Alberta Politics
Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt and some of his candidates as he would like you to imagine them (Illustration: Duck Dynasty by way of Facebook).

Freedom Conservative Party’s Derek Fildebrandt demonstrates his talent for getting up his opponents’ noses

Posted on July 23, 2018, 1:36 am
9 mins

Derek Fildebrandt, the self-described “Alberta redneck” who now leads the minuscule Freedom Conservative Party, has a talent for getting up his opponents’ noses.

This has served the university-educated Ottawa native extremely well in his tireless quest to earn himself a place in the headlines, and it worked for him again last week when he provoked his former Best Friend Forever, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, into directing a remarkably intemperate blast his way.

The real Derek Fildebrandt at the Alberta Legislature (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We are not going to be distracted from our focus on defeating the NDP by a political vehicle designed to gratify a discredited MLA’s ego,” huffed Mr. Kenney in a Facebook post.

“Derek Fildebrandt was caught cheating on his expenses, renting out a taxpayer-funded apartment, and was found guilty by courts of law of a hit and run, and poaching,” Mr. Kenney went on – inaccurately insofar as the now-Independent Strathmore-Brooks MLA was not found guilty of poaching, although the difference between that and being found illegally in possession of the carcass of a deer you just shot is, as they say in the legal profession, a nice distinction.

Mr. Kenney continued: “He was barred from running for the UCP because of this pattern of poor judgment and unethical conduct, and because he lied to the UCP leadership about outstanding legal charges. Most recently, he attacked the UCP for barring a prospective candidate for having said that an entire faith community is an ‘evil cult’ that should have been ‘snuffed out.’

United Conservative Party Leader and former Fildebrandt BFF Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We are not surprised to see Derek’s latest political stunt, and expect more of the same from him,” the Opposition leader concluded his peroration. “It is unfortunate to see this desperate effort to be relevant, but it will neither deter nor distract us …” yadda-yadda.

This was exactly the same Mr. Kenney, of course, who only a year ago Tweeted of Mr. Fildebrandt: “Thank-you for being an early leader in the unity movement … and a principled voice for more freedom and less government!”

That, of course, was before Mr. Fildebrandt’s notions of “freedom” began to make trouble for Mr. Kenney – as it seems to have done sooner or later for all of the interim FCP leader’s employers since he turned up in Alberta as a Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator half a dozen years ago. (It only seems longer.)

It’s the same Mr. Kenney, too, who throughout the UCP’s first year of existence has engaged in dog-whistling to the Conservative base not really so different from Mr. Fildebrandt’s cruder attacks on “political correctness.”

Mr. Kenney’s not-very-thoughtful response, of course, was exactly what Mr. Fildebrandt was hoping for, the clever lad.

The UCP leader really should have known better. After all, he too was once an agitator for the CTF, an Astro-Turf organization best known for its anti-tax stunts. Well, Mr. Kenney did say he wasn’t surprised by Mr. Fildebrandt’s antics.

Mr. Fildebrandt’s effort certainly had the desired effect of ginning up an enormous amount of media coverage for the FCP, much more than it arguably deserves.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As an aside, this must be deeply frustrating to the leaders of the Alberta Party, which in former Edmonton Mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel has a far more credible leader, and yet struggles to get on the province’s political radar. Perhaps Mr. Mandel should invest in an Elmer Fudd cap and go hunting! But … je digresse.

In addition to how annoying they are to his opponents, Mr. Fildebrandt’s shenanigans can be counted upon to be entertaining, which is why journalists love covering the guy.

Remember, Mr. Fildebrandt is the fellow who once called the Alberta NDP liars because they were keeping their election promises – complete with head-bobbing support from the Conservative establishment. Whatever he gets up to, he’s good for a front-page headline. So professional journalists really should be embarrassed to pretend they’re shocked, just shocked, by his latest nonsense.

Congressman Davy Crockett, as memorialized at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The risk is small – though perhaps not infinitesimal – that Mr. Fildebrandt could end up holding the balance of power in a hung Legislature like B.C.’s Greens, or the Democratic Unionist Party in the Mother of Parliaments, as blogger Susan Wright warned Saturday.

Mr. Kenney’s huffy dismissal, she reckons, is therefore “a serious mistake because tiny rump party with a handful of seats can lead the government around by the nose if the governing party fails to win a majority.”

“It would be a mistake for Kenney to ignore Fildebrandt and the FCP,” she concluded. “It would be an even greater mistake for progressive Albertans to pull back their support of the NDP because they think the FCP will split the conservative vote, allowing the NDP to win.”

