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Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice among 4 killed in B.C. plane crash

Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice was among the four people killed in a small-plane crash in British Columbia on Thursday night, CBC News has confirmed.

Prentice, 60, was aboard a twin-engine Cessna Citation that disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff from Kelowna, en route to the Springbank Airport, just outside Calgary.

Bill Yearwood, who’s with the Transportation Safety Board, confirmed Friday that the plane’s wreckage was found near Winfield, B.C., and described the crash as “unsurvivable.”

“The aircraft is destroyed; all persons on board lost their lives,” Yearwood said.

Prentice served as Alberta premier from September 2014, when he won the leadership of Progressive Conservative Party.

In February 2015, Prentice discussed the challenges facing his province and the country at large in the wake of plunging oil prices in an extended interview with Peter Mansbridge.

Mansbridge One on One: Jim Prentice22:26

In May 2015, the PCs were handed their first electoral defeat in nearly half a century, at the hands of the Alberta NDP, and Prentice resigned as both party leader and MLA.

Before becoming premier, he served as vice-chair and senior executive vice-president with CIBC from 2010 to 2014.

Prentice also had a career in federal politics. He served as MP for Calgary Centre-North from 2004 to 2010, with stints as industry minister, environment minister and minister of Indian affairs and northern development in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

‘He really cared deeply about the people he served and he was always devoted to their best interests.’
– Joe Oliver, former Conservative finance minister

Former Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver was among those offering their condolences Friday. He described Prentice as a passionate and skilled public servant who got into politics for all the right reasons.

“He really cared deeply about the people he served and he was always devoted to their best interests,” Oliver said.

“He was never pompous. He was always a straight shooter, someone whose integrity and good judgment you could always rely on.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed a similar sentiment.

“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,” he said.

“Jim was all of these things, and so much more. He is an inspiration to all of us who aspire to public service.”

Manmeet Bhullar Memorial 20151129

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, left, and former Alberta premier Jim Prentice embrace during a memorial service for Alberta MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who was killed in a car crash in November 2015. On Friday, Nenshi reacted to the death of Prentice by saying: ‘He is an inspiration to all of us who aspire to public service.’ (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press)

Nenshi recalled Prentice’s connection with Alberta MLA Manmeet Bhullar, who was killed in a car crash in November 2015.

“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,” Nenshi said.

“They were represented by an idealistic young lawyer who fought for respect, acceptance and diversity. That lawyer was named Jim Prentice.”

Passion for politics

This June, Prentice became an energy adviser with Warburg Pincus, an international private equity firm, but politics was always a passion of his.

He started working for federal and provincial parties at age 20, mostly in backrooms, before stepping into the spotlight himself later in life.

Apart from one failed run for provincial office in 1986, he said he had an agreement with his wife Karen to wait until their three children were grown before venturing into the rigours of elected life.

But long before he would hold political office, Prentice was a boy who grew up “under the bins” of a Crowsnest coal mine.

Prentice, as a university student, worked seven summers underground in choking dust and heat, and among deafening machinery.

Ontario roots

Prentice was born on July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine in northern Ontario.

Robin Campbell talks about losing friend Jim Prentice4:53

His dad, Eric Prentice, was a gold miner and former pro hockey player, a 17-year-old whiz-kid winger and the youngest player ever signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a career minor leaguer, but had a minor stint in the big leagues — playing five games with Toronto in 1943.

As the gold mine dwindled, Eric Prentice picked up his family in 1969 and moved to a new coal mine in Grande Cache, Alta., when Jim was 13, and eventually to the mines further south in the Crowsnest Pass.

Hockey-wise, Jim Prentice became a top-flight winger in his own right, but his promising junior career ended with a devastating knee-on-knee hit.

From then on, he focused on university, graduating with a law degree and working in Alberta as an entrepreneur and a lawyer dealing mainly with land and property rights.

Conservative reunification

After his failed 1986 bid for provincial office, Prentice wouldn’t take a political run again until 2002, when he earned the PC nomination in Calgary Southwest, but later withdrew as a byelection candidate.

The federal conservative movement was in turmoil at the time, fractured between the PCs and the Canadian Alliance.

Prentice urged reunification and stepped aside so that then Alliance Leader Stephen Harper could run unopposed to represent the centre-right.

In 2004, at age 47, he finally grabbed the brass ring, winning the Calgary riding for the newly merged Conservative Party.

In 2006, Harper won a minority government and Prentice was in cabinet. Over the following six-plus years, he was given high marks for his work in diverse portfolios — in the ministries of Indian and Northern Affairs, Industry, and Environment.

But the defining moment, he said, came before his cabinet days, when the Conservatives were still the Opposition in 2005.

Prentice decided to vote for a controversial Liberal bill endorsing same-sex marriage.