Hell hath no fury like a "Liberty Conservative" scorned!
Derek Fildebrandt, the former Wildrose Party and United Conservative Party finance critic scorned by UCP Leader Jason Kenney after a series of unfortunate events turned him into him the Lemony Snicket of the Alberta conservative movement, has joined the Freedom Conservative Party.
The tiny right-wing splinter party that until yesterday almost no one in Alberta had heard of, used to be best known among the province's political cognoscenti for its Alberta separatist leanings.
This does not mean that Fildebrandt, who has been named the interim leader of the FCP, endorses Alberta's separation from Canada, however. On the contrary, Fildebrandt told me yesterday, "I believe in greater autonomy for Alberta within Canada. I am no separatist."
However, there might be some grounds for suggesting the Independent Strathmore-Brooks MLA would like to turn his new party into a vehicle for his personal political ambitions. In our short exchange of Twitter direct messages, he described his goal for the party as "a libertarian-conservative coalition" in which "disagreements (are) resolved by free votes."
And, yes, Fildebrandt said he intends to run to become the permanent leader of the party.
The party's most recent name change, on June 22, to the Freedom Conservative Party certainly seems to reflect Fildebrandt's personal brand as a self-described Liberty Conservative. "I've been working to form this party so I did play a role in the name," he noted.
Blogger Dave Cournoyer, who actually keeps track of this kind of minutiae, has tracked the entity from its beginnings as the Alberta First Party in 1999, to the Separation Party in 2004, back to the Alberta First Party in 2013, to the Western Freedom Party in April this year, and to the Freedom Conservative Party on June 22. Apparently this was all OK with Elections Alberta.
The Political Action Committee fundraising entity set up last year by Fildebrandt when he was contemplating his own run for the leadership of the UCP was called "United Liberty." When he announced the creation of United Liberty a year to the day before the Alberta First Party was changing its name for the second time, Fildebrandt said in a news release his PAC was "dedicated to supporting the unification of the Wildrose and PC parties and promoting liberty-conservative principles & candidates in the new United Conservative Party."
Instead of running himself, though, Fildebrandt threw his support behind Kenney, the former Harper-era federal cabinet minister, to lead the united provincial right-wing party, a decision he may now regret.
Given the angry tone of his recent tweets at Kenney and media commentary about him, it's hard to believe Fildebrandt does not view his repudiation by the UCP leader as a deep personal betrayal, notwithstanding the string of political embarrassments that preceded it.
On Twitter and in the public prints, he has excoriated Kenney for ignoring the party's so-called "grassroots guarantee," defended a candidate cashiered by the UCP leader when the man's Islamophobic views came to light raising the prospects of another major bozo eruption for the UCP, and angrily accused the party of setting quotas to ensure women and members of visible minorities are among its candidates.
"Grassroots conservatives have been lied to & their democratic rights stripped away by backroom party insiders," he wrote in a recent tweet. "Albertans deserve a choice that does not take their vote for granted." Obviously, the days are long gone when any conservative leader can try to control Fildebrandt's social media activities, as Brian Jean, leader of the now defunct Wildrose Party, once tried and failed to do.
Fildebrandt's anger with Kenney is palpable in an interview with a sympathetic Postmedia columnist, in which he says the UCP leader ordered him in his days as a UCP caucus member not to run against Deputy Leader and Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Leela Aheer in the new Strathmore-Chertermere Riding that includes part of each of their present electoral districts. As Fildebrandt recounted the story, "When I objected, he said: 'How would it look if a blond bearded redneck beat one of our only women?'"
In the same interview Fildebrandt claimed the incident in which he was accused, and found guilty, of hitting a neighbour's vehicle with his pickup truck and then driving away, "simply didn't happen. That was a scam."
Well, Fildebrandt is unbound now. Liberated, even. He can run against Aheer in Strathmore-Chestermere if he wishes. He's very popular among the rural right, as his Twitter feed last night demonstrated. Like Kenney, he is a former operative of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and comes to the fray with a deep bag of attention-grabbing stunts he learned at the national anti-tax Astroturf organization.
So, while his campaign is unlikely to be as well-funded as hers will be, he just might win anyway. Even if he doesn't, he will create a significant distraction that I am sure Kenney would prefer to do without when he'd rather be concentrating on Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP. For his part, Fildebrabndt has promised not to run FCP candidates in ridings where the NDP might win.
So this is Alberta politics in the early 21st century, where the real news is more outlandish than the fake news. You actually couldn't make this stuff up! No one would believe it.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: David J. Climenhaga
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