Brian Jean to re-enter Alberta politics, says Calgary councillor, but Jean evades 'rumours'
A Calgary city councillor says former Wildrose leader Brian Jean told him he will be stepping back into the political fray in time for Alberta's spring election, but Jean is sidestepping the rumours.
Coun. Joe Magliocca says he was surprised when Jean told him he would soon be the leader of the Freedom Conservative Party — which is currently led by MLA Derek Fildebrandt — and even more surprised when Jean asked him to run.
The conversation happened in a phone call earlier this week, Magliocca said.
Fildebrandt stepped down from the then newly formed United Conservative Party caucus in 2017 after being plagued by a series of political scandals.
He was disciplined multiple times by Jean during his time in the Wildrose, and UCP Leader Jason Kenney refused to allow him to rejoin the party after he pleaded guilty to illegally shooting a deer on private land.
He founded the FCP shortly after.
Magliocca said he told Kenney about the phone call, and described Kenney's reaction as "flabbergasted."
Jean lost the UCP leadership race to Kenney in 2017 and resigned as an MLA the next year.
Magliocca said he urged Jean not to rejoin politics and risk splitting the conservative vote.
"You know, he won fair and square, let's drop it. Let's unite, let's help Jason out," Magliocca said he told Jean.
That was a message echoed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, who tweeted about the rumours.
<a href="https://t.co/eE2l4oXGH8">https://t.co/eE2l4oXGH8</a> <a href="https://t.co/zT0029j2Dq">pic.twitter.com/zT0029j2Dq</a>—@stephenharper
A source familiar with the issue told CBC News that a major, possibly disruptive announcement would be coming Friday — but Jean wouldn't be a part of it.
CBC News is not identifying the source as he wasn't authorized to speak on the topic.
"There is no Brian Jean announcement tomorrow for anybody, not for Alberta Party, not for FCP, not for anybody, but there is stuff happening tomorrow and it's possible that it will be disruptive," he said.
"We have reason to believe that there will be sort of announcements and things done tomorrow, that they're a big deal, but they don't involve Brian."
Jean tweeted that he wouldn't be making an announcement Friday.
"I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me," he wrote.
Wow. I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/electionsillyseason?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#electionsillyseason</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ableg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ableg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abpoli</a>—@BrianJeanAB
CBC News has reached out to Jean for comment.
The 2017 UCP leadership campaign has been back in the spotlight, with allegations Kenney's campaign colluded with another leadership candidate's campaign to tank Jean's chances.
Jeff Callaway, the former Wildrose Party president, ran for the leadership against Kenney, Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.
Callaway abruptly dropped out of the race after taking a few jabs at Jean, ultimately throwing his support behind Kenney.
On Wednesday, a UCP board member came forward and said he was one of two voices on a leaked audio recording that seems to outline a "kamikaze" plan to have Callaway enter the race to attack Jean on Kenney's behalf.
Kenney weighs in
Kenney commented on the speculation around Jean's possible re-entry into politics during a Thursday teleconference.
"It's been clear for some time that Brian has had a hard time coming to terms with the decision made by grassroots conservatives in our leadership election," he said.
"But it now appears that he's also having a hard time accepting the decision … to support uniting into one big party."
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With files from Scott Dippel, Drew Anderson