosers merging has left me confused, not to say dazed. Especially when terms like “double reverse hostile takeovers” are added to the mix. What in the heck does that mean?

    For the sake of clarity the following video may shed some light on Alberta’s political scene.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IedDVXFu2XQ

    Reply
  17. David

    December 16th, 2016

    Mr. Fildebrandt is calling others dangerously ideological now – that is funny. I guess either he doesn’t own a mirror or care to look into it, unless he recently had all the ideological bones in his body recently secretly removed.

    Actually, he seems to single handedly make a strong argument against merger, but I suppose that was not his intention.

    Reply
  18. brett

    December 18th, 2016

    After giving this more thought my feeling is that this is not about the two parties, Alberta, Albertans etc.

    I sugest that is probably about Derek Fildebrandt. He has put his finger in the air and decided which way be believes the wind is ultimately going to blow (hope he is wrong).

    This is most likely about Derek Fildebrandt making a deal with Jason Kenney. It is about Filderbrandt doing what is best for Derek Fildebrandt and to heck with anyone else.

    Anything to get his name in the media and chart a course for a potential ‘feathered nest’.

    Reply
  19. Doyle

    August 16th, 2017

    Jason Kenney is a lot more of a Randy Bobandy from Trailer Park Boys than he is a Darth Vader. Hopefully he will give us all a yearly cheeseburger benefit kinda like the GST one. I’d vote for that…

    Reply

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