Alberta Politics
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel speaks as former leader Greg Clark looks on (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta Party and Freedom Conservative Party leaders form weekend blips on provincial political radar

Posted on October 22, 2018, 1:43 am
12 mins

Here comes the leader of the One True Conservative Party!

Here comes the leader of the other One True Conservative Party!

Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt while still a Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Actually, there are three One True Conservative parties in Alberta nowadays. Maybe more if you don’t blink. But there are three that have the potential to play a consequential role in the next general election, which is expected to take place next year.

Anyway, the leaders of two of them – the two that don’t stand any chance of actually forming government – were in the news this weekend, and you know what they say about vices … two outta three ain’t bad!

Let’s start with the one that’s likely to be the least consequential and then move to the one that’s not likely to be very consequential, shall we?

Derek Fildebrandt – Freedom Conservative Party

Derek Fildebrandt, once the official Angry Young Man of the Alberta conservative movement, is now officially the leader of the Freedom Conservative Party.

The Freedom Conservative Party used to be the Separation Party of Alberta, but it isn’t any more. Never mind what you read in the mainstream media, the FCP wasn’t created by the former Wildrose Party and United Conservative Party MLA for Strathmore-Brooks and Canadian Taxpayers Federation apparatchik.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It should probably be called the Fildebrandt Conservative Party, although it will likely have a couple of other candidates, former Green leader and Wildroser Joe Anglin for one.

Aside from their interest in the FCP, Mr. Anglin, 63, and Mr. Fildebrandt, 33, have two other things in common – they’re both highly entertaining politicians who don’t really play very well with others.

Once upon a time, Mr. Fildebrandt was a young fellow with a future in Wildrose Party.  Then Wildrose leader Brian Jean tried to fire him for being disruptive and embarrassing. The leader got shouted down and Mr. Fildebrandt got to stay on as Opposition finance critic. There was talk he was a serious candidate for the leadership of the UCP, the third One True Conservative Party mentioned above.

Alas, a series of self-inflicted political calamities derailed his progress, and probably his career. There was the Airbnb rental of his taxpayer subsidized Edmonton condo, a crash and a fine for leaving the scene of an accident in the same condo’s parking lot, and an illegal hunting charge. Within hours of pleading guilty to the hunting infraction, Mr. Fildebrandt was sent down to the lonely Independent benches of the Legislature by UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

Mr. Fildebrandt suggests the real reason was something else – Mr. Kenney’s preference for UCP Deputy Leader Leela Aheer as the party’s candidate in the newly redrawn Chestermere-Brooks Riding, parts of which both MLAs represent at the moment. This seems fanciful.

Another shot of Mr. Mandel, proving you don’t have to be young to be hip (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

At any rate, on Saturday Mr. Fildebrandt was acclaimed the leader of the FCP, which now represents the far right wing of Alberta’s One True Conservative parties. It’s telling no one else wanted the job.

Mr. Fildebrandt and some supporters met in a Calgary pub and declared their sentiments in grand speeches. However, while he will provide some light entertainment, his and his party’s chances of success in the next election are negligible.

Still, history warns us to pay attention to far right politicians who get their start in beer halls, not that I’m suggesting anything. More likely, after losing whatever provincial seat he runs for in 2019, Mr. Fildebrandt will run federally for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, after which he will go home to Ontario.

Stephen Mandel – Alberta Party

Stephen Mandel – back in the day a successful mayor of Edmonton and minister of health in premier Jim Prentice’s cabinet before and after being elected MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud – has been the leader of the Alberta Party since February.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Alberta Party was founded in 1985 as yet another right-wing fringe party, albeit one with a better name than usual. But in the late Zeroes it was taken over by disaffected Alberta Liberals persuaded their original party’s brand was permanently ruined.

Since the election of an NDP government in Alberta in 2015 and the double reverse hostile takeover and renaming of the main conservative parties by Jason Kenney, the Alberta Party has shifted shape into a vehicle for disaffected Red Tories who no longer feel welcome in the UCP.

Last year there was a little palace putsch and then-leader Greg Clark, who had a seat in the Legislature, was shoved aside to make way for Mr. Mandel, who doesn’t but has a history of not being bothered by that sort of thing. A couple of floor crossings gave the Alberta Party a caucus of three in the Legislature. And as all Alberta political observers know, small caucuses can turn into majority governments over night in this province.

