Jim Prentice remembered for hard work, love of family, great sense of humour

Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice was remembered by Edmonton Tories Friday as a hard worker with a great sense of humour who was devoted to his family.

'He worked hard. He did his homework. He always came to the table well prepared'

Jim Prentice laughed with former Edmonton mayor and then newly-appointed Health Minister Stephen Mandel after being sworn-in as Alberta's 16th premier in September 2014. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Edmonton Tories are remembering former Alberta premier Jim Prentice as a hard-working devoted family man whose humour could lighten the mood in any room.

Prentice, 60, and three other people were killed Thursday night after a twin-engine Cessna Citation crashed shortly after taking off from Kelowna, B.C.

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel served as health minister when Prentice was premier. Mandel said Prentice was a "down to earth, nice guy." 

"When I was in the government,  one of his ministers … he was the boss during the day," he said. "At night, when we had a chance to sit and talk, it was a different relationship."

Mandel said Prentice was "madly in love" with his wife Karen and always talked about his children and grandchildren. 

Stephen Mandel remembers his friend Jim Prentice


5 years ago
Edmonton's former mayor talks about the personal life of Jim Prentice with CBC's Adrienne Pan. 3:54

"First of all, he was a loving husband. Second … a tremendous family man, and third, a man of great passion and vision for both this province and this country," he said.

Although Prentice didn't hold elected office until 2004, he was a well-known figure in the Progressive Conservative party for decades. 

Long-time MLA and cabinet minister Dave Hancock preceded Prentice as premier. Hancock first met Prentice in 1975 when they were both working on Joe Clark's PC leadership campaign. Then-president of the PC youth association, Hancock says he recruited Prentice to work as the post-secondary director. 

Since then, Hancock said he always found Prentice intellectually strong and easy to work with. 

"He understood what he wanted to accomplish and he understood the policy directions, and they mattered to him," he said. 

Whole life was public service

Doug Goss, a well-known PC supporter and former chairman of the University of Alberta board of governors, was friends with Prentice.

"We've lost a tremendous Canadian, Albertan,"  Goss said Friday. "A man who gave everything to this country, this province. His whole life was public service."

Goss last saw Prentice at the Hotel Macdonald in September when he was in Edmonton to celebrate the birthday of business owner and philanthropist Irv Kipnes.

Goss said Prentice was happy and seemed to be enjoying life.

"He's just a really nice man," he said. " I've always treasured our time together and our friendship."

Former Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk had known Prentice and his wife since the late 1970s.

Klimchuk said Prentice always put his family first in the years he served as an MP and Alberta premier. She said he also had a "wonderful" sense of humour.

"In certain situations, he would always make us laugh, whether it was caucus or cabinet or those kinds of things," Klimchuk said. "But he also was a very driven person. He worked hard. He did his homework. He always came to the table well prepared."

Looking forward to new challenges

Robin Campbell, who served under Prentice as Alberta's finance minister, also remembered his former boss for his hard work and great sense of humour.

Campbell lost his seat in the May 2015 election which saw the PCs swept out of power by Rachel Notley. Prentice won his Calgary-Foothills seat but immediately resigned as MLA and PC leader on election night. 

Campbell said Prentice took that loss hard. But he said Prentice was feeling much better when he saw him at his 60th birthday party in August. 

Doug Goss, the former chairman of University of Alberta, was holding back tears as he spoke about the death of his friend Jim Prentice. (CBC )

"He was in good spirits and looking forward to the new challenges in life ahead."

Campbell called Prentice the best CEO government ever had. 

"Talk to anybody who worked in his ministry. I think you'll find they'll all have the same thing to say about Jim — that he cared and that he worked real hard for the people of Canada and the people of Alberta."

Premier Rachel Notley cancelled a scheduled visit to Red Deer on Friday. Notley is expected to make a statement later today.

With files from the CBC's Gareth Hampshire