The View From Here – Derek Fildebrandt is a young politician well versed in old political tricks

Tom Henihan

It is odd how politicians’ clerical errors never seem to benefit the taxpayer, as they always error on the side of personal gain.

When caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, they are inevitably thankful that the matter has been brought to their attention. They also take full responsibility in a statement crafted to do everything but actually take responsibility.

Derek Fildebrandt, MLA for Brooks -Strathmore, recently resigned from the United Conservative Party caucus due to questionable practices regarding MLA expenses: first for renting his taxpayer subsidized apartment in Edmonton on Airbnb and for simultaneously expensing meals and claiming meal allowance on nine separate occasions.

Nine individual clerical errors with the same Modus operandi, if nothing else, that should call into question Fildebrandt’s over all competency as an MLA.

In a statement following the questionable meal expenses Fildebrandt made such typical disclamers as:

I take full responsibility for everything that happens in my office. There were some administrative errors in processing meal receipts for staff, constituent and stakeholder meetings…

I am thankful that this has been brought to my attention…

I take the custodianship of taxpayer’s money with the utmost seriousness.

Taxpayers take custodianship of their money with the utmost seriousness also and having politicians dinning at the table and under the table simultaneously, taxpayers can grow very weary of clerical errors.

Errors of this kind are far less prevalent in the private sector because the consequences of making such errors can be severe.

Derek Fildebrandt also rented out his taxpayer subsidized Edmonton apartment on Airbnb, and denying that he had done anything wrong, belligerently defended his profiteering little scheme.

Of course, he was doing something wrong; claiming full reimbursement on an apartment from which he was earning money is clearly against the rules.

In a statement defending his actions Fildebrandt said:

When I want a ride in a city, I use Uber. When I want to communicate with constituents, I use Facebook and Twitter. When I have an empty house, I use AirBnB….

Letting out an unused residence is reasonable and a part of the modern sharing economy.

Yes, Fildebrandt is just a modern guy, in tune with our contemporary, sharing economy, except he wasn’t sharing he was profiting.

A few days after making the above statement, realizing that he could not defend the indefensible, Fildebrandt donated his Airbnb income towards lowering the provincial debt, a gesture that rolls symbolism and tokenism into one tidy package.

While the amount of money garnered from both issues was small, approximately $192.60 over a period of 2 and half years for meals and $2,555 over 8 months for Airbnb, both matters together constitute a trend and seem to indicate that Fildebrandt, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, can resist everything except temptation.

The acting Alberta Director of the Canadian Tax Federation,(CTF) Colin Craig, said that Fildebrandt’s actions were wrong, that MLAs receive these funds to cover the cost of living not to turn a profit

The CTF is an organization at which Fildebrandt worked before going into politics and Craig said he cannot understand why he would use his living expenses in this way, as Fildebrandt was the Alberta director of the CTF when issues with MLAs expenses were first scrutinized in 2012.

In announcing his resignation from the UCP, Fildebrandt said:

I have made honest mistakes – always doing what I believed was best at the time – and I accept responsibility, and am truly sorry.

As media attention now passes from public issues to private issues, taking responsibility is not enough, and so I have submitted my resignation from the UCP Caucus to our Interim Leader Nathan Cooper.

While Derek Fildebrandt constantly reiterates that he takes full responsibility, that declaration is always preceded or followed by a statement of immunity such as “always doing what I believed best at the time,” to implying that excessive media scrutiny forced his hand in offering his resignation.

At 31, Fildebrandt is a relatively young politician. However, his behaviour is remarkably old school.

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