Jim Prentice's legacy, from Harper's beginning in Ottawa to the end of Alberta's PC dynasty
JASON FRANSON FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Before a plane crash ended his life on Thursday night, Jim Prentice was a key player in some of the most tumultuous eras of Canadian conservative politics, both federally and in the province he called home. Here are some of the highlights.
SASKATOON STAR PHOENIX/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Mr. Prentice began his life in politics by volunteering on Joe Clark's campaign to lead the federal Progressive Conservatives in 1976, a race that Mr. Clark came from behind to win. A decade later, Mr. Prentice launched an abortive political career of his own, running for the Calgary-Mountain View seat in the Alberta legislature but losing to the NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth. A stint working on the provincial PC leadership campaign of Rick Orman in 1992 also ended in defeat when Mr. Orman lost to Ralph Klein. Returning to the federal scene, Mr. Prentice served as PC party treasurer from 1991 to 1995. His career in elected office took a stuttering start in 2002 when he won the PC nomination for the riding of Calgary-Southwest, but stepped aside when newly elected Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper entered a local by-election. In 2003, Mr. Prentice entered the federal PC leadership race but lost to Peter MacKay.
The Harper ascendancy
He finally entered Parliament in 2004 after winning the seat for Calgary Centre-North with the newly formed Conservative Party and joined cabinet in 2006. His first role was as Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister, where he relied on years of legal work on First Nations issues and a stint at the head of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada in the early 1990s. His tenure at the ministry was marked by confrontations with opposition parties and activists over the implementation of the Kelowna Accord, which promised $5-billion over five years to tackle First Nations poverty. The minority Conservative government opposed a bill to implement the accord on the grounds that it was too vague, but opposition parties united to pass the legislation. Mr. Prentice later held the Industry and Environment portfolios.
The voyage home
In 2010, Mr. Prentice surprised Ottawa by announcing he would resign from cabinet and leave his federal seat to take a lucrative executive job at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Some speculated it was a strategic move to bide his time for a future leadership bid; one Tory insider told The Globe and Mail at the time that it would allow him to re-enter politics one day as a "born-again virgin." That proved true, in a sense, four years later when he ran for the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership. The party had fallen on hard times after premier Alison Redford's expense scandals and resignation, and with the backing of high-profile PC officials and Alberta oil interests, he won the leadership on a promise to turn the party's image around.
Alberta PCs' run comes to an end
When Mr. Prentice became Alberta's premier in September, 2014, he was the seventh in a dynasty of PC leaders that had governed the province since the 1970s – but after a disastrous early election the following year, he would turn out to be the last. After running on a job-cutting deficit budget, Mr. Prentice's party ended up losing 60 of its 70 seats as Rachel Notley's NDP swept to a majority win. "As the leader of the party, I accept responsibility for tonight's outcome," Mr. Prentice said in his concession speech. "… My contribution to public life is now at an end." A year later, Mr. Harper's political career would be over too as the federal Tories lost to Justin Trudeau's Liberals.
Harper's farewell to a friend
Laureen and I were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of our friend and colleague Jim Prentice. pic.twitter.com/NgABNhzTBM— Stephen Harper (@stephenharper) October 14, 2016