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Canada

Derek Fildebrandt becomes leader of new Freedom Conservative Party in Alberta

A former member of Alberta’s Opposition has been acclaimed as the leader of the Freedom Conservative Party.

Derek Fildebrandt launched the FCP in July after he was turfed from the United Conservative Party following expense scandals and court troubles.

A news release from the FCP says Fildebrandt was the only candidate who successfully completed and submitted the application and deposit.

The Brooks MLA says in the release that he’s humbled to be given a mandate by the new party’s membership, and will now focus on nominating candidates and building a platform for next spring’s election.

He says that means completely abolishing the carbon tax, cutting government spending, protecting choice in education and taking back provincial control over immigration and justice.

Fildebrandt has previously said the new party will only run candidates in some constituencies, ideally with no party winning a majority of seats, allowing his Freedom Conservatives to join Jason Kenney’s UCP to govern.

“We will give Albertans a clear choice that is neither the big government NDP or the old establishment Tories, but is, instead, dedicated to a free and autonomous Alberta, within Canada, that will build a new Alberta Advantage for the 21st century,” Fildebrandt said in the news release.

Bob Lefurgey, FCP interim president, said in a statement that the party has been committed since its founding over the summer to having an open and democratic race.

“We welcomed all Albertans to participate in this contest. Serving as our interim leader, Derek Fildebrandt has proven that he has what it takes to lead the FCP,” Lefurgey said.

Fildebrandt was elected under the Wildrose party banner in the 2015 election, and was a vocal Kenney supporter when the former federal cabinet minister spearheaded a merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose last year to create the new United Conservative Party.

But he quit caucus to sit as an Independent after he was found to have been subletting his taxpayer-subsidized accommodation on Airbnb and double-expensing some meals. He was also charged — and eventually found guilty — with hitting a neighbour’s vehicle and leaving the scene, and pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of wildlife after he shot a deer on private property.

Kenney said in February that Fildebrandt wouldn’t be allowed back into the UCP, explaining the MLA had not disclosed he was facing the wildlife charge when the two met for an hour-long meeting in November.

Fildebrandt has said his banishment was linked to Kenney’s concern that Fildebrandt planned to run in a redrawn constituency against another caucus member.

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