11.04.2010 02:18 PM

The truth about Prentice

1. He was the only current member of the federal cabinet that ever was hired by the Chretien government – to do aboriginal affairs work. He was that respected.
2. He was, and remains, the only member of the current cabinet who I have ever truly feared – because he is the only one who can give them the majority they desire.
3. He was one of the few members of the current cabinet who was admired and liked by politicians on all sides of the House.

His departure is a huge loss for this government. And if he isn’t planning to run for the top job from the outside, he’s crazy.


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    Michael Watkins says:

    And this post will be entirely different than the one I wrote on Gordon Campbell.

    This is a huge loss for the Harper government, but probably is a loss Harper is willing to take because Prentice is the biggest long term threat to Harper-style conservatism in this country.

    I worked on the Prentice leadership campaign when he took a run at what would turn out to be the final leadership race, ever, for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

    I like Jim Prentice, very much, even though I do not agree with all his positions or decisions, particularly on environmental issues as it pertains to climate change. I would support him again politically in a heartbeat.

    Had Peter “I am not the merger candidate” MacKay not done a deal with David Orchard, a deal MacKay in my opinion (and in virtually everyone else’s opinion) never intended to respect in any way shape or form, Prentice would have been leader of the PC Party. Prentice could have done a deal with Orchard to seal a win, but wouldn’t, because he knew he couldn’t live up to the bargain. He stuck to his principles and demonstrated huge integrity that day. MacKay won the leadership in an unprincipled fashion, agreeing to a lie on a napkin. I can still hear the chants of “prin-ci-ple! prin-ci-ple!” from Prentice’s supporters on the floor.

    With Prentice at the helm of the PCPC who knows whether the CA-PC merger would have transpired or taken place under similar circumstances. Personally I had hopes that despite Prentice’s well known views that bringing conservatives together was a must, he’d have approached it an entirely different way, from a position of strength.

    Prentice should today be the leader of the Conservative Party – Canadians would be well served by this, and perhaps one day he will be. I hope he plans on taking a run at it from the outside, but fear that losing a sane and moderate voice at the cabinet table is a big price for the country to pay right now.

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      Ted says:

      What exactly is “Harper style conservativism”? Today, I mean.

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      Marjaleena Repo says:

      Michael Watkins is whitewashing Jim Prentice’s record in the 2003 Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership campaign. First of all, Prentice was a merger supporter, out and out, although towards the end of the campaign he tried to camouflage it, as it was clearly an unpopular stand among party members. (Chandler who was THE merger candidate received 1% of the delegate vote!)

      Also, Prentice was quite willing to accept David Orchard’s conditions, as I can vouch for as David Orchard’s campaign manager and member of his negotiation team who was vigorously pursued by the Prentice-Brison team all through the convention. We received our last urgent call from Brison at the very moment of signing the contract with MacKay— David Orchard received the call and scribbled Brison’s cell number on the very document that MacKay signed. Far from being a “napkin” as Watkins claims, it was a page in David Orchard’s notebook, something Watkins should be aware of as a copy of the agreement was made public quickly to be seen by the whole country. Today you can see it in its full glory on David Orchard’s website http://www.davidorchard.com, where you can also read a number of documents about what actually took place at the 2003 convention and afterwards, many of written by me to straighten out the spin that Prentice was “principled” and would not have signed an agreement with David Orchard. Brison, of course, went ahead and voted for the merger, thereby betraying the party and particularly Joe Clark who had been a strong supporter in Brison’s leadership bid. The reason he gave in various media interviews at the time was that the PC party was doomed because of the ascendancy of David Orchard and his —Brison’s words — “Luddite and anti-globalizer” followers, and he rather see the party die than allow rhe rise of David Orchard! Having voted for the takeover of the PC Party by the Reform Alliance, the “principled” Brison joined the Liberals and has never issued a mea culpa about his role in helping Harper’s unprincipled and dishonest party come into being.

      Michael Watkins and others are rewriting and reimagining the relatively recent history of the destruction of the PC Party, the true story of which is yet to be told.

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    Will M says:

    Start the clock on Harper.

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    Namesake says:

    Hmm, so, with his nixing the (would-‘ve been No More-) Fish Lake gold mine yesterday, is he also:

    the only member of the current cabinet who dared make a decision that his boss didn’t approve of…. (but only once he already had another job lined up)?


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      Warren says:

      Yeah, saw that too.

      Interesting stuff, eh?

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    Kephalos says:

    If Flaherty is serial about becoming PM, he needs to follow Prentice.

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      Namesake says:

      yikes — that’s pretty scary, as Freudian slips go (‘serial’ for ‘serious’); hopefully, that’s just because of the news you’ve been hearing / seeinr that they’re reopening some cases previously attributed to Pickton, rather than, ulp, due to some more intimate knowledge / revelation….


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    Milan says:

    Could this have anything to do with the results of the midterm elections in the United States? The Canadian government will certainly face less pressure now to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

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    The Other Jim says:

    He’d probably get my vote. He’s certainly preferable to any of the current leaders!