The same night Mr. Fildebrandt was celebrating in a Calgary beer hall, Mr. Mandel was giving a little pep talk to a considerably larger crowd of Alberta Party members at an Edmonton convention hall.

He said some stuff that by a reasonable measure seems pretty silly, but got great coverage from media, which has always had a weird affection for the Alberta Party despite its almost inability to get on the political radar.

Example: An Alberta Party government would make the carbon tax revenue neutral and use the money raised to reduce the provincial debt. As University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe Tweeted: “I’m confused. … These are inconsistent objectives.”

Former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Mandel did acknowledge that Alberta has a revenue problem as things stand, but like all other Alberta politicians he appears unwilling to consider a sales tax.

He also observed that if Alberta can’t get the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project built … “we’re screwed.” This trenchant, if inaccurate, observation got the headlines.

We Albertans had better hope he’s wrong about that. Not because the pipeline won’t get built – it likely will be. But because the business case on which it is based is shaky. We’re almost certainly tied to the U.S. market whether we like it or not for our expensive to process, low-quality bitumen, and any “tidewater premium” for the stuff is probably a pipedream.

So if the pipeline can’t fix the underlying problems faced by our oilsands industry, we’re screwed anyway by Mandel’s measure.

But, whatever. … This was just an effort to whip up the party faithful, almost 500 of whom turned out, to Mr. Mandel’s credit.

While the Alberta Party like the FCP probably won’t enjoy much electoral success in 2019, it has greater potential for mischief if it can bleed off support from either the NDP or the UCP. Indeed, it could prove very influential – and yet gain absolutely nothing for itself.

Mr. Mandel will be targeting progressive Conservatives who can’t stand Mr. Kenney and who still aren’t comfortable with the NDP, despite Premier Rachel Notley’s passable imitation of PC premier Peter Lougheed.

Even though the Alberta Party has more potential for growth than the FCP, political punters are advised not to bet the family farm, or even a week’s pay, on it getting much traction in 2019.

Mr. Mandel is 73. I have been accused of ageism for suggesting this is too old to instil confidence in voters. I’m no spring chicken myself, but I’m willing to bet most voters see it this way.

Grace Thostenson appointed chair of WCB

Newly appointed Workers Compensation Board Chair Grace Thostenson (Photo: Alberta WCB).

The NDP Government has appointed respected trade unionist Grace Thostenson as chair of the Workers Compensation Board – sending a strong message the rights of injured workers really are a priority for the WCB.

Ms. Thostenson is a current member of the WCB Board. She has more than 25 years of labour relations experience in the telecommunications and electrical power industries and has been a member of the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a dozen years. She has held union positions with the United Utility Workers’ Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Reporting to the Minister of Labour, the chair is accountable for the governance and management of the WCB’s board of directors.

9 Comments to: Alberta Party and Freedom Conservative Party leaders form weekend blips on provincial political radar

  1. Geoffrey Pounder

    October 22nd, 2018

    “Premier Rachel Notley’s passable imitation of PC premier Peter Lougheed”

    In what respect?

    Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons compared Notley to Margaret Thatcher.
    Notley compared herself to President Nixon.
    Now she’s Peter Lougheed.
    All staunch progressives. Right?

    Would Lougheed approve Notley’s fiscal, energy, or environmental policies? Depending on bottom-of-the-barrel royalty rates to support the highest levels of spending in the country without a sales tax is clearly unsustainable.

    Lougheed would have demanded a fair share for Albertans on royalties. (Broken NDP promise.) Think like an owner, he said.
    “Revenue from royalties has plummeted from an 80 per cent share of government revenue in 1979 to an estimated 3.3 per cent in 2016.”
    “Estimated 2016 [royalty] revenue of $1.4 billion is down 90 per cent from 2005 levels, despite considerable production growth since then.”
    Notley spurned her opportunity — and mandate — to raise royalties.

    Would Lougheed have peddled the blatant contradiction of Notley’s chimerical quest for “social licence”: a carbon tax for new pipelines?
    If Lougheed understood the perils of climate change, would he have allowed oilsands production and AB’s emissions to increase indefinitely?
    Yes, Notley’s temporary oilsands emissions cap is a scam:

    How will Notley’s turn to the right play out in the 2019 election?
    If the AB NDP morphs into a quasi-conservative party, how many progressives and greens will follow her?
    Will AB “conservatives” support NDP sell-outs — or vote for the real thing?
    We’ll see in 2019.
    Future generations will render their own judgment.