Regardless, with Mr. Fildebrandt’s latest success, we can all rest assured we will hear plenty more from the founder of the Reagan-Goldwater student club at his hometown alma mater, Ottawa’s Carleton University.

By the way, Mr. Fildebrandt objects to references to his hometown and status as a relatively new Albertan, now that he’s taken to Alberta-splaining to the rest of us what it takes to be a real “Alberta patriot.” He harrumphed at me recently about this on Twitter, complaining, “Nativist ‘Birtherism’ is a phenomenon of the left in Alberta.”

No one’s asking for Mr. Fildebrandt’s birth certificate, of course, nor Mr. Kenney’s. But I think he should embrace it …. And perhaps he will. After he’s defeated, presumably by UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in the 2019 general election, he can tear a page from the book of the defeated Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett and proclaim, “you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

Never mind how that turned out.

A note on the UCP’s first anniversary

As referenced above, yesterday was the first anniversary of the existence of the United Conservative Party, a political party created in the image of Jason Kenney on the high political principle that you really can fool all of the people all of the time.

Back in the good old days, marginally less cynical than the present era, opponents of the Tory Dynasty used to say the Progressive Conservative Party existed only to be in power, but otherwise seemed to have no underlying philosophy or principles.

This always felt a bit like a rhetorical excess, and yet the swift demise of the PCs after 44 years in power when the Alberta NDP was unexpectedly elected on May 5, 2015, seems to suggest that it was actually quite close to the mark.

At any rate, I suppose we should wish the UPC a slightly belated happy birthday, although not necessarily many happy returns.

15 Comments to: Freedom Conservative Party’s Derek Fildebrandt demonstrates his talent for getting up his opponents’ noses

  1. Rocky

    July 23rd, 2018

    Yer showing off again, Dave.

    Reply
  2. Sam Gunsch

    July 23rd, 2018

    ‘(It only seems longer.)’ is the best line in this post about experience Fildebrandt has imposed on us.

    excerpt: ‘since he turned up in Alberta as a Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator half a dozen years ago. (It only seems longer.)’
    =========================

    Fildebrandt is much more of a Trump-mini-me than Kenney and the rest of Canada is now going to have more laughs about us than anyone could have imagined.

    Reply
  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    July 23rd, 2018

    “It would be an even greater mistake for progressive Albertans to pull back their support of the NDP”

    The environment underlies all we do, the economy, and life itself. If you are not progressive on climate change and the environment, you are not progressive.
    Notley portrays herself as the progressive choice, but Albertans see through this disguise.
    Alienated by her failed climate plan, oilsands expansion and pipeline agenda, and bullying tactics, former supporters will stay home or vote Green in 2019.
    This 2015 NDP supporter can’t wait for the faux-progressive NDP to be tossed from office.

    “If history is any guide in this matter, Notley will eventually take care of herself. It will not be Jason Kenney that necessarily brings her down. If anything, she has out-Kenneyed Kenney. It is her own provincial base that will be her undoing. NDP supporters are not kind to leaders who talk progressivism on the campaign trail and then become corporate cheerleaders in office.” (Michael Harris)

    “Almost as soon as she rocked the nation by winning a majority government, Rachel Notley underwent a political sea change.
    “She quickly morphed into someone the president of Suncor could take to the prom.
    “In fact, she was as tar sands-friendly as Stephen Harper, and much more successful than he was in pressing the dubious cause of this resource.
    “It was Notley, not the late Jim Prentice or Harper, who actually got pipeline approvals.
    “It was Notley who was prepared to trigger an inter-provincial trade war with a neighbour, threatening to reduce oil shipments to British Columbia, and placing a short-lived ban on that province’s wines.
    “It was Notley who suggested Alberta would buy the entire project if Kinder Morgan decided there were easier ways to make money than going to court against the British Columbia government, First Nations and the environmental movement to force their project through.
    “And it was Notley who strong-armed Trudeau into supporting the Trans Mountain project, to the foolhardy extent of perhaps even kicking in financially, despite the gaping hypocrisy and associated environmental dangers.” (Michael Harris)

    Reply
  4. David

    July 23rd, 2018

    I think it might be too soon to write Mr. Fildebrandt off, as Mr. Kenney might hope happens. If Kenney thought Fildebrandt would quietly and meekly go away like the Calgary MLA he recently booted, he was mistaken. Now, Kenney has lost any control he might have had over Fildebrandt and while the party he has latched onto is tiny, Fildebrandt does seem to have a knack for gathering publicity. Unlike the leader of the other small party, he is still/already a MLA rather than a former mayor and a former cabinet minister, which also helps him get attention.

