EDMONTON — A former member of Alberta’s Opposition United Conservatives formally launched his own party Friday hoping to ultimately share power with those who spurned him.
Independent Derek Fildebrandt said his new Freedom Conservative party will only run candidates in some constituencies in the upcoming spring election.
He said job one in the election will be “the complete obliteration” of Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP, but ideally with no party winning a majority of seats.
He would then like to see his Freedom Conservatives join Jason Kenney’s UCP to govern.
“We would be willing to work together, come to an agreement, on what a government agenda would be and go forward to create the most conservative and Alberta-first government as possible,” Fildebrandt said prior to a meeting of the new party’s governing board in Calgary.
Kenney turfed Fildebrandt from the UCP in February following expense scandals and court troubles, including convictions in a hit and run and for shooting a deer on private property.
Fildebrandt has said his banishment was linked to Kenney’s concern that Fildebrandt planned to run in a redrawn constituency against another caucus member, Leela Aheer.
He said such top-down control is happening in other nomination races and violates Kenney’s promise to be guided by grassroots members.
Fildebrandt is the interim leader of the Freedom party and will run for the permanent job. The party hopes to hold a founding convention in October before nominating candidates in conservative strongholds, mainly in rural Alberta, but also parts of Calgary.
Fildebrandt said he wants to give voters a true choice between conservatives, but not in strong NDP areas where the vote could be split.
He said his party is focused on a stronger, more independent Alberta. He promised to work with, or fight as need be, the federal government to give the province more say and control.
Fildebrandt stressed it’s not a separatist party.
Speaking in Edmonton, Kenney said he doubts Fildebrandt’s party will have an impact on support for the United Conservatives.
“In a big-tent party you are always going to have some people who want to live in a little pup tent, politically speaking, and that’s what we’ve got going on here,” Kenney said.
It’s more than just politics for Fildebrandt, given the recent acrimony, he suggested.
“It’s probably very personal (for him), but we’re not going to be distracted or deterred by that.”
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, speaking for the NDP, said the new party is simply a repeat of past conservative machinations and infighting.
“You’ve got conservatives that are focused on their own jobs and they’re focused on themselves and they’re focused on their own self-aggrandizement and power,” said Phillips in an interview. “They’re not focused on making life better for Albertans.”
The UCP has been dealing with friction in a number of constituency nomination fights.
It recently disqualified Todd Beasley, a prospective candidate in the Medicine Hat-Brooks riding, for comments condemning the Muslim faith. This week, Prab Gill, a UCP legislature member from Calgary, quit the caucus after a report into ballot-box stuffing at a constituency meeting.
The United Conservatives have declined to make the report public, citing privacy of individuals interviewed in it. Kenney said Friday he will check with the party about possibly releasing a summary of the report’s findings without the names.