PHOTOS: Derek Fildebrandt in full rhetorical flight before, obviously, a friendly audience. (Screen shot from … wherever.) There goes the author’s theory that just using an Apple computer makes you a better person! Below: Your blogger’s overused photos of UCP leadership candidates Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, a stock shot of hopeful Doug Schweitzer, grabbed from his web page, and proof the author has been able to tie a bow tie for a very long time now.
These are the dog days of summer, the bane of your blogger’s previous existence as a journalist.
The sun beats down. The movers and shakers have all decamped for high-priced vacation spots. News has gone AWOL.
It’s times like these that men like Derek Fildebrandt prove their worth!
Without the Derek Fildebrandts of this world there would be nothing to write about in August but BBQ recipes and instructional manuals for the fashion pages on how to tie a bowtie. (The shame!)
With them, thank goodness, there are amusing stories about disunity amid the not-quite-United Conservatives and the struggles of entrepreneurial publicly subsidized landlords, which are less work to write than thoughtful treatises on the Electoral Boundaries Commission and less frustrating than describing the perfect mimosa while not being permitted to drink on the job.
Mr. Fildebrandt, alas, has pulled the plug on his bid to lead the so-called United Conservative Party and Alberta to market fundamentalist nirvana. Perhaps his United Liberty Ltd. PAC, registered in the office of a small law firm apparently offering online services from the dusty meatpacking city of Brooks, Alberta, failed to raise enough dough.
This would not be completely surprising, seeing as the electors of rural Alberta ridings like Strathmore-Brooks don’t mind a little socialism, as long as it’s flowing mainly in their direction and accompanied by appropriately right-wing rhetoric. Maxime Bernier-style market fundamentalism? Perhaps not, at least if it means closing their nice rural hospital.
At any rate, the self-described “liberty conservative” and founder of the campus Reagan-Goldwater Society at Ottawa’s Carleton University, decided to go out with a bang worthy of Donald J. Trump, almost.
That is to say, the sort of bang associated with a metaphorical grenade, tossed in the general direction of Brian Jean, until recently the leader of the Wildrose Party and generally thought to be the man most capable of offering a credible challenge for the UCP’s leadership to front-runner Jason Kenney. Which is to say, of course, not very credible at all.
But Mr. Kenney, a former utility infielder in the cabinet of former PM Stephen Harper, is not one to leave matters of competition to chance if he doesn’t have to, and so a deal presumably has been cut with Mr. Fildebrandt to win his half-hearted support.
Half hearted, that is, because Mr. Fildebrandt, who obviously thinks he’s a better man than either of the other two, has vowed to remain “neutral” in the race – neutral, that is, except not so neutral about Mr. Jean, whom he declared to be “not the best man to lead the party and lead Alberta.”
Mr. Fildebrandt and Mr. Jean have heartily disliked each other since the latter attempted, unsuccessfully, to fire the former from the Wildrose front benches and caucus in May 2016 for endorsing a social media message by a constituent who posted a homophobic commentary about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The social media artiste said he was proud to have an MLA like Mr. Fildebrandt, who told “the truth about Mr. Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as.”
Mr. Fildebrandt responded by saying he was proud to have a constituent like that too. Then the stuff hit the fan in the Legislature’s cooling system – which may explain why it has occurred to Mr. Kenney to turn the thing off for a spell should he ever gain power.
This all came about after a boorish outburst in the provincial Legislature by Mr. Fildebrandt, then the Wildrose finance critic, directed at Premier Wynne, who was seated in the gallery as a guest of NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
It was not Mr. Fildebrandt’s first bozo eruption, either, and Mr. Jean had the good sense to be embarrassed – which is to say, in the eyes of much of the Wildrose base, the bad sense to be embarrassed.
The upshot was that a few days later, Mr. Jean was forced by his caucus and party to take back Mr. Fildebrandt, with metaphorical scrambled eggs on faces all round, and fake amity has prevailed since, until … well, now.
“I’ve seen a leadership style that focused more on making the party about a single individual than a greater collective,” sniped Mr. Fildebrandt at Mr. Jean, a point the latter might wish to dispute in a fairly obvious way.
“I want a leader who is going to focus on building a party and building a team” – presumably with Mr. Fildebrandt in a prominent spot on it – “and not just promoting themselves and their own personal brand,” Mr. Fildebrandt concluded.
Mr. Kenney, of course, executor of the recent hostile reverse takeovers of the Progressive Conservative Party and then the Wildrose, seems rather less likely to tolerate ideological deviations or bozo eruptions than did Mr. Jean, but that, one supposes, is a bridge to be crossed on another day.
On the other hand, as someone who double-dipped for months as a federal MP while running for the Progressive Conservative leadership, Mr. Kenney may be inclined to overlook complaints that the entrepreneurial finance critic has been caught renting out his Edmonton apartment on Airbnb while claiming $7,720 for accommodation expenses. “It’s the 21st Century,” Mr. Fildebrandt huffed to an Edmonton Journal reporter when caught.
Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, who has never held public office but seems to have a nicer smile than anyone else in the race, is also running for the UCP leadership, as is former Wildrose Party President Jeff Callaway.
Meanwhile, in the Imperial Capital, Mr. Trump, successor to the Republican leaders mentioned above, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, is vowing to reign down fire and fury on North Korea … with, presumably, plenty of gamma rays left over for Alberta, British Columbia and the northwestern United States.
NOTE: This story has been updated to include the name of UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway.