Wildrose hopes it has defused the Fildebrandt fiasco

This is the column the Wildrose didn’t want me to write.

Not because it’s particularly critical of the Wildrose but because I’m writing once again about Canada’s political yo-yo, MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

One moment he’s in the Wildrose caucus, then he’s out, then he’s back in again.

Wildrose officials just want this issue to go away. They want their MLAs to focus on a host of more serious issues facing Canada including debates over physician-assisted death and the carbon tax.

But the Fildebrandt fiasco is a fascinating story that seems to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of the Wildrose — and what we think we’re seeing is Canada’s version of Game of Thrones but with absolutely no magic.

How else to decode what has happened since late Friday night when the Wildrose tersely announced it had suspended Fildebrandt from the party’s caucus after his social media slip-up involving a homophobic slur against Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne?

His suspension set off a heated backlash by Wildrose members against leader Brian Jean. They felt Jean had rashly and needlessly tossed Fildebrandt under the bus of political correctness.

On Facebook, Fildebrandt expressed surprise at his suspension but said nothing else as this tale played out in a succession of Wildrose statements that made Jean look weak, confused and defensive.

On Monday, Jean reassured Fildebrandt’s growing legion of supporters that the suspension was due to the young MLA’s record of inappropriate comments on social media, not just the one. Jean added that Fildebrandt would be back in caucus within a few days after he agreed to some undisclosed conditions.

But Jean didn’t realize that as he was pouring oil on troubled waters, the news media was happily setting it on fire.

They reported that, according to insider sources, those conditions included Fildebrandt being suspended for the remainder of the spring sitting of the legislature, agreeing to take steps for “personal improvement,” and losing his position as the party’s finance critic.

By Tuesday, Fildebrandt had become something of a martyr among party supporters, and Jean the villain.

On Wednesday, the party announced the suspension had been lifted after Fildebrandt agreed to hire a social media manager. What happened to the other conditions?

The party said “the multiple alleged conditions reported yesterday in the media were not accurate.”

That irritated reporters and piqued the interest of observers who saw this as evidence of a power struggle between Fildebrandt and Jean — and Jean had lost but was trying to save face.

That has been the narrative in the news media.

Wildrose officials are now, finally, trying to spin a counter narrative.

They say the issue here is not Brian Jean’s leadership, but Derek Fildebrandt’s maturity. Fildebrandt, 30, might be a maverick to some but he’s simply a pain in the butt to others, notably his caucus mates.

In so many words, officials say he is a thin-skinned hot head who just last week had to apologize for calling MLA Sandra Jansen a liar in the assembly (the officials still have no problem with Fildebrandt loudly criticizing Premier Wynne’s economic record in the assembly on Thursday as she sat listening in the gallery).

Fildebrandt certainly has a troubled record on social media where, for example, he had to apologize to Speaker Robert Wanner for criticizing him on Twitter. “I lost my temper and I should not have,” said a contrite Fildebrandt in the assembly on December 10.

Wildrose officials point out that Fildebrandt was not ejected from caucus, which would have required a formal, secret vote by caucus members. A majority of his caucus mates informally voted to temporarily suspend him which is why they never asked the Speaker’s office to have Fildebrandt’s legislative seat removed from the Wildrose front benches.

Fildebrandt will be back in the assembly on Monday, we’re told. And he’ll be on his best behaviour.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Twitter: Graham_Journal


Graham Thomson: Wildrose hopes it has defused the Fildebrandt fiasco


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