File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Derek Fildebrandt speaks in Strathmore.

Alberta politician denies hit and run charge

EDMONTON — An Alberta legislature member accused of hit and run with his pickup truck says he didn’t do it.

Derek Fildebrandt testified in court Wednesday that if he had backed into his neighbour’s van, he would have owned up to it right away.

“I would’ve left a note on the front windshield. It’s the decent thing to do,” Fildebrandt said in traffic Edmonton court.

He also said given that he is in the public eye, it would have been foolish to run from a practical standpoint.

“Considering my occupation, it wouldn’t have made sense for me not to stop.”

Fildebrandt, 31, is accused of backing into his neighbour’s van the morning of June 6, 2016 and then driving away.

He said his truck — which he traded in about a month after the van was damaged — had warning sensors and beeps that would have alerted him to a looming impact. He said the radio was playing but not so loud he wouldn’t have heard the warning beeps or a crash if he had hit the van.

The member of the legislature for Strathmore-Brooks has pleaded not guilty.

Although the case was first in court in February, the charge only became public knowledge last month. It was one of a trio of revelations that forced Fildebrandt to quit the caucus of Alberta’s new United Conservative Party and sit as an Independent.

The new party was formed when the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties merged.

Fildebrandt, known as an acerbic, take-no-prisoners, bulldog defender of the public purse, was also found to have been subletting on Airbnb his taxpayer-subsidized accommodation in Edmonton and double-expensing some meals.

He acted as his own lawyer in February. At that time, the van’s owner, Amy Rawlinson, testified she had been sitting on her condo balcony that morning when she saw Fildebrandt walk in the vicinity of his ruby-red Ford F-150 truck.

She said she heard a loud crash and then saw a red pickup driving away and her work van damaged.

A day later, she said, she saw Fildebrandt and the truck, got the licence plate number and contacted police.

Rawlinson and Fildebrandt lived at the condo complex near the legislature, but didn’t know each other.

She testified Fildebrandt offered to settle with her out of court. At the trial, Fildebrandt suggested that the 22 members of his then-Wildrose caucus could be called upon to confirm that he was with them at the time in question.

The trial was put over for seven months, until Wednesday, so Fildebrandt could round up witnesses. During that time he also hired a lawyer, Dale Fedorchuk, who reiterated to the CBC last month that they would indeed call witnesses to prove Fildebrandt was at a Wildrose caucus meeting.

No such witnesses were called Wednesday. When Fildebrandt took the stand, he said he could not remember if he made it to the caucus meeting.

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