    I think Fildebrandt is much closer to being a populist than the overly controlling, sometimes careful speaking, career politician that Kenney is. I suspect that Fildebrandt, actually having been a Wildrose MLA for some time also probably understands the political culture of the Wildrose side of the UCP. Perhaps Mr. Kenney having been in power in Ottawa for a long time, better understands the PC side.

    I would also say that Mr. Fildebrandt, despite having not been in Alberta that long seems to have enthusiastically taken to his adopted province, perhaps more so than Mr. Kenney who over the years has divided his time between Ottawa and Alberta. I think Mr. Kenney realizes that Fildebrandt has the potential to be a serious threat, primarily to him and that is why Mr. Kenney has gone on the attack so quickly and strongly. Of course, attacking Fildebrandt only gives him more publicity and possibly credibility, so it might not be the best strategy for Kenney. However, saying or doing nothing could be even more potentially dangerous for Kenney and his own political vehicle, designed to gratify his need for power and ego, after he was booted from power in Ottawa.

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    July 23rd, 2018

    So, maybe I am just being paranoid, but with Jason Kenney you never know…

    Remember when Jeff Callaway ran in the UCP leadership race, and some people speculated that he was running as a Jason Kenney puppet, so someone could bad mouth Brian Jean without Jason Kenney having to be seen as playing gutter politics by doing the bad mouthing himself?

    In that same vein, is Derek Fildebrandt doing his FCP thing just to give Jason Kenney the opportunity to seem a little less extreme, and a bit more statesman like by comparison?

    Perhaps I am being paranoid. I could put a bit more time into making the case, but I think I am hearing voices in my basement…

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 24th, 2018

      I don’t think you’re paranoid to wonder this, Bob, but I think on the strength of the evidence that Mr. Fildy-pants has genuinely irked Mr. Kenney, and the ill feelings between them are the real thing. DJC

      Reply
    • Sassy

      July 24th, 2018

      David, they could be good actors.

      Bob, I was thinking Fildebrandt’s new party was set up to prevent Alberta Advantage Party (former Wildrose founders and die-hard supporters) from taking off, assuming AAP is close to getting the signatures to register as an official party. Your idea makes more sense, though, if all is not as it seems. Rather than damning with faint praise, Fildebrandt’s role will be to praise with faint damns.

      Example – quote from interview at https://calgarysun.com/opinion/columnists/bell-fildebrandt-on-fire-starts-freedom-conservatives:
      As for the UCP talk of freezing Alberta government spending, Fildebrandt says that’s like “slapping a Band-Aid on a terminally ill patient. We need to operate.”

      I guess we’ll have be on the watch and examine how the two might be playing off each other to benefit UCP.

      Reply
  6. Farmer Brian

    July 24th, 2018

    It would appear that Derek feels he has a better chance of re-election under the FCP banner than as an independent. Personally I wish he would accept that his mistakes were politically fatal and retire from politics.

    Reply
  7. brett

    July 24th, 2018

    Derek Fildebradt is a joke.

    He is one of those types who went from a soft university degree to a job with organizations like the Taxpayers Federations, then into politics in order to save the world.

    The challenge is that people with this background have never either had to make a payroll, run a business, or hold a job in a for profit organization or in a public service organization. This absolutely colours their perception. Most especially if they hail from upper middle class backgrounds or wealthy backgrounds.

    He is more like a professional student than anything else. There are few of them out there. We suffered through Rob Anders for a few years. He is one of that ilk. I find than I can always spot them a mile away. They seem to know better than anyone else what the course of action should be on any subject. Arrogance replaces ignorance.

    Reply
    • David

      July 24th, 2018

      That career profile also seems a lot like Jason Kenney’s.

      Reply
      • brett

        July 26th, 2018

        Yes it does.

        I keep hoping that a Conservative or UCP (whatever) leader will come out of the woodwork who has the integrity, the foresight, the common sense, the compassion, the policy direction, and the good judgement that the late Peter Lougheed possessed. All we seem to be getting for the past few years is shiny pennies. Flashes in the pan who can unite the party or even enunciate a clear policy and then actually implement it.

        Even three of the six would be good. Alas, no luck yet. And I cannot help myself……I keep thinking that Rachael Notley is the closest match in many, many years. In policy and in the other attributes.

        Reply
    • Farmer Dave

      July 24th, 2018

      Brett according to your comment on Derek Fildebrandt, he seems to be the same type of person as Jason Kenney.

      Reply
      • brett

        July 26th, 2018

        Cannot argue with that!

        Reply

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