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    Ted says:

    “His departure is a huge loss for this government. And if he isn?t planning to run for the top job from the outside, he?s crazy.”

    Yeah. I can’t think of any PM to have left politics while another leader was there, only to ride in as the knight on the white horse later.

    I mean, other than Harper, Chretien and Mulroney, the only politicians since Trudeau to win back to back elections. 😉

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      Ted says:

      Just re-read your comment. I thought you wrote “is planning”. I take back my light sarcasm.

      He’ll be able to ride in very clean from the mounting baggage that will stain any successor to Harper.

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    Michael Slavitch says:

    I’ll use my name here to back up my bet: If this isn’t a Chretien-like pause that refreshes before building a leadership challenge I’ll eat my hat. And if he wins, he’ll get a majority. He worked in a coal mine. He had a working class upbringing. He’s no ideologue and there is nothing creepy about him.

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    Factoid says:

    Can you elaborate on the history of serving Cabinet Ministers begin recruited while in office for private sector jobs? What precedent does this set?
    Needing some facts and analysis on this.

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    WesternGrit says:

    Having lived in Calgary for many years – and getting to know a lot of the Calgary South/Center-South, Calgary North-Center crowd – it is apparent that Prentice is preparing his run for leadership. The seeds were planted years ago… during the post-merger days. Prepare for the battle of the century between the ProCons and NeanderCons (whoops – I meant NeoCons – nope, I didn’t…)…

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    James Curran says:

    My guess is Jim Prentice is to Conservative leadership as Frank McKenna was to Liberal Leadership. As in it ain’t gonna happen.

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    Red Tory Liberal says:

    Would the right-wing scoial conservative libertarian types support Prentice though? He’s one of their best choices to win over the East, a true Prgressive Conservative Red Tory, but I don’t know if a lot of the party would support him.

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      Warren says:

      If he’d give them a majority, they’d lick the bottoms of his loafers, pal.

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        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        I’d call it 50-50. To do what you suggest requires pragmatic — not to mention logical thinking. But much of the CPC membership is rather entrenched in their political thinking. Principles before politically effective strategies. This isn’t my dad’s Progressive Conservatives. To my mind, Prentice would be a hard sell to a lot of true believers (Blue Tories). They have a right to their opinions and more power to them. But hey, to win in the big leagues (which this Prime Minister has thus far failed to do) requires something more. Majority Madness, Conservative-style? Will believe that one, if and when I see it.

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    RamaraMan says:

    What’s the point of the Federal Accountibility Act? Prentice’s immediate departure to a Bay St bank just confirms the #FAA is as useless as the paper it is written on! I hated Prentice because he was a Tory! I’ll hate him even more now that he’s a Tory Bankder! Regardless his departure has weakened the #CPC front bench!

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    Red Tory Liberal says:

    I often wonder if most of the western conservative are smart enough to realize though that without a more moderate tory they don’t stand a chance. Someone like Christian Paradis I have also thought of as someone who may win them a majority but some in the west I don’t think would want him because he’s a moderate conservative Quebecker. Now he’s scandal ridden.

    Could Stockwell Day and Rob Anders support a red tory like Prentice that is pro-choice and supports gay mariage? I don’t no for sure but I’ve heard many say that Harper is the glue that is keeping that party together because he’s been able to satisfy all wings of the party.

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    Tired of it All says:

    Too reasonable to fit in with this lot? Makes you wonder why Chuck Strahl sticks around…

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    Joe Hueglin says:

    The “Mendacious Betrayer” won because he had prevaricated from the beginning whereas J.P. was viewed as prepared to accommodate the Alliance.

    “The Betrayer” not only soiled himself by breaking his word to David but also to those that put him in the position to be a winner by negotiating in the first place.

    Ever hear of the “47 Ronin”, well look it up. In terms of attitude toward wrong doing I’m the 48th.

    About high politics I know nothing. Harper is a corporatist-provincialist-continentalist. Where Prentice sits on these matters of consequence I’ve no idea.ZBUZ

    At this point I wish him well in his new position and that he’s honouring his words to his family. As far as a comeback I hope he has friends as advisors rather than those who may wish to ride on his coat tails in seeking power through him.

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    Michael Watkins says:

    Ms. Repo:

    You may engage in rewriting history on your own if you like but I do not care to live in your fantasy land. If we had to lay blame on a single individual most responsible for the destruction of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada it would of course have to be David Orchard.

    During the leadership race Prentice never advocated a merger between the two parties, not once. A telling sign perhaps, but the only one of the legitimate contenders who was talking about merger all along was in fact Peter MacKay who actively campaigned against Prentice by painting him as something he was not – “the merger candidate”. The Canadian Alliance’s Craig “two-cards” Chandler is barely worth mentioning as a footnote in this particular story, as not more than a handful of people ever took Mr. Chandler seriously.

    Prentice was studiously honest in his views on what it would take for conservative-minded Canadians — of all flavours — to organize and re-emerge as a force able to provide effective opposition to the Liberal government. The bottom line was always simple – with Canadians so divided, no effective opposition could be maintained. That has been proven true when conservatives have been in power or in opposition. Just ask the Liberals now.

