Less than a month after the United Conservative Party (UCP) formed, one of it's highest profile members is leaving the Albertan conservative juggernaut in disgrace.
On Tuesday, after an avalanche of bad press, rookie MLA Derek Fildebrandt, 32, one of the highest-profile opposition politicians in Alberta, stepped down from the UCP caucus and will now sit as an independent. Fildebrandt, for the better part of the year, was one of the loudest voices supporting the unification of the diminished long-time rulers of Alberta, the Progressive Conservatives, and the official opposition, the Wildrose Party.
"This young party cannot afford to be distracted from the formative period that it is in right now as we come together as conservatives. I owe that to my colleagues, my party members, my constituents, and all Albertans," reads the statement Fildebrandt released on his Facebook page.
"Right now, media controversy is distracting from the work that must be done as the UCP is founded. The UCP Leadership race should be focused on issues of leadership and values, and not on personalities."
The trouble all started for Fildebrandt, a staunch enemy of government waste and overspending, last week, when the Edmonton Journal broke a story that the fiscal conservative was renting out his on Airbnb while also pocketing the maximum housing allowance for said apartment. This, for the former Albertan leader of the penny-pinching obsessed Canadian Taxpayer Association, was wildly embarrassing.
But wait, there's more!
At the start of this week, it came out that Fildebrandt, numerous times over his years as an MLA, double-billed meals on his expense forms. One day after the expense form news broke, it came out that Fildebrandt was facing a 2016 hit-and-run charge after a neighbour saw a red truck back into her company van in their condo building parking lot. The CBC reports that the neighbour recognized Fildebrandt as the man who hit the van and that Fildebrandt decided to represent himself in court which, obviously, did not go well—the trial resumes in September. In response to these stories, Fildebrandt, in his statement, said that he made "honest mistakes," accepts responsibility and "is truly sorry."
"I'm a flawed man, and I can do better," Fildebrandt wrote. "If I have let anyone down, know that I have let myself down, and I will prove that that I am the man that I hold as the standard for trust and integrity."
Don Braid of the Edmonton Journal reported that people around Fildebrandt said "he's been so agonized over the past few days that they feared for his well-being."
This isn't the first time that Fildebrandt has been separated from his caucus. In May of 2016, Fildebrandt launched into a diatribe that ripped into Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and was roundly criticised for it. Fildebrandt's supporters loved it though. One of the supporters, in their praise of Fildebrandt, called the premier "Mr. Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as," and Fildebrandt responded to the praise with "proud to have constituents like you." He was suspended shortly after—the suspension lasted less than a week before he was welcomed back.
Nathan Copper, the interim leader of the UCP, said that if Fildebrandt "can live up to the expectations he has outlined in his statement" he may also be welcomed back into the UCP caucus in the future.
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