Prentice move could indicate PM’s future

Alan
Alan Holman
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In spite of Elections Canada dropping its investigation of questionable use of ‘robocalls’ during the last election, and the RCMP not laying charges against Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, the speculation that Stephen Harper is stepping down is not abating.

One indication of whether Mr. Harper is planning to leave may come from what Jim Prentice does in the next few weeks. Mr. Prentice is the former Calgary MP who is now the senior vice president and vice chairman of CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks. There is a lot of pressure being put on Mr. Prentice to forsake the skyscrapers of Toronto, return to the Bow River valley, and become leader of the Alberta Tories and premier of Canada’s wealthiest province.

Mr. Prentice is the nephew of former hockey star Dean Prentice, who played 22 seasons in the NHL. Jim Prentice served in Mr. Harper’s cabinet for four years, as minister of indian affairs, industry and environment. He has been a banker since late 2010.

No one will be playing closer attention to Mr. Prentice’s next move than the Liberals in Justin Trudeau’s office. No one presents a greater obstacle to Mr. Trudeau desire to return to 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister’s residence, where he grew up as a child, than Mr. Prentice.

Many people have a pretty good sense of who, and what kind of a politician Jim Prentice is. Justin Trudeau remains an unknown quantity. And while he’s a bright shinning new star when compared to Mr. Harper, the aura fades when he is compared to someone of Mr. Prentice’s demeanour.

Mr. Prentice comes from the progressive, Red Tory wing of the Conservative Party. Were he to succeed Mr. Harper you would see a lot of disaffected Tories return to the fold. People who have been put off by some Mr. Harper’s right wing policies, his muzzling of his MPs and his scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners style of politics.

Recent polling shows that Mr. Harper is down to the rock hard, 25-30 per cent of voters that constitute the Conservative base. If the disaffected Red Tory support returned, it would greatly enhance their chances of re-election.

For Mr. Trudeau, Jim Prentice, poses an additional threat. Just as there are Red Tories, there are Blue Grits in the Liberal Party who would find Jim Prentice’s socially liberal and conservative fiscal policies appealing. Add the Red Tories and the Blue Grits to the Conservative base, in a three or four party election, you are back to the range of support needed for a majority government. All of which is academic should Mr. Harper decide to stay. And he might.

He can point to his handling of the economy, Canada’s in pretty good shape compared to the rest of the world. By standing up for democracy on Russia’s incursion of Ukraine, he has enhanced his profile on the world stage.

But countering these positives are a host of negatives. While he preaches democracy abroad he undermines it at home. He has adopted the practice of introducing huge omnibus budget bills that include a multitude of legislative changes that have little or nothing to do with the budget. These include such things as changing the rules for appointments to the Supreme Court. The omnibus bills, combined with time allocation procedures, limits debate on individual legislative changes. Not much democratic enhancement there.

And then there is the so called Fair Elections Act which many feel is an attempt to limit, not enhance voter participation.

Should the prime minister decide the negatives outweigh the positives, that his chances of winning another majority government aren’t there, then the death of former finance minister Jim Flaherty makes his exit somewhat easier. Stephen Harper has spent the last 12 years of his life in Ottawa, eight of them as prime minister.

He’s a westerner whose family is growing up as central Canadians. Few would fault him were he to say he doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Jim Flaherty, who died within weeks of retiring so that he could spend time with his family. That while he is still young enough, and healthy enough, Stephen Harper wants to create a new, less demanding life for himself and his family.

If Jim Prentice opts to go to Alberta to become premier, then he has likely determined Stephen Harper isn’t going anywhere soon. If he stays at the bank, then he has likely read the tea leaves a little differently.

Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Elections Canada, RCMP, Calgary MP CIBC Alberta Tories NHL Conservative Party Liberal Party Supreme Court

Geographic location: Canada, Toronto, Bow River Russia Ukraine Ottawa Alberta Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Tony
    May 01, 2014 - 15:59

    On the money, Al. Given your prognostication we should assume that Prentice's intention to seek the Alberta PC leadership means he thinks Stephen Harper is staying put. I think that's a good bet. And given what has gone on in Alberta, the provincial PCs should be welcoming Prentice as a candidate for leader.

  • Angus
    April 27, 2014 - 11:16

    Hey Al Just noticed Norm Spector says infomart shows over 3500 stores on a robo-scandal that didn't exist. Terribly embarrassing for the main stream media don't you think? And what about the media awards for a non-existant story. Surveys say majority of folks do not trust the press - things like this may be why. What sayest thou? And please don't bin this - we'd really like you opinion.

  • Michael Le clair
    April 27, 2014 - 07:49

    I notice how easily this columnist just passes over many other Cons and the NDP entirely. Not hard to see where his bias rests.

  • Merlin
    April 26, 2014 - 20:53

    The economy is in shambles with a record high deficit and 8 deficit budgets in a row. Harper and our 6 aged CF 18's is a joke on the world stage. If Prentice is smart he'll stay at the bank.

  • REDDOG110
    April 26, 2014 - 18:26

    Wow what a job Mr Prentiss has aspired to at the BMO. Hmmmm wasnt he BMO that was going to bankroll the gold mine at Williams Lake, B.C. The same mine that Mr Prentiss, as environment ministier, rejected... I guess he cashed in early...

  • REDDOG110
    April 26, 2014 - 18:25

    Wow what a job Mr Prentiss has aspired to at the BMO. Hmmmm wasnt he BMO that was going to bankroll the gold mine at Williams Lake, B.C. The same mine that Mr Prentiss, as environment ministier, rejected... I guess he cashed in early...

  • REDDOG110
    April 26, 2014 - 18:25

    Wow what a job Mr Prentiss has aspired to at the BMO. Hmmmm wasnt he BMO that was going to bankroll the gold mine at Williams Lake, B.C. The same mine that Mr Prentiss, as environment ministier, rejected... I guess he cashed in early...

  • REDDOG110
    April 26, 2014 - 18:24

    Wow what a job Mr Prentiss has aspired to at the BMO. Hmmmm wasnt he BMO that was going to bankroll the gold mine at Williams Lake, B.C. The same mine that Mr Prentiss, as environment ministier, rejected... I guess he cashed in early...

  • Annony Moose
    April 26, 2014 - 18:01

    PM Harper is not stepping down, he has one more term left IMO. This is just another media exercise in anti Harper writings but Canadians now will be much more aware and questioning the media and it's anti conservative machinations. (couched in whatever terms they choose to use)

  • Jack Buckley
    April 26, 2014 - 12:21

    I enjoyed your column Sir, but I could tell that it wasn't a westerner writing it. Just like a westerner writing about a maritime matter, we don't have the feel of the place. You may very well be right, but Albertan's in particular have a high regard for Harper. The ROC now acknowledges Alberta whereas before we were just a source of capital. We don't want the ROC messing with that.

  • Anne
    April 26, 2014 - 11:46

    Please, Harper is NOT a westerner - he's a rank opportunist from Etobicoke.

    • Betty Morgan
      April 27, 2014 - 11:27

      A rank opportunist? He is a Canadian with Maritime roots as well as Western. What kind of snarky comment is that? If Harper walked on water, you would just complain that he couldn't swim. He gets blamed for everything. Certainly we have had very few "perfect" PM's. I for one am tired of having them come from Quebec.

    • Simon
      April 27, 2014 - 15:43

      Lemme see Anne... I spent the first 18 years of my life as a denizen of Toronto. I've spent the last 45 years as an inhabitant of Western Canada. Does that make me a Cdn. from central Canada ?!