Alison Redford was premier of Alberta from 2011-14
Jim Prentice loved his family, he loved Canada and he inspired tremendous loyalty amongst his friends.
Today, many people are sad over Jim’s passing, but first and foremost, our condolences go out to Jim’s family and very close friends. Jim’s friends were not only personal friends, but also people that loved him because they believed in what he was trying to do for Canada. In every aspect of Jim’s life, he was a leader – a man who inspired people to do their best.
As a man who was involved in so many aspects of public life, he will surely be remembered by many people in very different ways. That speaks to his compassion, his respect for people and his commitment to making people’s lives better.
I first met Jim almost 30 year ago, when I was his articling student. We came together because we were the two active political volunteers at our law firm and we were paired off. That is when I learned that Jim was an incredibly smart and thoughtful person who cared about public policy and was interested in a variety of ideas. He had an incredible capacity to work and always worked to a high standard.
In addition to training as an articling student, in that articling year, there are two memories I have of Jim that have stood out over the years and informed my view of the world as well. We spent a great deal of time travelling in southern Alberta, talking to First Nations leaders and ranchers who were being asked to transfer land to build the Oldman River Dam, which was one of the last major water infrastructure projects built in Alberta.
I remember Jim sitting with ranching families around their kitchen tables talking about the land that had been in their families for generations and helping to ease the impact of making the decision to part with it. Jim understood the history and the connection that we have with the land as Canadians, and he shared that love of the physical geography of both Alberta and Canada.
That same year, just after Nelson Mandela was released, I asked Jim to travel to South Africa to work with the African National Congress around the question of whether or not property rights should be entrenched in their constitution. The connection to land from which many black communities had been removed was important for reconciliation, and an important part of the healing process in South Africa at that time, and Jim’s legal advice was helpful in that context. After returning to Canada, Jim was appointed to the Indian Specific Claims Commission by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and this role allowed him to continue to work with First Nations communities on land issues in Canada.
Later in Jim’s political career, as the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Minister of Environment, he continued to deal with issues that again allowed him to build on his previous work around land, environment and indigenous communities.
As Environment Minister, he raised issues at an early stage that would be important to Canada’s future, but where people did not yet understand the economic impact of doing nothing. He didn’t always have a receptive audience, but going back to his roots, he knew that all of these issues had to be talked about together.
Jim had a way of connecting with people that allowed for thoughtful discussion on the issues that he had come to care about: community, First Nations, the environment and the land. Often in political life, it is difficult to deal with complicated issues – the public often wants to hear fast solutions to immediate problems, and does not always have patience for the longer-term planning.
Today, we are faced with the very real economic challenges that impact our lives as a result of climate change and the historic lack of meaningful dialogue with First Nations.
One of Jim Prentice’s lasting contributions to Canada will be to have understood the importance of that relationship and developing a firm perspective of their interconnectedness over his career, whether in politics or the law. He demonstrated this throughout his life.Report Typo/Error
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