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The UCP’s Incredible Shrinking Caucus

Just before noon on Friday, Jason Kenney, MLA for Calgary-Lougheed and leader of the Official Opposition released a statement officially barring Derek Fildebrandt from returning to the UCP caucus.  Fildebrandt had attended court Friday morning to respond to illegal hunting charges from November, 2017 which first hit the news cycle in December of 2017.  At that time, Kenney told reporters that Fildebrandt could apply to be reinstated but “would discourage him from doing so unless or until he’s resolved any outstanding issues.”  (That article is a great read through the lens of recent information by the way).

It’s certainly possible Derek received a blow to the ego when Kenney released his statement; for too long it seemed as if the most popular Wildrose MLA in the province could reach no low which was too low.  Flaunting fiduciary duties and the law didn’t seem to take the wind from his sails.  Certainly, some conservatives had their feathers ruffled but it wasn’t until the final accusation, “related to unlawful hunting practices”, that this pundit feels went too far for the base.  And a cautionary tale to those who can’t seem to get away with everything; when the boss calls you in for an “executive grilling” and you don’t think he knows about your latest escapade; he knows.

Photo credit @UCPCaucus on Twitter

Fildebrandt, however, was already out of caucus.  Don MacIntyre, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake gave his notice to the caucus around noon on Friday.  He then tweeted that he was leaving politics to focus on family.  A publication ban is in place but several news outlets broke the story anyway, that the (former?) MLA was facing criminal charges.  Commentary is flowing freely among the unbound public if anyone is interested in finding out more.  While neither Fildebrandt nor MacIntyre left of their own volition (really), it is unlikely they will be the last to shake off those depressing shades of blue.

Having not been seen in the Legislature and being noticeably absent from Kenney’s swearing-in ceremony, it is expected that Brian Jean, MLA Fort McMurray – Conklin, will be stepping down as well.  Some might say it’s sour grapes and others might say it’s a simple ‘F’ you to the new leader.  My money’s on the latter even though I am prepared for a sincere “I want to spend more time with my family” statement.

But the other unknown at this point is who will be leading the Alberta Party and whether their leadership will provide any unhappily shackled MLAs with the motivation to move on.  The successful candidate, between contenders Rick Fraser, MLA for Calgary-South East, Kara Levis, Calgary Energy Lawyer and former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel will take on the Official Opposition and the Governing Party with their version of Alberta’s brighter future and who knows what will happen?

For those of you who have lost track since 2015, the PC party lost one MLA in 2016, and then technically lost seven in 2017, the UCP lost two in 2017 and four so far in 2018, the NDP gained one (from the PCs) and lost one (to the Alberta Party), and the Alberta party has gained two – one from the right and one from the left.  I hate to say it, but this could turn out to be a livelier year in provincial politics than the last.

Update: Brian Jean announced his departure from the Alberta Legislature and the UCP caucus on March 5, 2018.

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