Fildebrandt blasts Jean, but won't run to lead UCP
BY JAMES WOOD, POSTMEDIA
Derek Fildebrandt - Postmedia
Outspoken MLA Derek Fildebrandt took himself out of the running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party Tuesday but launched a broadside against another candidate, former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.
The Strathmore-Brooks MLA had been flirting with a run for the UCP's top job but at a news conference in front of McDougall Centre said he will instead push the fledgling party and the candidates running for the top job to adopt libertarian-tinged policies.
Fildebrandt, first elected under the Wildrose banner in 2015, said he won't endorse anyone in the leadership race right now but reaffirmed his comments last month that under no circumstances would he support his former leader, Jean, in the contest.
"I've had two-and-a-half years to work with him and seen his leadership up close and I've got more than enough experience to make a very confident decision that he is not the best man to lead the party and lead Alberta," he told reporters.
"I've seen a leadership style that focused more on making the party about a single individual than a greater collective. I want a leader who is going to focus on building a party and building a team and not just promoting themselves and their own personal brand."
While Fildebrandt endorsed Jean for the Wildrose leadership in 2015, the two have had a frosty relationship since taking office. Last year, Fildebrandt was suspended from the Wildrose caucus for what he said was an inadvertent endorsement of a homophobic social media post, though the suspension was quickly reversed.
The race for the leadership of the UCP, a vehicle to unite Alberta's right created last month by the overwhelming vote of members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, is widely viewed as a showdown between Jean and former PC Leader Jason Kenney, with Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer also in the race.
Jean's campaign declined to respond to Fildebrandt's remarks.
In a statement, Kenney said he was disappointed that Fildebrandt wasn't running and called him a "principled young conservative."
"I look forward to his ongoing participation in the debate about the future of our province."
Fildebrandt said he believed he would have run a competitive race but acknowledged that Jean and Kenney have a significant advantage in terms of resources.
He did not rule out endorsing one of the other leadership contenders in the future.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said that even if Fildebrandt doesn't formally endorse Kenney he will help the former federal cabinet minister as a "pit bull" against Jean.
"I think he will continue to have significance," Bratt said of Fildebrandt's role in the leadership battle, which will conclude with an October 28 vote of UCP members.
"He is entertaining, he is flamboyant, so he is going to get coverage. He has a very large social media platform, which has sometimes got him into trouble, but it gives him a very good vehicle."
Kenney has been endorsed by four UCP MLAs first elected as Wildrosers: Rick Strankman, Mark Smith, Drew Barnes and Grant Hunter.
Jean's backers include Wildrosers-turned-UCP MLAs Dave Hanson, Angela Pitt, Don MacIntyre, Leela Aheer, Ron Orr, Glenn van Dijken, Todd Loewen and Tany Yao.
Finance critic Derek Fildebrandt rents downtown digs on Airbnb while claiming housing allowance
Published on: August 9, 2017 | Last Updated: August 9, 2017 8:24 PM MDT
United Conservative Party MLA Derek Fildebrandt says there's nothing wrong with him subletting his downtown Edmonton apartment while claiming thousands of dollars in rent from the public purse. LEAH HENNEL / POSTMEDIA
A United Conservative Party MLA says there’s nothing wrong with him subletting his downtown Edmonton apartment while claiming thousands of dollars in rent from the public purse.
Derek Fildebrandt, MLA for Strathmore-Brooks, advertises his downtown bachelor suite for rent online as “newly renovated, modernly furnished and very well-kept.”
“It has a sweeping view of the city and is in the thick of the action on Jasper Ave.,” the Airbnb listing says.
Between January and March, eight Airbnb renters reviewed the apartment. Over the same three months, Fildebrandt claimed $7,720 for accommodation in Edmonton.
Fildebrandt denies he’s double-dipping by renting out the same apartment for which he claims an allowance on the taxpayers’ dime.
“Find someone under 35 with a downtown apartment that doesn’t let their apartment if they’re gone half the year,” he told the Journal.
After all, he said, “it’s the 21st century.”
“It would be a waste … to have an apartment that sits empty half of the year and not let it out when I’m gone out of session,” he said.
Fildebrandt, one of the UCP’s two finance critics, said he puts the extra cash toward rent, cleaning and maintenance.
“Some MLAs rent, some MLAs let a hotel room, some MLAs buy a place and put (their allowance) toward the mortgage,” he said, and there’s no difference between those arrangements.
Expense rules mum on sublets
Members of the Legislative Assembly from outside the capital region are entitled to a maximum of $23,160 in a fiscal year to own or lease a property in Edmonton, or $193 per night for a hotel while in the city on official business.
That cash can go toward accommodation expenses like rent, utilities and parking, but the rules explicitly state that MLAs are only entitled to the actual costs incurred.
Expenses are paid through the Legislative Assembly Office, overseen by the Speaker.
Alex McCuaig, Speaker Robert Wanner’s chief of staff, told the Journal there is no precedent around an Airbnb sublet, but said the system is set up with the intention that members claim actual expenses, not the maximum by default.
“The bottom line is, the member needs to be answerable for their practices and justify their expenses,” McCuaig said.
Fildebrandt said the rental is completely above-board and complies with the rules.
Interim UCP caucus deputy leader Mike Ellis said in a brief statement his caucus is carefully reviewing the matter.
“While it has been explained to be an approved LAO activity, we take fiscal responsibility seriously,” Ellis said.
Although he said he’s done nothing wrong, Fildebrandt accused former Wildrose leader Brian Jean’s “backroom operators” of “personal smears” over the apartment on the day after he was critical of his former boss.
The United Conservative Party MLA says there’s nothing wrong with him subletting his downtown Edmonton apartment while claiming thousands of dollars in rent from the public purse.