Photo: In happier times. Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt joined Jason Kenney on the eve of his victory in the PC Party leadership race. (Photo credit: @pcyouthalberta on Twitter)
Derek Fildebrandt has found a new way to become a giant thorn in the side of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney. The MLA for Strathmore-Brooks has joined the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta, becoming that party’s interim leader and its first MLA.
The former the boy wonder of Alberta’s conservative movement, Fildebrandt resigned from the UCP caucus in August 2017, was banned from returning , and barred from running for a UCP nomination in Strathmore-Chestermere after a long series of embarrassing scandals, ranging from a hit-and-run incident to renting his government subsidized apartment on AirBNB to being charged with killing a deer on private property without the owner’s permission.
Most Albertans will have never heard of the tiny right-wing separatist party, but as already reported on this blog, the Western Freedom Party was renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in late June 2018. The party was originally formed as the Alberta First Party in 1999, renamed the Separation Party in 2004 and again renamed the Alberta First Party in 2013. It was renamed the Western Freedom Party in April 2018 and again renamed the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2018.
The President of the party is Bob Lefurgey, who had previously reported to be collecting signatures to form another new separatist party that was to be called The Western Independence Party of Alberta.
In August 2017, Lefurgey described his plan to create the Western Independence Party to the Okotoks Western Wheel. “It’s basically to remove Alberta from confederation,” Lefurgey told the Western Wheel. “There’s been an accumulation of things over time and we’re in a perfect storm for separatists right now, with all the things going on – everything from immigration, gun control, equalization.”
Lefurgey was a candidate for the Separation Party of Alberta in the Airdire-Chestermere district in the 2004 election. He earned 394 votes.
Lefurgey is also the current President of the Freedom Conservative Party association in Strathmore-Brooks, the district currently represented by Fildebrandt. It is the party’s only registered constituency association.
The party’s Facebook page still does not yet reflect the June 2018 name change, though someone is continuing to post new content a few times a week, which includes some internet conspiracy theories that are typically seen on the right-wing political fringes of the internet.
In one Facebook post, which sounds like something that might be inspired by the anti-semitic 1935 Social Credit campaign, Fildebrandt’s new party wants to make sure that Albertans “Don’t find yourself waking up one day to find that the World Bank or George Soros and Aga Khan own your financial institutions. You will then understand what you should have done to stop the UN, the Songbird initiative, the Boreal Initiative, Y to Y and the Leap Manifesto and take your country back from the elites!“
The last notable leader of a separatist party elected to the Legislature was Gordon Kesler, who was elected as a Western Canadian Concept candidate in the Olds-Didsbury by-election of 1982. Much of Kesler’s activities in the Legislature included opposing official bilingualism and protesting the introduction of the metric system.
As party leader, Fildebrandt could petition to join the mainstream media organized televised leaders debates during the next election. This was a status Kesler was denied when Peter Lougheed refused to debate him on TV. Kesler was defeated in the 1982 general election.
Fildebrandt remains popular in his district and is a formidable political campaigner. We should expect him to face off against UCP MLA Leela Aheer in the new Strathmore-Chestermere district in next year’s election. He might have a shot at winning, and he might not be alone.
Fildebrandt told Postmedia’s Don Braid that his party plans to contest UCP safe seats in the next election. His criticism of the UCP for their last-minute disqualification of perceived front-runner S. Todd Beasley in the neighbouring Brooks-Medicine Hat district could be the first step in a candidate recruitment strategy. It could also be an early sign that the Freedom Conservative Party might be a home for disgruntled and disqualified United Conservatives in the Alberta’s provincial election.
Yep, Derek Fildebrandt is still a giant thorn in Jason Kenney’s side.