Derek Fildebrant defends expense claim for breakfast with Preston Manning
Blog post says it was partisan unite-the-right meeting, Wildrose MLA denies it
Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt is speaking out after coming under fire for having breakfast with Preston Manning at taxpayer expense.
"It was a drive-by smear by Rachel Notley's folks. It's frankly libelous if they think they know what the meeting was about," he told CBC News.
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It stems from a Progress Alberta online article that questions whether the MLA's meeting with Reform Party founder Preston Manning, who has lately been involved — as has Fildebrandt — in the effort to forge a union between Alberta's Wildrose and PC parties.
Fildebrandt dismissed the blog post as a partisan attack from a group he says is linked to the NDP.
"Mr. Fildebrandt has spent his career criticizing the expenses of politicians and so it makes sense that he's embarrassed about this," said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips in a statement.
A spokesperson for the NDP also says the party does not have any ties to Progress Alberta, and the non-profit communications organization agreed.
"We are an independent non-profit," said executive director Duncan Kinney in a statement.
It reported Thursday that the finance critic had submitted a receipt to the Legislative Assembly for the breakfast last September at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary in the amount of $52.30.
The receipt, which appears in the MLA's last expense report, was posted by Progress Alberta along with an article lambasting him for asking taxpayers to reimburse him for the breakfast.
The Strathmore-Brooks MLA, who previously served as the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, labelled the expense as a "stakeholder meeting."
"For someone who's spent so much of his career railing against government waste it is interesting to see what exactly is a stakeholder meeting when you finally get a government expense account," the article says.
"I wonder what Mr. Fildebrandt and Mr. Manning talked about?"
Fildebrandt said while he could not rule out the possibility that uniting the right came up at the breakfast meeting, there was nothing improper about submitting the expense to the government.
"It was quite of few months ago, I didn't take minutes of the meeting, but the meeting was dominantly about lessons of a new party breaking into the political mainstream," he said.
"Me being freshly elected, I wanted to meet with the former leader of the Reform Party and see what I can learn. So I asked Mr. Manning to go breakfast so I can pick his brain," he said.
Fildebrandt said he always ensures that if an expense is related to partisan work that it is expensed to the party or comes out of his own pocket.
How big was the tip?
The blog post also poked fun at Fildebrandt for tipping just six per cent on the breakfast tab.
"Of course Fildebrandt is well within his right to tip only six per cent but for a politician whose party has railed against the raising of Alberta's minimum wage it seems a little hypocritical to leave such a tiny token of one's appreciation."
But Fildebrandt said he recalls leaving cash on the table in addition to the amount added to the credit card bill.
"The three dollars was not the tip, again these guys have committed libel and slander by saying that was it when they don't know and they've never called me to check," he said.
Progress Alberta says that was the tip he submitted to the province of Alberta.
"Fildebrandt got the government to reimburse him for a $2.50 parking chit. If he did in fact tip more one that what is on the expense form, one would imagine that he would have claimed it," said Kinney.
But there was also a math typo on the receipt.
"Any finance critic should know 48 plus three is not 52," said Minister Phillips.