    Canadians are always going to be served better if there is a capable opposition that can step in and take over if the governing party fails to keep the confidence of the House or more importantly the Canadian people. We’ve not had a solid opposition for most of the past two decades, much to my disappointment then and today, even though the parties on either side of the house have switched sides. I personally believe Canadians yearn for an effective opposition today but the Liberals, Greens and NDP refuse to give it to them, much as was the situation prior to 2003 when the CA and PC parties toiled uselessly apart.

    Being open to discussions with conservatives from the Reform/Canadian Alliance was not a new idea. No one will paint former Prime Minister Joe Clark as a right wing reactionary yet he engaged in relationships with members of the Canadian Alliance. You’ll recall that Clark enabled a CA splinter group, the Democratic Representative Caucus which formed in revolt over Stockwell Day’s leadership failings, to join our ranks. As a party we engaged with other members of the Canadian Alliance – real people, our neighbours, sometimes our former party colleagues but often as not people who had never been involved in politics under a PC Party banner – and met with them over coffee and engaged in policy discussion. We learned that neither side had horns quite as sharp as we’d thought. We also learned that there often were real differences in opinion, but that happens even in united parties.

    Given that experience, and given the inability of either the Canadian Alliance or the Progressive Conservative Party to make real headway as separate entities, no matter how much many of us wanted to rebuild or build our individual parties, some sort of rapprochement between Canadian conservatives of all stripes was inevitable and not far down the road, no matter who led the party. The only question was how would it be handled. MacKay answered that by soon engaging in secret negotiations with Stephen Harper over the summer of 2003, despite having campaigned that he was “not the merger candidate” and just weeks after he promised to David Orchard never to do just that.

    Ms. Repo, it is easy to understand your grip on the facts is tenuous given your utter devotion to David Orchard and your own highly ideologically driven campaign. Please take your blinders off and recognize once and for all the people most directly responsible for the destruction of the PC Party were in fact folks like you and David Orchard who despite all common sense believed Peter MacKay and his posse of Mulroney era insiders.

    When you and David instructed your followers to support the merger — do not claim otherwise, you had vote “enforcers” standing along the procession encouraging Orchard’s supporters to vote for MacKay (I can see Orchard delegates in tears being told “you know what to do” to this very day) — you sealed the fate of the party.

    But what of that? The process started with dishonour and may have been illegitimate in every moral sense, but was the result illegitimate? I do not believe this to be so, even though I wish it had not happened.

    Once the secret negotiations with Harper became public, the train had been let out of the station, and it was a very powerful train stacked to capacity with passengers. I personally was not in favour of the merger, but who are you or I to stand in the way of tens of thousands of new, existing, and returning members? I spoke personally to many members who had stopped giving to the PC Party, stopped renewing memberships, stopped caring at all about what either the CA or PC parties were up to — who on news of the merger became enthusiastic and engaged in that merger vote. To be honest, I didn’t always agree with their reasons, and I did not believe the new creation would be a comfortable home for my own political outlook, but the simple fact remains that a huge majority of conservative-minded Canadians took the steps necessary to create and legitimize the merged party.

    When it benefited them, Team Orchard always liked to talk about democracy and did a lot of hard work to consolidate their power within the PC Party based on sheer numbers of supporters and sweat equity. That truly was democracy in action, and I honestly had no issue with this. For me democracy – the voice of the people – means a lot, and political parties are nothing more than consolidated expressions of this democratic voice. Orchard’s supporters exercised their collective voice and enabled MacKay’s rise to power and thus directly if unwittingly contributed to the fall of the party. And once the wheels were in motion, many more tens of thousands of Canadians would come together to approve the merger Orchard never wanted, yet only a relative few were standing in opposition. Whether you were for or against the merger, the people had spoken and had done so quite decisively.

    In 2003 we saw examples of democracy being failed, and democracy being served. Whether the outcome is positive in your eyes or mine isn’t at issue. However unseemly the genesis, in the end we saw democracy in action and so “conservative” party politics took another turn of the page in Canada, like it has many times in the past, and will again many times in the future.

    Of all the key players in the 2003 leadership race, looking back then and forward to what would ensue, it is Jim Prentice, not Peter MacKay and certainly not David Orchard, that can absolutely hold his head up high. He never stopped being honest about his view on bringing conservatives together. To my knowledge he was willing to work with all members of the party, including David Orchard and his supporters, to re-build the PC Party and bring it to a position of strength. In my view, he was the only one of the leadership candidates who had the talent and desire to do so.

    You chose unwisely.

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    Joe Hueglin says:


    The Greens while not corporatist on the other side of the spectrum have fixed enviro positions or are seen as having them.

    There is a non-ideological party, a progressive-conservative party in the arena waiting for the fault line that will widen at some point within the Con Party. Top down dominance will be rebelled against at some point. The appointment of a candidate in Dauphin is not going down well at all.

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