Alberta MLA Derek Fildebrandt had been suspended from the Wildrose caucus. The move was taken after an “unacceptable comment” on social media, party leader Brian Jean announced late Friday night.
“This evening, Mr. Fildebrandt made an unacceptable comment on social media that does not represent the values of the Wildrose caucus,” Jean said in a media release issued just before 11:30 p.m.
“He has been suspended from our caucus effective immediately.”
Earlier Friday, a person commented on Fildebrandt’s official Facebook page, congratulating the MLA on telling the truth about “Mr Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as,” referring to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is openly gay.
In a reply to the post, Fildebrandt wrote: “Proud to have constituents like you!”
Hours later, Fildebrandt took to Twitter to apologize for the comment, saying he felt terrible at the thought that anyone in the LGBTQ community thought he shared the original commenter’s views. He said after re-reading the original comment, he “entirely misread it. 100 per cent against my views.”
On Saturday afternoon, Fildebrandt posted a statement to his Facebook account reacting to news of his suspension.
“My colleagues know that those views do not reflect my own opinion and they recognize that I made an honest mistake, so I was surprised by this decision. I accept this decision,” the statement read in part, after reiterating he did not read the original controversial post carefully before responding to it. “I am proud to represent the people of Strathmore-Brooks, and I look forward to rejoining my Wildrose colleagues in holding the government to account, and standing up for Alberta.”
Edmonton LGBTQ advocate Marni Panas took to social media in response to Fildebrandt’s statement Saturday and tweeted, “I believe @Dfildebrandt is sorry and will be more thoughtful in the future. The best we can all do is keep learning and moving forward.”
Fildebrandt’s suspension comes after members of the Wildrose were criticized for the way they handled Wynne’s visit to the Alberta Legislature Thursday.
While speaking at the Liberal party’s convention in Winnipeg Saturday, Wynne appeared to address the situation that played out on Facebook.
“If you follow the social media that happened after that incident in Alberta, there was a homophobic thing that happened online… that’s the reality,” she said. “We have to understand that yes we’ve come along way – we’ve come a hugely long way in Canada – but we’re not there. We’re not there in terms of every child in every schoolyard feeling safe, feeling included. We can’t assume that everyone has the information they need to understand differences and not be afraid.”
The post ignited a firestorm, and a very clear response from LGBTQ advocates.
“These kinds of comments are completely out of step with the reality of every day Albertans,” Kristopher Wells from the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services University of Alberta said.
Some political experts believe there’s more to it than just the post.
“If you go back since he’s been elected, there’s been numerous incidents where they’ve had to apologize, where Derek’s had to apologize for some of his behavior. I think you put it all in a package and that is why he’s being suspended,” Duane Bratt, a political scientist from Mount Royal University said.
Ontario’s premier came to Alberta to talk environment but instead found herself publicly ridiculed on the floor of the legislature as the leader of a failed, debt-ridden enterprise.
WATCH BELOW: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks about the social media controversy following her Alberta visit during the Liberal party’s convention in Winnipeg on Saturday.
As Wynne looked on from the Speaker’s gallery during question period Thursday, the opposition Wildrose party demanded to know why Wynne, a Liberal, was invited while right-centrist and next-door-neighbour Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was not.
“Invite Premier Wall here! Invite Premier Wall,” Fildebrandt shouted at Premier Rachel Notley as she tried to answer a question.
READ MORE: Alberta opposition party ridicules Ontario premier in legislature
Fildebrandt also labelled Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions plan a failure, suggesting it’s led to “skyrocketing power bills… and auditor general reports into billions of wasted tax dollars.”
Watch below: Ontario’s premier was in the Alberta legislature when the opposition and Premier Rachel Notley sparred over Ontario’s climate plan and Wynne’s visit.
Wynne said Friday she’s used to hearing “howls” of people who are opposed to taking action on climate change, but admitted she’d have a hard time working with Alberta’s opposition.
READ MORE: Ontario premier calls Alberta opposition ‘out of step’ after being ridiculed in legislature
She said if the Wildrose Party was ever in power, she’d find it “extremely difficult” to work with them on climate change, calling them “out of step” with reality.
With files from Erika Tucker, Global News and The Canadian Press.