The Fildebrandt Saga continues as Brian Jean backtracks, kind of…
Just over forty-eight hours after he suspended Finance critic Derek Fildebrandt from the Official Opposition Caucus, Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean appears to be backtracking on his decision. At a press conference held this morning, Mr. Jean told reporters that Mr. Fildebrandt’s “suspension” may actually end within a few days.
The Wildrose leader’s change of heart may have been a result of the overwhelming outpouring of support for Mr. Fildebrandt by his supporters on social media. Mr. Jean’s Facebook page was overflowing this weekend with comments from Wildrose supporters denouncing his decision to remove Mr. Fildebrandt from the Official Opposition Caucus and the Strathmore-Brooks constituency association called for his return to the caucus. The quick reversal by Mr. Jean certainly raises the question of how much control he actually has over his party as leader. It really appeared as though he has been making it up on the fly.
Mr. Jean said one of the conditions for the suspended MLA’s return to caucus was that he change the way he uses social media. The rest of the conditions for Mr. Fildebrant’s return were to be kept secret, but a source in the Wildrose Party has shared Mr. Jean’s ultimatum:
- He is suspended from the Wildrose Official Opposition Caucus until the end of the current Legislative Session.
- He will be on probation until September 1, 2016.
- He has to commit to personal improvement and personal development.
- He would be prohibited from doing any media interviews except with local media in his Strathmore-Brooks constituency.
- He will not be reappointed as Finance critic when he returns to the Wildrose Caucus
Mr. Fildebrandt now has some choices ahead of him.
He could meet the conditions presented to him and rejoin the Wildrose Caucus. His now-cemented popularity among a vocal cadre of conservative activists could give him considerable authority in the party and caucus. But giving up the Finance critic role and the ability to speak to the provincial media would greatly diminish his public role as a leader in Alberta’s conservative movement. I doubt he would get much satisfaction playing the role of Official Opposition critic for Tourism and License Plates.
He could become an Independent MLA and be an even more fierce critic of the New Democratic Party government (and Mr. Jean, if he so chooses) outside the bounds of a party whip. He could hold as many media conferences and plan as many publicity stunts as he wished to.
Update: The Wildrose Party’s constituency association in Drumheller-Stettler has penned a letter to the party’s MLAs in support of Mr. Fildebrandt.