Jim Prentice is a moderate conservative who has proved his ability to work well with not-so-moderate conservatives. That is one of the reasons why it is good that he is the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party's new leader, and is about to become premier.
The Wildrose Party, the Official Opposition, cannot be accused of excessive moderation. Any large-C Conservative leader in Alberta will have to both fend off Wildrose and draw off some of its supporters. Mr. Prentice was a long-time Progressive Conservative, but in 2002 he stood aside in a by-election in Calgary to help Stephen Harper, then the Canadian Alliance leader, win a seat in Parliament. In 2003, he was a Progressive Conservative leadership candidate, favouring what was called the United Alternative: union with the Alliance.
After the Conservatives took power in Ottawa in 2006, Mr. Prentice was successively minister of Indian Affairs, Industry and the Environment – all challenging and often thankless portfolios. He did much to bring about the residential-schools apology. He also had a central role as the chair of the operations committee of cabinet, which is more or less the inner cabinet, as well as being a member of the priorities committee – which may have influenced his current plan to make Alberta's cabinet smaller.
When Mr. Prentice left politics in 2010 to become a vice-chairman of CIBC, Stephen Harper, not the warmest personality in the world, gave him unmistakably warm praise, saying among other things that he had been the government's chief operating officer. In what turned out to be an interval away from politics, Mr. Prentice gave a number of thoughtful, balanced speeches about oil, pipelines, foreign investment and the economic complementarity between Alberta and Ontario.
Alberta and Canada should welcome his return to politics.