PHOTOS: Yon Fildebrandt has that lean and hungry look … Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, right, and his finance critic, still, Derek Fildebrandt, in happier times. Below: Wildrose MLAs Drew Barnes, Leela Aheer and Tany Yao.

Seemingly flying beneath the radar, Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean has completed a significant reshuffle of his shadow cabinet, the party’s MLA page shows.

All 22 Wildrose MLAs in the Alberta legislature hold a major critic’s portfolio, and 13 of them were assigned new jobs in the shuffle. Click here to see the full list of assignments.

Among the most significant changes:

  • Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes moves from health to energy
  • Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Leela Aheer from energy to education
  • Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao from caucus chair to health
  • Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken from transportation to labour

The most significant non-move was that of Strathmore Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who despite being a persistent thorn in Mr. Jean’s side for the better part of 2016, remains comfortably ensconced in the important finance portfolio.

Meanwhile, however, the most important potential change of them all wasn’t part of the shuffle … just yet, anyway.

But persistent reports today from a variety of sources indicated Mr. Jean himself is seriously eyeing a run for Mayor of the Municipal District of Wood Buffalo, which encompasses the city of Fort McMurray, in the October 2017 municipal election.

With Mayor Melissa Blake planning not to seek re-election next year after nearly two decades in office, a shuffle off to Wood Buffalo offers a graceful way for Mr. Jean to solve his biggest problem and step out of the way of the juggernaut known as Jason Kenney, the front-running “unite the right” candidate to lead the Progressive Conservative Party and merge it with the Wildrose.

No doubt heavy pressure is being applied to Mr. Jean from certain well-heeled quarters for him to take the proverbial walk in the snow, with promises of generous support of his Fort Mac mayoral bid should he decide to get out of the way.

Keep in mind, though, the immortal political advice of the late U.S. president John F. Kennedy: “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually a smoke-making machine!”

If true, however, and if he succeeded, this would make Mr. Jean the first person to be MP, MLA and mayor of Fort McMurray. It would also render his allegedly better plan to unite the right, discussed in this space yesterday, moot.

UPDATE: So much for a shuffle off to Wood Buffalo. Brian Jean’s office issued a statement on Tuesday, Dec. 20, saying “Jean is absolutely not running for RMWB mayor.”

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  1. We now know for sure that Brian Jean is not in charge of the WRP. Leaving the loose cannon as personified by Derek Fildebrandt in the Finance Critics seat demonstrates the WRP is more interested in lobbing shells in from the sidelines rather than actually coming up with real alternative plans to govern.

    The question now is will Mr Jean resign his seat to run for mayor, or will it somehow be different for him than for other politicians that he and his party pilloried for not resigning their seats? In any case Mr Jean will be just a few months short of collecting his MP pension (at age 55) since he had the foresight to resign before the last federal election when his pension would have been locked away until he turned 65. It will probably be better for Mr Jean to get into the relative calm of municipal politics than staying at the helm of the group of crazies that is the WRP.

    The positive of Brian Jean resigning is that the WRP will be given free reign to demonstrate just how crazy they are, which should help the NDP to another majority. But then we saw what happened with Donald Trump, so crazy can win…

    1. You don’t want to leave the WRP too intact if you’re talking a merger. Having somebody like Fildebrandt around to really put the nail in the coffin of the brand can be useful, he’s really not all that talented as a politician and I’m sure there’s plenty of private sector companies willing to pat him on the crotch for a job well done sinking the Green Machine.

  2. If he did resign, would WRP just wait passively for Jason Kenny to take over, if he wins the PCAA leadership? Or would they elect a new leader? Would Fildebrandt win? Would he join with Kenney or would they start to spat? This begs to be a soap opera.

    1. Could be. I created that chart myself. I believe it is accurate as far as it goes, but I may have missed things. Since there has been no official announcement, the old assignments had disappeared from the WRP website, and old news reports were sketchy, it was quite hard to compare the assignments in a short time frame. I do my best in a hurt, but since no one is paying me for this there’s only so much time. I’ll try to update it with more complete information for future posts. DJC

  3. If those stuborn Wildrosers would just do as they were told this time, life would be so much easier for Mr. Manning and those other unelected conservative elite trying to pull the strings for Mr. Kenney.

  4. Dave,

    Here is a more hypothetical question if Kenney were to win the leadership of the PC’s which of the existing of MLA’s around Calgary (I am thinking particularly in the South East section of the city) will step down to allow Kenney to run in a by-election. Second how long do you think the Notley government will stall such a by-election?

    1. And it just gets more interesting and interesting. Alison Redford’s former chief of staff Lee Richardson is musing about running for the Federal Liberals in Stephen Harper’s old riding. I will also note there is a bit of precedence in terms of another ex PC MP Bill Casey from Nova Scotia who is now a Liberal MP.

      Is this what the Preston Manning/Jason Kenney crowd has in mind.

      He admitted his decision could carry a personal price.

      “I may lose some friends on the Reform Party side, I doubt I would lose friends on the Progressive Conservative side, but those are things you consider, and it’s not something I can take lightly.”

      Asked what would Stephen Harper think of the prospect his former caucus colleague would run against his old party, Richardson said “I have no idea, you’d have to ask Stephen Harper about that. I have no idea, and it’s not something that would sway my decision one way or the other.”
      “I’m a Lougheed Tory, a centrist, a Mulroney Tory, I was never a Reform Party guy.”

    2. Interesting questions, to which I don’t know the answers. To the second, one, however, I imagine they would get along with it fairly briskly on the grounds it might give Mr. Kenney plenty of opportunities to shoot himself in the feet. If I were him, by the same token, I might prefer not to run until the general election is called.

  5. Fildebrandt, Jean and J. Kenney
    Each thought there were two cons too many
    So they fought and they fit
    And they scratched and they bit
    Till (excepting their nails
    And the tips of their tails)
    Instead of three cons there weren’t any!

  6. It seems Mr. Jean does not want or aspire to be the Mayor of Wood Buffalo, but seems to want to continue to be the leader of the official opposition, possibly the leader of a united conservative party and hopes to eventually be the premier of Alberta. That poses another problem for the coronation of Mr. Kenney as the great right hope and the unelected conservative elite led by Mr. Manning who are behind Kenney.

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