The former leader of the Wildrose Party and a candidate in the race to become leader of Alberta’s new United Conservative Party (UCP) spoke out on Tuesday about the expense scandal swirling around his fellow party member Derek Fildebrandt.
“I’ll let Mr. Fildebrandt answer for himself and his own actions but I will say that I’m extremely disappointed,” Brian Jean said during a campaign stop in Medicine Hat on Tuesday.
Jean’s comments came as controversy continues to grow after news emerged last week Fildebrandt had been renting out his taxpayer-subsidized apartment in Edmonton on Airbnb.
After the Airbnb story came to light, Fildebrandt said his actions were “compliant with the rules” but that in light of the criticism, he would donate money towards paying for Alberta’s debt and not let “smear distract from real issues.”
Then on Monday, records surfaced suggesting Fildebrandt claimed reimbursement for both restaurant expenses and a daily meal allowance – or per diem – for the same meals on multiple occasions.
Watch below: On Aug. 14, 2017, Kim Smith filed this report about Alberta MLA Derek Fildebrandt coming under fire for allegedly making questionable meal expense claims.
In a statement issued on Monday, Fildebrandt said he takes full responsibility for everything that happens in his office.
“There were some administrative errors in processing meal receipts for staff, constituent and stakeholder meetings, with a potential total of up to $192.60 over a period of two-and-a-half years,” he said. “I should have been more careful in reviewing them before signing off. I will fully reimburse any discrepancy and take immediate action to ensure that errors like this do not happen again.”
According to the Legislative Assembly Office, once MLA expenses are posted online, they have been paid out.
The office said the speaker will be reviewing the nine alleged incidents of double claims.
The office pointed out the receipts do not necessarily indicate the meal was for that MLA. For instance, someone else in the MLA’s office could have eaten it.
“It was the wrong thing to do and I think the people of Alberta, and especially his own constituents, will have something to say in the next nomination and the next election cycle,” Jean said.
The MLA added he was committed to ensuring there would not be more expense scandals involving UCP MLAs.
“We’ve discovered that there was some double-dipping and that’s between the speaker’s office and obviously that elected MLA and I think it’s been discovered and it’s going to be dealt with and we’ll make sure that we close that gap and that it doesn’t happen again,” Jean said.
“This is taxpayers’ hard-earned money that people are spending and that people have the opportunity to spend and we need to set the example for the rest of Alberta and especially our youth.”
Fildebrandt is currently taking a leave of absence as finance critic for the UCP.
Last week, Fildebrandt announced he would not be entering the UCP leadership race and said while he would not endorse a leadership candidate, he would not be supporting Jean’s bid to lead the new party.
“I’ve had two-and-a-half years to work with him and see his leadership up close,” he said on Aug. 8. “I’ve got more than enough experience to make a very confident decision that he is not the best man to lead the party and lead Alberta.”