'He deeply loved Alberta': Premier Rachel Notley on death of Jim Prentice
'There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well'
An emotional Premier Rachel Notley told a short news conference Friday how her family can relate to the shocking death of former premier Jim Prentice.
"There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well," Notley told reporters, alluding to death of her father, NDP MLA and party leader Grant Notley, in an October 1984 plane crash.
Notley said she phoned Prentice's wife, Karen, to offer her condolences.
"He served our province in so many roles for so many years," Notley said in her statement at the Alberta legislature. "He deeply loved Alberta. He worked tirelessly for all of us, in the true spirit of one who is committed to public service.
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"I benefited from his advice, and the government of Alberta is continuing to pursue many of his initiatives. All Albertans are the better for this."
Flags at the legislature have been lowered to half-mast in honour of Prentice, who was premier from September 2014 until May 2015.
'Our hearts are shattered'
Last year, Prentice was the master of ceremonies at the funeral of Manmeet Bhullar, the PC MLA and former Alberta cabinet minister who was killed in a highway crash in November 2015.
Prentice had first met Bhullar when he was 10 years old.
On Friday, Bhullar's family issued a statement paying tribute to the kindness shown by the Prentices in the days after his death.
"In our darkest days Jim & Karen were by our family's side with love and comfort," the statement said.
"Today our hearts are shattered once again. Our love is with the Prentice family. We witnessed Jim's dedication to a life of public service, with deep admiration and respect.
"Jim was a mentor, a loyal supporter and a champion of Manmeet's. We hope somewhere today two dear friends are reunited."
Awkward 'family fight'
Ric McIver became interim PC leader after Prentice stepped down on the night of the last provincial election.
McIver told reporters Friday that when he was on Calgary city council, he worked tangentially with Prentice, who was in the federal government.
But it was the Alberta PC leadership race in 2014 that brought them closest together. They were competitors in an awkward "family fight," as McIver described it. But Prentice still handled the relationship with grace.
"He proved that he had a sense of humour and a sense of forgiveness and compassion for putting me in his cabinet after that," McIver told a news conference.
"Afterwards we shook hands and he said, let's work together and he just said if you want to serve Alberta, I'll let you do that. I can't think of a better example of a person who had a sense of humour, whose willing to forgive and forget, and work for the betterment of Alberta."
McIver, like many others, recalled Prentice's dedication to his wife, Karen, his daughters, and his grand-daughters. McIver ran into the former premier one day after he had left politics.
"I asked what he was doing and he said, 'I'm playing with the grandkids, hanging out with Karen, spending time with my family.' I think that really speaks to his dedication to his family."
McIver described Prentice as a politician who did his research to understand the issues important to constituents.
"From the city council perspective, when you try to explain what you need to a member of the provincial or federal government, you have to tell them three times and they still don't get it. They have different priorities," McIver said.
"Jim Prentice got it....Once he understood (the issue) he put a plan in place."
Here is the full text of Notley's statement:
"I have been informed that Premier Jim Prentice was the victim of a terrible aircraft accident last night.
I spoke with his wife, Karen, and expressed the profound sorrow and sympathy I feel, and that I know all Albertans feel, in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.
I also spoke with PC leader Ric McIver.
There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well.
But there are words to remember Premier Prentice's contributions to Alberta. He served our province in so many roles for so many years. He deeply loved Alberta. He worked tirelessly for all of us, in the true spirit of one who is committed to public service. I benefited from his advice, and the Government of Alberta is continuing to pursue many of his initiatives. All Albertans are the better for this.
We will find an appropriate occasion to fully remember Premier Prentice's career and contributions.
But today our thoughts are with his family. With Karen and their daughters Christina, Cassia and Kate. And with two grandchildren who will have much to be proud of their grandfather.
This tragedy was made worse by the death on the same flight of Premier Prentice's good friend, and father of his son-in-law, Dr. Ken Gellatly.
Our thoughts are also with Premier Prentice's friends and colleagues.
For Alberta, today is a day of sorrow in the face of terrible tragedy.
To all Albertans, I urge you to look at the faces of those we love and remember that every moment with them is a precious gift."
The government has set up an online memorial page for Albertans to share their messages of condolence.