Derek Fildebrandt's short-lived suspension reveals 'great divisions' in Wildrose Party

The suspension and pending reinstatement of Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt reveals "great divisions" within the party, and could even be evidence of a leadership struggle, says one political scientist.

Controversy could point to internal leadership struggle, says political scientist Duane Bratt

After apologizing for what his party calls the latest in a series of missteps on social media, Derek Fildebrandt is expected to re-join the Opposition caucus within days — provided he agrees to a number of conditions leader Brian Jean says will remain confidential. (CBC)

The suspension and pending reinstatement of Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt reveals "great divisions" within the party, and could be evidence of an internal leadership struggle, according to one political scientist. 

Duane Bratt with Mount Royal University said the whole controversy "shows a power struggle between Fildebrandt and Brian Jean."

He said the party's handling of the situation raises more questions than answers.

"Was it Brian Jean who solely suspended Derek Fildebrandt Friday pending a caucus meeting this morning? Did that caucus then overturn or revise Jean's suspension? We don't know the timeline of how those things played out," he said.

If there is internal jockeying for leadership, it's clear that Fildebrandt has his share of supporters, said Bratt. 

Both the constituency association and various grassroots activists have backed Fildebrandt's reinstatement, Bratt explained.

A pattern of behaviour

Bratt also said it's unclear whether Fildebrandt's endorsement of a homophobic Facebook comment was the only cause for the public reprimand. 

"If that was the sole reason for the suspension, I think it was an overreaction," he said.

Instead, Bratt drew attention to a "pattern of behaviour that led to this suspension," something also highlighted by Jean on Monday. 

Bratt pointed to a "Twitter feud" between Fildebrandt and PC MLA journalist Sandra Jansen:

Bratt also referenced a dispute with Globe and Mail reporter Carrie Tait and mentioned Fildebrandt's recent "heckling" of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

"I think focusing on what happened on Thursday or focusing on what happened on Friday is limiting."

With files from The Homestretch