Suspended Wildrose MLA likely back in caucus within days

Suspended MLA Derek Fildebrandt will be welcomed back into the Wildrose caucus within days, says party leader Brian Jean, once he meets certain conditions, including changing how he uses social media.

Derek Fildebrandt suspended over response to Facebook comment about Premier Kathleen Wynne

Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt was suspended from the Wildrose caucus Friday night. (CBC)

Suspended MLA Derek Fildebrandt will be welcomed back into the Wildrose caucus within days, says party leader Brian Jean, once he meets certain conditions, including changing how he uses social media.

"Derek is a very talented individual. He is my friend and he is our friend and he is a part of our family," Jean said at a news conference Monday, adding that he and his caucus want Fildebrandt to continue in the party. 

"However, I believe that Derek recognizes that he has had a long series of missteps on social media. His latest comments on Friday night unfortunately conveyed a sentiment that is inconsistent totally with the values of our Wildrose caucus and frankly, inconsistent with Derek's own values."

The specific conditions of Fildebrandt's return are confidential, Jean said.

Jean said he believed Fildebrandt when the MLA said he regrets his mistake. When he took over the party, Jean said he made it clear he would not tolerate any such comments from caucus members. 

Fildebrandt was not in the legislature Monday. A woman who answered the door of his home in Calgary said he was not speaking to the media. 

Late Friday evening, Jean announced in a press release that Fildebrandt, the often brash MLA for Strathmore-Brooks and the party's finance critic, had been suspended immediately from the Wildrose caucus over an "unacceptable comment" on social media.

That "unacceptable" comment was made in response to a Facebook post about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The Facebook post comment referred to Wynne, who is gay,  as "Mr. Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as."

Fildebrandt responded, "Proud to have constituents like you!" He later tweeted several apologies, saying he had misread the post.

At a news conference Monday, Jean said the Facebook incident was the latest of several missteps on social media. He wouldn't specify the nature of the previous incidents.

He said Fildebrandt was not suspended because he loudly heckled Wynne in the legislature last Thursday.

Government house leader Brian Mason said he was surprised Fildebrandt was suspended over the Facebook comment because it appeared to be an accident.

He was more concerned about how the Wildrose caucus treated Wynne, a potential ally for the Energy East pipeline, last Thursday. 

"They seem to prefer to have our government fail than have a pipeline succeed," Mason said. 

"It looks to me like they're putting their own crass political advantage ahead of the best interests of the province as a whole."

Support of constituency association

News of Fildebrandt's suspension prompted a split reaction on Twitter. There were those who were happy to see Fildebrandt face punishment for his behaviour, and supporters who felt the Wildrose went too far. 

The Wildrose constituency association for Strathmore-Brooks said they stand behind their MLA and called for the party to immediately allow him to return to caucus. 

"Our MLA Derek Fildebrandt receives hundreds of Facebook comments each day on his page, and attempts to respond personally to them. He made an error in not reading one of those posts correctly, and we know this to be an honest mistake," the statement read. 

"We know Derek. The comment in question, left on his page, does not, in any way, represent his views."

The Facebook flap came one day after the Wildrose heckled Wynne while she sat in the Speaker's gallery in the Alberta legislature.

With Wynne watching, Fildebrandt  demanded to know why she had been invited to Alberta while Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall had not.

"Invite Premier Wall here! Invite Premier Wall," Fildebrandt shouted at Premier Rachel Notley as she tried to answer a question.

Notley said the incident showed why the Wildrose was not fit to govern.