Colleagues, friends mourn the death of former Alberta premier Jim Prentice

The death of former Alberta premier and Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice in a plane crash in B.C. has prompted an outpouring of emotions from the many friends he made while in politics and business.

Former Alberta premier killed in a small-plane crash in B.C. on Thursday night

As Alberta premier in November 2014, Jim Prentice waves to the gallery at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The death of former Alberta premier and Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice in a plane crash in B.C. has prompted an outpouring of emotions from the many friends he made while in politics and business.

Friends and colleagues on all sides of the political spectrum are offering their condolences, with many praising Prentice as a devoted public servant and a man of principle.

Prentice was killed with three others in the crash of a twin-engine Cessna Citation on Thursday night.

'Valued colleague'

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said the entire Conservative family is devastated by the news of Prentice's death, calling it a "huge loss" for Canada.

"J.P. and I are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Jim," Ambrose said, referring to her partner, J.P. Veitch, an Alberta businessman.

"Jim was a leader in our movement, a valued colleague in cabinet, and a close and cherished friend of so many, not just in our party, but right across the political spectrum," Ambrose said in the foyer of the House of Commons, fighting off tears.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose pauses as she makes a brief statement on Friday following the death of Prentice. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"Our heart goes out to [Prentice's wife] Karen, the girls and his two beautiful grandchildren. We hope you are comforted by the incredible respect and gratitude that is being shown to Jim across the country."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Prentice was a "great Canadian," and commended the work he did as Aboriginal affairs minister.

"His legacy will live on in the work he did for Albertans and for all Canadians — particularly in the important role he played in finalizing the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement," Trudeau said, referring to the compensation package created under his watch for survivors of those schools.

Trudeau on the death of Jim Prentice


5 years ago
Trudeau on the death of Jim Prentice 1:30

"He was broadly respected in the House of Commons — across all party lines — for his intelligence, commitment and honest, straightforward approach on tough issues. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent working closely beside Jim in the House, and know that he will be missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notely, who bested Prentice in last year's provincial election, said she knows all too well what his family is going through — her father, former Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley, perished in a similar plane crash more than 30 years ago.

"There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well," she said. "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."

She said that the province will commemorate his legacy at a later date.

Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice and Rachel Notley shake hands after meeting in Edmonton last May, shortly before Notley was sworn in as premier. (Amber Bracken/Canadian Press)

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford, whom Prentice succeeded as premier, first met Prentice when she worked as a law clerk for him nearly 30 years ago. 

She told CBC Radio's As It Happens that a connection to the land was always important to him. 

"That relationship to the land, environment and community is what I hope he'll be remembered for," Redford said.

'Straight shooter'

Former finance minister Joe Oliver said Prentice was reliable and modest despite the lofty roles he held, both in and outside of government.

"He was a very giving person and a warm person, and he had great judgment. He held a lot of very important roles, but he was never pompous and he was always a straight shooter and someone whose integrity and good judgment you could always rely on," Oliver said in an interview with CBC News. "I think his legacy is one of … trying to reconcile a lot of difficult issues in a moderate, conciliatory way."

Another cabinet colleague, James Moore, said Prentice was a "true example of what people should aspire to be like in public life."

"He carried himself in statesmanlike way under the most impressive pressures you can imagine."

He said Prentice should be remembered for casting one of only three votes by Conservative MPs for same-sex marriage in 2004.

"He had a very clear mind about where his values were," Moore told CBC News, noting the position was a difficult one to take given opposition from some of his Alberta constituents. (Moore and former MP Gerald Keddy were the other Tories to vote in favour.)

In December 2008, Heritage Minister James Moore looks on as Environment Minister Jim Prentice calls for calm during a news conference after the opposition parties announced they would try to form a coalition government. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Those sentiments were echoed by colleague Marjory LeBreton, the former Conservative leader in the Senate, who said Prentice was trusted by Harper to lead a crucial cabinet committee.

"He was a tremendous asset to the cabinet in the various portfolios he held, but especially as chair of operations where he used all of the great skills he possessed in seeking compromise and solutions to very complex issues," she said in a statement.

Champion of Calgary, tolerant of diversity

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a statement he was devastated by the news, and praised Prentice as a champion of his city.

"Jim came to see me when I became mayor (one of my very first meetings, in fact), and he helped me navigate those tough first few weeks. Even after he left federal politics, he was an important part of this city and always ready to help however he could."

Nenshi said he relished the opportunity to work alongside a politician he long admired.

"In politics, I get to work with people from all political stripes who are filled with a desire to do good no matter what. I also get to work with people who are thoughtful, respectful and driven by a need improve this community we all share. Jim was all of these things, and so much more. He is an inspiration to all of us who aspire to public service," he said.

He also said Prentice was an exceedingly tolerant man who stood up for minority communities.

"When the Sikh community was struggling to set itself up in Calgary and trying to build the first gurdwara in this city, they faced a lot of opposition from a community that didn't know much about their faith. They were represented by an idealistic young lawyer who fought for respect, acceptance, and diversity. That lawyer was named Jim Prentice."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi embraces Prentice during the memorial service of Alberta member of the legislature Manmeet Bhullar in November 2015. (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press)

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning said Prentice helped to unite the right, and merge the fractured Progressive Conservative and Reform parties.

"He played a key role in the unification of conservatism at the federal level, a legacy that endures to this day. Canada's conservative movement, from coast to coast, will miss him dearly," he said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair commended Prentice as a formidable political opponent. 

"He possessed a love for politics and deep sense of public service that was universally admired. He will be greatly missed," he said in a statement.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May remembered Prentice for his work on the environment file, a cabinet posting he held from 2008 until his departure.

"Jim showed genuine concern in protecting the environment. Professionally, I will remember him fondly for his principled stance in rejecting the Prosperity Mine near Fish Lake, British Columbia, in 2010," she said. "It's a sad day for Canada and for all of us in public life."

After leaving federal politics in 2010, Prentice joined CIBC as vice-chair and executive vice-president. 

Victor Dodig, president and CEO of the bank, said Friday the news came as a "terrible shock."

"Jim was a great friend, colleague and Canadian. He left a lasting mark on our bank. He cared deeply for our country and had a tremendous ability to engage with people. His death is a tremendous loss for our country.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim's wife, Karen, and their children and extended family."

Below is an assortment of some of the sentiments expressed on social media:

Conservative colleagues in Ottawa, Alberta

On the other side of the aisle


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