Photo: In happier times, as Derek Fildebrandt campaigned alongside Wildrose leader Brian Jean in Strathmore-Brooks on the first day of the 2015 election. (Photo from Brian Jean’s Facebook Page).
Over the course of eight days, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt went from being a potential leadership candidate to stepping down from the United Conservative Party Caucus.
As a former spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Official Opposition finance critic in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, he had earned a reputation as a relentlessly partisan critic of the old Progressive Conservative and current New Democratic Party governments. His reputation as a fiscal crusader, and his political future, were put in question this week.
Here is a quick look at the past eight days in FIldebrandt’s political world:
August 8, 2017: Former Wildrose Party finance critic and United Conservative Party finance co-critic Derek Fildebrandt announces he will not run for the leadership of the new party. He tells reporters than he will instead use his United Liberty PAC to push the party and leadership candidates to adopt libertarian policies.
He takes a direct shot at former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, now a candidate for the UCP, saying that “he is not the best man to lead the party and lead Alberta.” (Background: Jean attempted to suspend Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus in June 2016).
August 9, 2017: Postmedia reports that Fildebrandt has been renting his taxpayer-subsidized downtown Edmonton apartment on Airbnb. Fildebrandt tells the media to “Find someone under 35 with a downtown apartment that doesn’t let their apartment if they’re gone half the year.”
August 10, 2017: Fildebrandt issues a statement saying he plans to donate the $2,555 he earned through Airbnb to the provincial debt. ‘I’m not interested in letting the politics of smear distract from the real issues,’ his statement read.
“Rather than focusing on complaining about people trying to smear him, he should acknowledge that it was a mistake and he should apologize,” Premier Rachel Notley tells reporters.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci calls on Fildebrandt to apologize for his actions. “The public puts a lot of faith in their elected officials, and when people act like that I think they destroy that faith,” Ceci told reporters.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark calls for penalties for MLAs who break reimbursement rules and writes to Legislative Assembly Speaker Bob Wanner to ask for an audit of all MLA living expenses.
Late that night, Fildebrandt announces he is taking leave from his position as UCP finance co-critic and is leaving on vacation.
August 14, 2017: Clark releases documents that he suggests show Fildebrandt claimed meal expenses and an MLA per-diem for the same meal nine times. Fildebrandt releases a statement admitting that there “were some administrative errors in processing meal receipts.”
“These expense claims are concerning and appear to be part of a larger pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable for a member of the United Conservative Party caucus,” United Conservative Party leader Nathan Cooper said in an statement
August 15, 2017: CBC reports that ‘Edmonton police conducted an investigation and on June 14, 2016, charged Fildebrandt under the provincial traffic act with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to notify the owner of the damaged vehicle.’ Cooper tells CBC he did not know about the charge. The trial was adjourned until September 6, 2017, when Fildebrandt is expected to present his evidence.
Late tonight, Fildebrandt issued a statement on his Facebook page where he took two swipes at the media before announcing his plans to leave the UCP caucus and sit as an Independent MLA.