Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt channelling Charlton Heston in happier times

It shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose, that Derek Fildebrandt has publicly gone all Charlton Heston on us.

I speak, of course, of Alberta’s recently rebranded Freedom Conservative Party leader’s Hestonesque Twitter outburst Friday in response to talk the federal Liberal government might actually make an election issue out of banning handguns.

The handgun ban balloon was floated by federal Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair during the Trudeau government’s cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que. This suggests the Liberals have done some polling and concluded the eminently sensible idea is one on which they could campaign and win in Canada’s big cities, if not in rural settings like Fildebrandt’s Strathmore-Brooks provincial riding.

In addition to being a famous American actor who played both John the Baptist and Ben Hur in his long screen career, Heston led the National Rifle Association for six years before stepping down and succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease. When he announced his retirement from the NRA in 2003, he famously concluded with a cry of “from my cold dead hands.” Everyone in the room knew what he meant.

Fildebrandt — a shrewd if not a careful politician, once a rising star in the Wildrose and United Conservative parties before exchanging fire with two leaders, one of whom turned out to be a better shot than he was — didn’t go quite as far as the late NRA president.

But if the Liberals dare to ban handguns, he tweeted defiantly, “no matter what the feds do, they will never get their hands on mine.”

This set off a predictable Twitter storm over gun control, which no doubt pleased Fildebrandt, who faces the daunting task of seeking re-election in a rural riding without the support of the well-financed Conservative party he was once part of — having been sent packing a year ago by UCP leader Jason Kenney after a series of unfortunate events.

The gun debate, of course, is a bore, no pun intended. It works for the advocates of unrestricted U.S.-style gun ownership since any reasonable person succumbs to weariness as they go on and on with their fatuous statistics.

What’s interesting to me about Fildebrandt’s latest outburst, though, is its inconsistency with other things he has said in the past.

After all, it’s perfectly reasonable for a law-abiding gun owner, particularly one who is an elected lawmaker, to strenuously oppose any piece of legislation, no matter how sensible. What is not so reasonable is to vow in advance to defy the law if it’s passed as if the rules simply don’t apply to him, either because he just doesn’t feel like obeying them, or because he doesn’t think they apply to libertarian conservatives.

Fildebrandt, clearly, doesn’t feel this way about all law-breaking.

Last fall, when tout le monde political Alberta was deeply obsessed with pipeline protesters in British Columbia, Fildebrandt excoriated what he called “a cowardly political elite that is not willing to use the police force necessary to protect private property and the rule of law.”

In an interview with a local news website in Strathmore, he went on to call on Premier Rachel Notley to “use appropriate police force necessary to clear out illegal protesters who are squatting on private land and making a mockery of the rule of law.”

It was not immediately clear how she was supposed to do this, as she is the premier of Alberta and the illegal squatters, since departed, were in British Columbia. But his key point was that, under the rule of law, all citizens must obey the law, or be dealt with accordingly.

Now we see, on a matter dear to his heart or the hearts of his constituents, the rule of law is of no consequence whatsoever. Indeed, he could be said to be advocating making a mockery of the law.

Of course, there is a pattern here. Among the things that got Fildebrandt in trouble with his former friend Kenney was his failure to remain at the scene of an accident as required by law and his act of shooting a deer on private land as forbidden by law.

This suggests a lack of concern for the rule of law — except when enforcement of a law is in what Fildebrandt views as being his interests. It is reasonable, given this evidence, not to take him very seriously.

On the other hand, as has been observed here before, it rather puts him in the mainstream as utopian market fundamentalist ideologues go when it comes to questions of the rule of law — to wit, it’s for you, and not for them.

As for the likelihood of the Liberals actually moving forward on a handgun ban, I am sorry to say I suspect their enthusiasm for this idea will wane once they have been successfully reelected. But if handguns are by some miracle banned, one hopes for his own safety that Fildebrandt reconsiders his defiance!

It is ironic that the success of the pro-gun lobby in attacking and undermining the so-called long-gun registry really created the political conditions that make it possible to talk now of outright bans.

In the meantime, should he lose to the UCP as expected in the forthcoming spring Alberta provincial election, the renegade MLA will have already auditioned for a local production of one of Heston’s most famous roles, that of Moses leading the Children of Alberta into the wilderness as a candidate for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.

After that, I suppose, the former Canadian Taxpayers Federation agitator will have to return to his native Ontario and seek work with a right-wing think tank or Astro-Turf group.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

Image: Facebook

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David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...