Jim Prentice, 60, dies in plane crash
Published Friday, October 14, 2016 12:53PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 14, 2016 7:38PM EDT
Canadian politicians and business leaders are remembering Jim Prentice as a devoted public servant and an affable colleague following his tragic death in a plane crash outside of Kelowna, B.C. late Thursday.
Prentice, 60, was flying out of Kelowna in a Cessna Citation, with three other passengers, following a golf trip. There were no survivors.
His daughter’s father-in-law, Ken Gellatly, also died in the crash. In a brief statement, the family said that losing two loved ones at once is “unbelievably painful.”
It’s unclear what caused the accident. The small plane, built in 1974, left the Kelowna International Airport at 9:32 p.m. Thursday, climbed to an altitude of 8,600 feet and then suddenly disappeared from radar at about 10:15 p.m., according to airport authorities and a preliminary Transport Canada report.
"All attempts to establish communications were unsuccessful," officials wrote in the report.
The company that owns the plane, Calgary-based Norjet Inc., said it plans to co-operate with the Transportation Safety Board and will release more details as the investigation unfolds.
“Until that time, we join with Canadians in expressing our heartbreak over the loss of four irreplaceable and cherished individuals,” Norjet said in a statement.
Prentice was a former Alberta PC premier and former federal cabinet minister in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. He left federal politics in 2010, to take a job as senior executive vice-president of CIBC and later ran for the Alberta PC leadership.
While his time in power in Alberta was short-lived, colleagues at both levels of government praised Prentice for his professionalism and abilities.
Condolences poured in quickly after the news broke.
Trudeau: Prentice's legacy 'will live on'
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Prentice “a strong voice for the people of Alberta and for the people of Canada” and said he brought an “intelligent, honest and straightforward approach” to his work.
“I greatly enjoyed my interactions with Jim, (the) time I spent working beside him, across from him in the House. And while we didn’t always share the same views, he was always incredibly kind and respectful to me, and I will miss him profoundly,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Lethbridge, Alberta.
“Jim’s legacy will live on the work he did for Canadians, particularly in the important role he played in finalizing the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and through his daughters, who I know he loved very much and was incredibly proud of.”
Former prime minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences in a video message posted to Twitter.
“Jim was a family man, friend, leader, and most importantly, a proud Canadian. His legacy will live on through his loving family and decades of public service,” read the statement.
In an emotional address, Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose called Prentice’s death “a big loss for our country” and offered condolences to his wife and three daughters.
“To Karen and the girls: we’re with you, we’re praying for you, and we love you. And we hope that you are comforted by the incredible respect and gratitude that is being show to Jim across the country,” Ambrose said as she choked back tears.
Former foreign affairs minister John Baird, who served in cabinet with Prentice, said he was devastated to learn of his friend's death.
"My thoughts & prayers are with his wife Karen and his family," Baird wrote on Twitter.
"Alberta lost a great man. Jim Prentice was a good friend and colleague," said Ted Menzies, a former Conservative MP.
'Monday night hockey warrior'
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose victory for the NDP in the 2015 election led to Prentice’s retirement from politics, said she benefitted from Prentice’s political advice and that the province “is continuing to pursue many of his initiatives.”
In a sombre address on Friday afternoon, Notley said that her thoughts are with the former premier’s family.
“For Alberta, today is a day of sorrow in the face of terrible tragedy. And 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,” she said.
Former Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford said her relationship with Prentice stretches back almost 30 years ago to when she articled for him at a law firm, long before either of them entered politics.
“(He) was a wonderful man to learn the law from, to learn a lot of things from, and I will miss him,” Redford told CTV’s Power Play on Friday.
In particular, Redford said Prentice taught her how to balance family life with a political career and how to remain true to one’s core beliefs.
“He was very consistent in his values. He believed you needed to live your life publically and privately in the same way … He certainly did that,” she said.
Conservative MP Lisa Raitt called Prentice affable and said his "humility emboldened his intellect," while Conservative MP Tony Clement called his death "crushing." Many also remembered him as a devoted public servant.
Many also remembered him as a devoted public servant, while Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown recalled their shared leisure time.
"Jim Prentice was a friend, an accomplished public servant [and] a Monday night hockey warrior during our days in Ottawa," Brown said on Twitter.
Former Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day said that, by coincidence, he flew out of the same airport in Kelowna yesterday.
“We were on the same golf course, and I’m devastated personally as are all of his friends and mostly his family,” said Day, who worked closely with Prentice in the House of Commons.
“I can remember so often in cabinet he was clear, he was succinct, but he had the ability to blend heart and mind on an issue,” he said.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said in a statement that Prentice was “one of the true gentlemen I have known.”
“He will be missed but his legacy on the many issues and people he touched will live on,” Mulroney said.
Prentice was known as a conciliator and a gentleman, and was widely respected in Ottawa.
It's not just Prentice's former caucus colleagues who mourned his death. Politicians across the spectrum remembered him for being willing to step outside the lines strictly defined during Harper's time in power.
"Through a storied career, Jim Prentice said a defining moment was voting same-sex marriage into law. Rest in Peace," Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan tweeted.
Green Party Leader recalled Prentice's last decision as environment minister before he left politics, which saw him reject the application for the Prosperity Mine near Fish Lake, B.C.
"I'm heartbroken," May said. "My heart goes out to Jim's wife, Karen, three daughters and grandchildren as they mourn this tragic loss."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in a statement that he and his wife Catherine were saddened to hear of Prentice's sudden death.
"We join all New Democrats in offering our most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones at this difficult time," Mulcair said in the statement.
"Mr. Prentice served both Canada and Alberta with honour and respect. He possessed a love for politics and deep sense of public service that was universally admired."
'A great loss'
Canadian entrepreneur Thomas d'Aquino tweeted, "Shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Jim Prentice. A huge loss. Canada mourns the departure of a great patriot."
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Brett Wilson called Prentice simply "a great man."
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall put out a brief statement about his time working with Prentice at both the federal and provincial levels, calling Alberta Saskatchewan's "closest friend and neighbour."
"This is a deep loss for all of Canada," Wall said on Facebook.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne recalled Prentice as an "ardent Albertan" and "loving father."
The Ontario-born businessman and lawyer held several portfolios in Harper's cabinet, including industry, environment and Indian affairs. He also ran for the federal PC leadership in 2003, losing to his future caucus colleague Peter MacKay.
Prentice stepped aside, in his 2002 byelection run, to allow Harper to run and win the Calgary Southwest seat. Prentice ran again in 2004, winning the Calgary North-Centre seat which he held until he stepped down six years later.
As a prominent member of Harper's team, Prentice chaired the cabinet operations committee, a powerful group that set the agenda for the government.
After losing the 2015 Alberta election to the NDP, Prentice joined Washington, D.C. think-tank the Wilson Center. He planned to write a book on energy and environmental issues, according to The Canadian Press.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is deploying a team of investigators to the crash.