    • Keith McClary

      October 23rd, 2018

      “Lougheed would have demanded a fair share for Albertans on royalties.”
      1970s oil was better quality and cheaper to produce than what we have today. Companies could have paid higher royalties in those days, but the Tories pretty much gave it away to stimulate a boom economy, which made their cronies and corporate sponsors rich. The result is a large population with dwindling resource income.

  2. Your southern sufferin' friends.

    October 22nd, 2018

    Believe it or not, we here in the greatest ever country of ever, are not exactly happy with the tactics of our crook in chief. In our little living room, we actually like other people who live like us. In fact, we don’t even wake up wanting to hurt people and beat them up. But? Trump. Sigh. If we all survive this? I say we pitch a once in a lifetime BBQ at the “border” right before we dissolve it!

  3. Gordon

    October 22nd, 2018

    I came to this website directed to an article you wrote. I have to say. I like your writing. Your web-site is possibley the worst. I don’t want to investigate the competition for that dubious award! Fix your web! Your words are worth it!

    • David Climenhaga

      October 23rd, 2018

      Say what you will, at least the print’s big enough to read! DJC

      • tom in ontario

        October 23rd, 2018

        Nothing wrong with the website. If Gordon’s criticism is the worst the blogger ever gets, will lead a long and happy life.

      • Scotty on Denman

        October 24th, 2018

        I’d be happy if it stays the way it is. Looks okay to me (I’m a geezer, so what do I know?), but it features some of the best journalism around (I’ve lived in Ontario, BC, Quebec and Alberta—and back to BC—so what do I know?). Keep up the sterling work, David!

    • Bob Raynard

      October 23rd, 2018

      Gordon, as someone who uses an obsolete iPad, one of the things I like about this website is its low-tech nature. I don’t even try to visit some mainstream news sites because of the frustration of the 2013 iPad not being able to handle all of the data it needs to download to read a story.

      No more fruit products for me!

  4. Scotty on Denman

    October 24th, 2018

    My family was politically involved when I was a boy, Trudeau maniacs until the feds expropriated most of our Ontario County for an airport: my folks switched to NDP, not least because my dad was a MoCo news cameraman who’d met and liked Lester Pearson but, especially, Tommy Douglas, a fellow congregationalist Christian. The newly created Durham Region encompassing several small farming villages (like mine) employed rejects from even the hated York Regional Police, and rough shakedowns on familiar concession roads persuaded me to quit school and hitch to BC (the ‘thing’ to do, back then, anyway) where I reached voting age just as WAC Bennet’s Socred regime was toppled by Dave Barrett’s ‘socialist hordes’ and American dodgers and deserters were pouring across the border, Californian hipster culture in tow. Attended plenty of protest marches in Victoria, the capital, moved thence to Port Alberni, with the highest percapita income in Canada for years running, where the Communists regularly showed well in elections and our MLA became leader of the BC NDP; got a Mac and Blo job, attended IWA meetings until getting a sandwich wrapped in a roadmap in ‘81, then moved to Alberta in search of work—not for the last time. I was lying on my living room couch in Quebec City (where I lived between jobs) when Joe Clark’s Tory government fell; most of my friends were separatists and I saw how badly late-blooming hippies from Quebec were treated out West; Aboriginal politics in the West were totally new to a southern Ontario farmboy (there were no “Indians” where I came from, nor Catholics, either). Thus, I happened to be in the populous Canadian political hotspots for several decades, full of youthful curiosity. It’s been interesting.

    Having witnessed Anglo-Saxmaniacal Reganomics, Thatcherism —and, I guess, ‘Mulroneyism’—morph into post-Soviet, Gecko neo-liberalism, thence usurping traditional Tory parties, their democracy-neutering globalization, subsequent discrediting, and eventual resort to extremism and demagoguery in their apparent moribundity, my vantage is lucky enough to be blessed with bookended perspective: the beginning through to the end of neo-rightism (neo-liberal usurped Tory parties aim for stateless corporatocracy by undermining sovereign democracies, crippling and privatizing public enterprises, and smashing labour unions). As the melee subsides, it’s fascinating to see what has survived the audacious bid to ‘get government out of the way’ of rampant profiteering when, in general, inequities actually multiplied and environmental degradation worsened, these issues now forefront as the world transitions again to something else, something other than neo-rightist globalization, unfairness and pollution.

