Calgary Herald

Prentice takes high road in ‘nasty’ Alberta politics


Jim Prentice says he’s been called more names in a few short weeks of Alberta politics than he was in six years on the federal scene.

Alberta politics have become “nasty,” the PC leadership candidate says in an interview.

“I have been struck by it, because I’m not new to politics.

“I was at the centre of Stephen Harper’s government for all six minority years — I chaired the operations committee for longer than anybody in modern Canadian history.

“But no one ever called me names, ever. I’ve been called more names in six weeks of Alberta politics than I was called in those years on the national stage.”

Unable to resist, I ask what name bugs him most — is it Diamond Jim?

“I’m not going to get into it,” the candidate says with a cool smile.

“Don’t misunderst­and me. I’m not asking anybody to feel sorry for me. I went into this with my eyes open.

“My point is that Albertans are essentiall­y a very optimistic, hopeful people. … But I think our

I’ll be as spontaneou­s as I need to be PC CANDIDATE JIM PRENTICE

politics have become quite different from that.

“Debates, to the extent that you can even call them debates, are essentiall­y name-calling, very negative and very myopic, and not focused on the long-term interests of the province.

“I’m talking about the discussion and debate among people who are in politics, who have descended to just calling people names.

“I’m not going to do that. I refuse to get involved in it.”

And he doesn’t. Over 40 minutes, Prentice eludes all inducement­s to get personal about any politician. He says Albertans are “sick and tired of that.”

He’s probably right. Political discourse in Alberta has descended from civility to civil war that inexorably draws in surroundin­g troops. Only a premier of saintly status could hold fire for long, but Prentice insists he would.

He is a very self-possessed fellow, this candidate. When asked if he might not be quite as spontaneou­s as his vivid opponents, Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver, the answer is revealing:

“I’ll be as spontaneou­s as I need to be.”

“I trust my political instincts, but my approach to life is to make sure you have all the facts, think it through, and make decisions that reflect common sense.”

Planned spontaneit­y — that would be new for the PCs, who have arrived at something like spontaneou­s self-combustion.

Prentice says “the public has watched the government and doesn’t understand who they are anymore.

“There are so many moving parts, so many things under review, so many things being turned upside down, that the public looks at the government and says ‘this isn’t reflecting what we are concerned about.’

“My view is that we need a very focused, very discipline­d government run by somebody who knows what they’re doing and has got the experience to deal with the issues.”

That, of course, would be him. Prentice seems to feel that his own qualities — the image of experience, steadiness and planning, the very absence of flash or goofiness — are just what people want. For a premier, “being a predictabl­e person is important,” he says.

“People want to look at the leader of the party, at the premier of the province, and say, I understand who that guy is and what his philosophy is and what he stands for, and I can sleep at night because I know what he’s going to do tomorrow.”

“The dominant thing I hear from people across the province is, OK, I’m gonna give you one more chance to get your house in order ... I can’t tell you how many fingers I’ve had waved at me.”

Prentice feels the PC rebound has already started. He also appears to believe it depends on him. In that one thing, at least, he’s no different from his opponents.

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Jim Prentice

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