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Wildrose Party Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt suspended from Opposition caucus over Facebook message

Derek Fildebrandt

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Wildrose Party Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt was suspended from the Opposition party’s Legislative caucus just before midnight last night by party Leader Brian Jean.

Fort McMurray Today journalist Vincent McDermott first reported the suspension around 11:30 p.m. Friday in a Tweet. The Wildrose Party confirmed the decision by Jean.

Fildebrandt, the MLA for the Strathmore-Brooks riding east of Calgary, was suspended from the caucus effective immediately for making “an unacceptable comment on social media that does not represent the values of the Wildrose caucus,” Jean’s statement said.

The terse statement read in full:

“JEAN STATEMENT ON THE SUSPENSION OF MLA FILDEBRANDT FROM THE WILDROSE CAUCUS

“EDMONTON, AB (May 27, 2016): Tonight, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean announced the suspension of MLA Derek Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus.

“‘This evening, Mr. Fildebrandt made an unacceptable comment on social media that does not represent the values of the Wildrose Caucus.’

“‘He has been suspended from our Caucus effective immediately.’”

A screen shot of a Facebook message posted earlier Friday evening by Fildebrandt shows the message referred to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as “Mr. Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as” – an apparent reference to the fact Wynne is openly gay. The author of the comment adds to Fildebrandt, “proud to have you as my MLA,” and Mr. Fildebrandt initially responded, "Proud to have constituents like you!"

Fildebrandt backed away from the statement and his response in subsequent Facebook messages and Tweets, saying to one person “I didn’t fully read the comment. Totally inappropriate.”

To well-known Twitter commentator Dave Beninger, he said: “I just fully read that comment, just browsed it the first time (pratfalls of managing ones own page). I agree totally inappropriate.”

Beninger later Tweeted: “I don't believe @DerekFildebrabdt is homophobic or transphobic, some of the comments on his page are/were & I'm glad he called them out.”

To the author of the comment Fildebrandt said he had not seen the “Mr.,” and added: “With all respect, it’s not appropriate or something that should be lightly joked about. My criticisms of Ms. Wynne are based on policy, and not anything personal. It never should be personal. If anyone though (sic) I agreed with the statement, my apologies.”

The suspension comes on the heels of Fildebrandt’s jeers and harsh criticisms of Wynne in the Alberta Legislature on Thursday, moments after the Ontario premier was welcomed to the Gallery by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Fildebrandt’s comments were harshly criticized throughout the day yesterday in media and political circles, and the Wildrose Party earlier in the day issued a carefully worded apology that expressed regret for the timing of the comments, though not Mr. Fildebrandt’s message. This commentary on the apology was published earlier yesterday on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitucs.ca.

When Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, then 26, was suspended from the NDP caucus by Notley on May 22, 2015, for distributing inappropriate images and making a comment about Progressive Conservative leaders that was interpreted as homophobic on social media long before running for public office, Fildebrandt was quite harsh in his commentary.

Fildebrandt, 30, whom the Calgary Herald noted was the youngest Wildrose MLA elected in the May 5, 2015, general election, told the paper Drever’s youth should not excuse her for posting the material.

“This is a textbook example of why we should have recall legislation,” Fildebrandt said at the time, a policy advocated by the Wildrose Party.

Drever sat as an Independent in the Legislature until she was readmitted to the NDP caucus on Jan. 8, 2016. During that time, she sponsored a private member’s bill designed to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to escape abuse. It was passed unanimously by all parties in the Legislature in December 2015.

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