    I’m lucky to have this vantage and perspective of Alberta, where I’ve lived, worked, and still have friends, because the neo-right episode has been written big-belt-buckle large there and is ongoing in the sense that this is where neo-rightists make an iconic last stand. The ‘Redoubt’ movement is exemplified in Greater Anglo-Saxony and Europe, a holy refuge that excludes the ‘invading’ economic and war refugees of less-fair complexion, that is, as everywhere, ‘white Christians’ plan to recuperate from perceived losses of privilege, purify the bloodline in safety, and either prepare for a breakout so’s to avenge assumed heroic ages unjustly denied, or for the rapture when the unholy (nonwhites) will be damned for all eternity. Alberta’s fits the bill in spades: conveniently adjacent to the American equivalent, even with overlapping Mormonism (from the “Deseret” redoubt movement of the 1800s) and reputed affinity to the American Wild West, continental and mountain fastness (paradoxically blessing and curse), globally significant reserves of black goo that paves, makes, and fuels the world’s predominant industrial structures, surrounded by restless natives, infected with socialist fifth columnists, beset by duped environmentalists, and availed by defeated neo-rightists once powerful in the now abandoned East. But, for me, it’s most fascinating because of the swarm-like factionalization of the moribund political right and queen bee fights among neo-rightists, paleoCons, SoCons, Blue-flame libertarians, Progressive Conservatives, Reformers and the like. It’s like progeny testing segregating generations backcrossed and inbred several times—both ancestors and potential descendants revealed in amazing variation, a common phenomenon elsewhere, but nowhere arrayed with such cogently complete variety as in beautiful Alberta. One should not be surprised to see that the politcal pedigree of the historically right-wing province harbours the genes of religiously anarchistic communalists, Metis middlemen, 19th century remittancemen, frontier hustlers and rustlers, Indian Hunters, feral men, and of course, Mormons, amongst the recesses of dominant redneck farmers, roughneck oilmen, stiffnecked woodsmen and no-necked bankers. And now communitarian socialists. (I’ve read that genealogical veracity reduces to about zero within six generations, so you never know what you might find. I laughed when DNA testing revealed a prominent American white supremacist to be partly black—and on TV, too!)

    While versions of the politcal right sprout odd-looking sporophores from tangled mycelium steeped in their own humic acids hidden below ground—which’d be fascinating enough shellacked in a museum display case—one can only marvel at the permutations of the segregating right DJC affords the amateur politcal scientist, and wonder what might pop up next, what genes of the right will recede behind stronger or simply more available ones, and what, if anything, will stabilize into a true-breeding species or variant.

    For me, who believes the conservative polity is natural and the most venerable of all, the main question is: did it survive the neo-liberal usurpations and neo-right perversions of its most basic tenets and, if it did, can it resurrect or, possibly, innovate itself? To me it’s the canary in the mineshaft: if the oldest polity has gone extinct (which I hope it hasn’t even though I don’t consider myself a conservative), then have we truly crossed a line, irrevocably?… can we aspire to getting back or must we learn how to deal with world problems most neo-rightists deny even exists?

    For now my assessment is that the neo-right, as a short-lived anomaly in comparison to traditional conservatism’s deep history, a ‘blip’, is in its death throes, behaving desperately and deranged in the circumstance, but that real, traditional Tories have been biding their time, either trapezing between right-wing factions as they ephemerally spiral through the cloud-chamber, or in other nominally nonCon parties, and might resurrect with a new version of Toryism’s basic patriotism, ethical enterprise, hard work and freedom of choice. With so much happening in the world these days, it’s always good to bring it home to Alberta where all the salient points are acted out every day in an easily surveyed laboratory.

    Thnx again, DJC.

    PS: The Pickering Airport never got built, my father was a tenant in the house he built until the end, and the Ontario government still owns most of the expropriated land half a century later. If it hadn’t happened I might still be there today—and I’d prob’ly never have realized that, despite the pain it caused, it’s trifling compared to what I’ve seen of Aboriginal conditions out West.


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