Calgary Herald

Facebook reply to anti-Wynne slur an ‘honest mistake’: MLA

Fildebrand­t surprised by suspension, says he should be more careful online

- SALMAAN FAROOQUI With files from The Canadian Press sfarooqui@postmedia.com

Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrand­t says he was “surprised” by his suspension over a reply he made to a homophobic comment about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on his Facebook page.

“I receive an average of 800 comments on my public Facebook page daily and I do my best to respond personally. As I’ve already stated publicly, I did not read a comment posted to my page by a constituen­t as carefully as I should have. If anyone felt that I shared those sentiments, I do not, and I apologize,” Fildebrand­t wrote Saturday.

The post in question referred to Ontario’s openly gay premier as ‘Mr. Wynne or whatever the hell she identifies as,’ as it praised Fildebrand­t for opposing Wynne’s economic policies during her visit to Alberta Legislatur­e on Thursday. Fildebrand­t replied to the original post commending the man’s comments, saying he was “proud to have constituen­ts like you.”

Fildebrand­t was promptly suspended by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who has been known to take a hard stance on hateful speech in Wildrose ranks, including firing candidate Bill Jarvis after he was caught on tape saying that “brown people” should be stood up front during a photo op in last year’s provincial election.

“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,” said Fildebrand­t, who has since had members of the LGBTQ community come to his defence on social media.

Jean stated Friday night that the comments did not align with the party’s beliefs.

“This evening, Mr. Fildebrand­t made an unacceptab­le comment on social media that does not represent the values of the Wildrose Caucus. He has been suspended immediatel­y.”

The online fiasco followed a raucous display in the legislatur­e on Thursday, when Wildrose members, including Fildebrand­t, criticized and yelled over the visiting Ontario premier during question period.

Wildrose spokesman Vitor Marciano said the party will not comment on the incident until Monday. Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes posted on his Facebook page Saturday, calling for more respect to be shown in the party.

“I will continue to work diligently to ensure the level of decorum and respect in the legislatur­e matches the high level Albertans expect,” he wrote.

A spokespers­on from Premier Rachel Notley’s office declined to comment.

Speaking at the Liberal Convention in Winnipeg on Saturday, Wynne referred to the “homophobic” comments as a sign that LGBTQ rights still have a long way to go in Canada.

“We have to understand that, yes, we’ve come a long 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.”

Wynne later said she accepted Fildebrand­t’s apology, but expressed concern about the tone of the criticism.

“Yes, I accept the apology,” Wynne said during a session on women in politics at the federal Liberal party’s national convention.

“But, you know, I think it was an interestin­g confluence of things. There’s a woman premier in Alberta, I’m there as a woman, we’re talking about climate change.

“And I think the attack, the viciousnes­s of the attack, had a particular quality to it. So, I will just say we need to pay attention to that.”

I think the attack, the viciousnes­s of the attack, had a particular quality to it. So, I will just say we need to pay attention to that.

 ?? CRYSTAL SCHICK ?? MLA Derek Fildebrand­t says he accepts the suspension handed him by Wildrose Party for his response to a homophobic Facebook post, but says the response does not “reflect my own opinion.”
CRYSTAL SCHICK MLA Derek Fildebrand­t says he accepts the suspension handed him by Wildrose Party for his response to a homophobic Facebook post, but says the response does not “reflect my own opinion.”
 ??  ?? Brian Jean
Brian Jean

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