Derek Fildebrandt of Alberta’s Freedom Conservative Party (FCP) is stepping aside as leader of the party he helped create out of a desire to leave politics.
A party spokesperson confirmed the news on Monday night and later Fildebrandt spoke to Global News about his decision.
“I’ve got a very young family… a daughter just over two years old, and politics has been tough on them,” he said over the phone, referring to the media spotlight he’s faced.
“I’ve spent a ton of time away from home and I want to be able to actually focus on having a private life again, getting back to the private sector.”
Fildebrandt was once seen as a rising political star in Alberta’s conservative political landscape, first as an MLA with the Wildrose Party and later the United Conservative Party.
FCP spokesperson Cody Johnston said Fildebrandt had recently informed the party’s board of governors that he would be leaving the leadership position but remain a member of the party.
“I believe that there’s a future for the Freedom Conservative Party, especially as Albertans have a chance to, especially in the next election, vote not just against what they don’t want but to consider more specifically what they want the future of Alberta to look like,” Fildebrandt said.
“We started the party very close to an election, just a little over half a year before an election, and we wanted to give Albertans a real choice, not just an echo.”
Less than two weeks ago, Fildebrandt lost his seat in the legislature when he was defeated in the riding of Chestermere-Strathmore by the UCP’s Leela Aheer. The FCP failed to win a seat in the provincial election.
The boundaries for the riding were redrawn since the last provincial election. In 2015, Fildebrandt was elected as a Wildrose MLA in Strathmore-Brooks.
“The way the election transpired, it became a two-way race where unfortunately, most people were just voting against what they didn’t want,” Fildebrandt said. “People on the left voted NDP to stop the Tories and people on the right and centre voted for the Tories to stop the NDP. And that meant that the smaller parties on the left, centre and right all got squeezed out.”
Fildebrandt also said he believed that because he wasn’t included in the leaders debate, it hurt the party.
Johnston said the FCP expects to meet in Calgary on Saturday to elect an interim leader to replace Fildebrandt.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Derek Fildebrandt.
Fildebrandt, the former national research director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, launched the FCP in July 2018 after being turfed by the UCP over a number of controversies.
He had previously been an outspoken supporter of Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney, who is set to be sworn in on April 30.
Fildebrandt had quit the UCP caucus to sit as an Independent after it emerged he had subletted his taxpayer-subsidized accommodation on Airbnb and double-expensed some meals.
Fildebrandt was also charged — and later found guilty — with hitting a neighbour’s vehicle and leaving the scene.
He also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of wildlife after he shot a deer on private property.
Early last year, Kenney said Fildebrandt wouldn’t be allowed back into the UCP, in part because he had not disclosed the wildlife charge he was facing when the two met for an hour-long meeting months earlier.
Fildebrandt said he believed the UCP wasn’t letting him back in because he planned to run in the redrawn constituency of Chestermere-Strathmore against Aheer.
Fildebrandt said he has many ideas in common with Kenney and the UCP, adding that he wants the new “government to succeed and do well for Alberta.” However, he said he won’t be quiet about his views when he retreats from politics.
“I’m physically incapable of not speaking out when I see something that needs to be said if no one else is saying it,” he said. “When I see the government doing something that I think is right for Alberta, I’ll speak out in support of it.
–With files from The Canadian Press