Mixed support for embattled southern Alberta MLA
Residents in Derek Fildebrandt’s constituency are sharing mixed feelings over the recent controversies that have come to light in recent days.
The Brooks-Strathmore MLA first admitted to renting out a government subsidized apartment on the rental website Airbnb on August 10 and then, less than a week later, it was revealed that he misused government funds over restaurant meals.
Fildebrandt apologized for both incidents and blamed administrative errors.
On Tuesday evening, he went one step further and announced that he would be stepping down from the United Conservative Party caucus.
Fildebrandt was considered to be among the key driving powers in the fledgling party, built from a merger between the PC Party and members of the Wildrose Party.
He said that he made the decision to sit as an independent in an attempt to divert the negative media attention away from the party.
On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after his resignation, many residents in his constituency are still left questioning his character.
“I think if a politician was doing things like that then they’re not trustworthy,” said Strathmore resident Dave Jacobs. “They should be kicked out.”
Darlene Ganser, who has lived in Strathmore for the past four years, said he did make a mistake.
“He did wrong; he knew he did wrong. He apologized but I don’t know what else he can do. He’s wrecked himself though.”
Other residents, meanwhile, are still supportive of their MLA.
“I think it’s okay,” said Corrine McKinnon. “I don’t think he’s done anything that drastic. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Another Strathmore resident said the media had a lot to do with flaring up the situation.
“It’s a wrong thing to do. He was totally aware of what was going on and that sort of thing. The media can make it or break it for anybody… I think he did the honourable thing. What the media says transpired is a different story.”
Following Fildebrandt’s announcement of resignation, UCP MLA Nathan Cooper said he had accepted it but would keep the door open for a possible return of the embattled MLA.
Jason Kenney issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying he respects Fildebrandt's decision.
“I appreciate Derek’s efforts as an early voice for re-uniting Alberta conservatives. I appreciate that he does not want the controversies he is facing to be a distraction to the important work of building the UCP at this critical early stage. I wish him well in his continued service as MLA for Strathmore-Brooks.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation has demanded a full review of the rules for MLAs in regards to the use of taxpayer funds.