Derek Fildebrandt's new political party of 'Alberta patriots' to focus on rural, small town ridings

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt officially announced the creation of the new Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta in Calgary Friday, calling it a movement for “Alberta patriots” that will bring real democracy to the province.

Former UCP MLA says Freedom Conservative Party won't risk running candidates where NDP has winning chance

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt announces the creation of the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta in Calgary on Friday. (CBC)

Independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt officially announced the creation of the new Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta in Calgary Friday, calling it a movement for "Alberta patriots" that will bring real democracy to the province.

"We are a party that wants a better Alberta than one dominated either by big government socialism or by the big business establishment," Fildebrandt said as he introduced the party at a media event in a northeast Calgary hotel.

Fildebrandt said his party, called the FCP for short, wants Alberta to have direct control over the CPP, employment insurance, tax collection, the firearms act and immigration.

"The Freedom Conservative Party will demand the immediate repatriation of all powers under the constitution that our governments have ceded to Ottawa," he said.

"We will demand a referendum to renegotiate Alberta's constitutional relationship with the federal government to keep more of our money and decision making here in Alberta and away from Ottawa."

Unapologetic conservatives

Fildebrandt — who is serving as the party's interim leader and will seek the job officially pending a founding convention in the fall — says the new party is made up of unapologetic conservatives and libertarians who will fight to "get the government out of your wallet, your bedroom, your schools and your churches."

He said the new party is the only one that does not support government ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline, and the only one that supports cutting spending "and not just slowing it down a little bit."

Fildebrandt said, because the FCP's number one goal is the defeat of Rachel Notley's government, it will not risk running candidates — and splitting conservative votes — in ridings where the NDP candidate has a chance of winning.

The party will not run candidates in Lethbridge, for example, where Fildebrandt says the NDP is competitive.

"Primarily, we will be running in the vast majority of rural and small town constituencies across Alberta," he said.

Will the party find support?

Fundraising efforts and volunteer recruitment for the party is already underway, Fildebrandt says.

Lori Williams, who teaches policy studies at Mount Royal University, says the new party could have a hard time attracting supporters given that the UCP only recently brought together social conservatives and fiscal conservatives, and they are intent on winning power.

"Those people are very pragmatic. They're not particularly ideological. And so, the ideological ones might still splinter off and they may still want to have their views represented in the Legislature," she said.

"But for many, the goal of winning the government is more important than squabbles over this or that particular policy issue or area."  

Fildebrandt stepped down from the newly formed UCP caucus in August after a series of political scandals, and has since been sitting as an Independent member for Strathmore-Brooks.

The outspoken MLA was elected in the riding east of Calgary under the Wildrose Party banner in the 2015 election, which later merged with the PCs to form the United Conservative Party. 

Fildebrandt, who had been one of the strongest advocates of the merger, says complaints of meddling by UCP officials in local constituency races was one of his motivations for starting the new party.

Tumultuous time in politics 

During his time in the Legislature, Fildebrandt has been at the centre of several well-publicized controversies.

Fildebrandt repaid more than $2,500 after it was revealed he had been subletting his Edmonton apartment while claiming his taxpayer-funded housing allowance as an MLA.

Fildebrandt then blamed "administrative errors" for the apparent double-billing of some meal expense claims over a period of two and a half years.

In December, Fildebrandt was fined $400 after being found guilty in Edmonton traffic court of hit and run and failing to notify the owner of the damaged vehicle.

And in February, he pleaded guilty to illegally shooting a deer on private property and was ordered to pay $3,000 in fines.

According to Williams, that history has left Fildebrandt with a a seriously undermined brand as a conservative.

"We've got somebody who has in my view really betrayed the trust and values of conservatives," she said.

"So, if he wants to represent conservatives, I think he's really at a disadvantage because he's betrayed the values of conservatives."