Jim Prentice

From Academic Kids

Jim Prentice (born July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine, Timmins, Ontario) is a Canadian lawyer and politician. In the 2004 federal election he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Contents

Background

Prentice was born to a large, blue-collar family in northern Ontario. The family then eventually moved to Alberta. His father was a professional hockey player in the National Hockey League (NHL) in the 1940s. Prentice was educated at the University of Alberta and Dalhousie University. He paid for his tuition by working as a coal miner in the summer months.

As a lawyer, he has specialized in property rights and has handled a number of relocations, environmental protection suits, and cases arising from restricted development areas. He also served as a Law Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada for 10 years and is recognized as an expert in land claims negotiations. He travelled to South Africa twice as an expert advisor on how to protect property rights in that country's new constitution.

Prentice served for seven years on the Board of Directors at the Calgary Winter Club, including stints as President and Chairman. He is an active member and volunteer leader in the Grace Presbyterian Church.

Prentice is married and has three daughters.

Political background

Prentice joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1976, and has been active in Tory circles ever since. During the early 1990s Prentice served as the PC Party's chief treasurer. Prentice first ran for Parliament as the nominated Progressive Conservative candidate in a spring 2002 by-election in the riding of Calgary Southwest that followed the retirement of Preston Manning as the riding's MP. When newly elected Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper replaced nominated CA candidate Ezra Levant in the by-election, Prentice withdrew from the race as a symbolic gesture of compromise.

He ran in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership race to support the "United Alternative" proposal to merge the PC party with the Canadian Alliance. He was seen by many as an alternative to the "status quo" candidate and frontrunner Peter MacKay. A basic platform of Prentice's campaign was that "no one has ever defeated the Liberals with a divided conservative family." Prentice ultimately emerged in second-place on the fourth ballot to the eventual winner MacKay. Many political pundits noted that while Prentice was ultimately defeated in the final ballot, he had the surprising ability to draw support from both the social conservative and Red Tory candidates who contested the race, after they were knocked off in the first and second ballots respectively. Consistent with his cooperative positions during the leadership race, Prentice was an ardent supporter of the merger endorsed by both the CA and PC parties in December 2003 that formed the new Conservative Party of Canada.

Prentice was the first declared candidate for the leadership of the new Conservative Party, announcing his run on December 7, 2003, the day after the new party was ratified by members of the PC Party. Prentice began his campaign in Calgary and toured parts of Ontario, specifically visiting Kingston, Ontario, the birthplace of the first Canadian Conservative Leader Sir John A. Macdonald and also the city where one of his daughters attends Queen's University. However, he withdrew from the race on January 12, 2004, citing difficulty in raising new funds less than a year after his unsuccessful first leadership bid.

Member of Parliament

Prentice ran in the riding of Calgary Centre North in the 2004 election for the new Conservative Party, and easily won the seat when the election was held on June 28.

After being sworn in as the MP for Calgary Centre North on July 16, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper named Prentice to the Shadow Cabinet as the Official Opposition Critic for Indian and Northern Affairs. In that role so far, Prentice has opposed the Tli Cho land claim agreement, which he says will make Canada ungovernable in 50 years. Prentice is also a strong supporter of the proposed and controversial Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. He has critized the government for its treatment of aboriginal women, and its alleged wasted money administering the Residential School Claims program for aboriginal victims of abuse.

In a surprising decision, Prentice has decided that he would vote in favour of Bill C-38 supporting same-sex marriage. While the Conservative Party has advocated a free vote, this puts him at odds with many of his constituents, as well as conservative groups such as Concerned Christians Canada Inc., who have even advocated his removal as an MP. In February 2004, Craig Chandler, the CEO of Concerned Christians Canada Inc. suggested on CBC Newsworld that he would be campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the next next federal election in Prentice's riding of Calgary North Centre, because of Prentice's pro-choice stance on abortion and his support of same-sex marriage rights. However, Chandler's intentions were prematurely thwarted when the March CPC Policy Convention in Montreal voted in favour of allowing sitting Tory MPs to gain their nominations uncontested in minority government scenarios where elections are less predictable. Like Prentice, Chandler was also a candidate in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership race where ironically, Chandler and his delegates endorsed Prentice's bid after Chandler was officially defeated on the first ballot.

Leadership possibility

Prentice has been seen as a possible future contender for the Leadership of the Conservative Party if Stephen Harper falters in the next federal election. He has several attributes that may be appealing to voters, including his blue collar background, loyalty to the PC Party during some of its most difficult years, his western and eastern roots, his moderate social stances and neoconservative fiscal credentials. Additionally, his impressive "come-from-behind" second-place finish in the 2003 PC leadership race and his relatively friendly relations with former Reformers have been cited as key advantages held by Prentice in any future race.

Some have suspected that Prentice, along with MPs James Moore, Peter MacKay, Belinda Stronach and Chuck Strahl, was one of the five "unnamed" Conservative Party MPs that Tory leader Stephen Harper rebuked in November 2004 for attempting to covertly start raising funds and support for a future CPC leadership race. His recent statements in favour of same-sex marriage in Canada may have dampened his hopes, as it puts him heavily at odds with the social conservatives who have great influence in the new party; conversely, it may have helped differentiate him from much of the field, casting him as a moderate, and endearing him to what is at least an influential large minority of Conservatives who support equal marriage for same-sex partners. With the recent decision of Red Tory MP Belinda Stronach to cross the floor to the Liberal Party of Canada, many have suggested that Prentice's leadership chances have improved markedly as he is now one of the few prominent Conservative MPs who is seen as a moderate on social issues. Stronach's defection will likely make Western conservatives leary of electing an Eastern Canadian leader, but they still may wish to recast the party as a more moderate alternative to the governing Liberals. Prentice may be the man who could capitalize on such sentiment.

Quote

"No one has ever defeated the Liberals with a divided conservative family."

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