Can Alberta Trust Prentice?
To a lot of Albertans, Jim Prentice's name doesn't invoke any glorious memories or real familiarity. It's only among conservatives and Conservatives that his name triggers any real emotion. If we hearken back to 2004, we see Jim Prentice winning a seat in Canada's House Of Commons and being appointed Minister of Indian Affairs in 2006. As years pass on, Jim Prentice shuffles through two other Canadian Cabinet posts by 2010. Before 2011, he resigns his position as MP to become a vice chairman of CIBC. If Albertans are looking to familiarize themselves with Prentice, their scrutiny should focus on his years as a Federal Conservative.
Besides hearsay, little evidence exists that Jim Prentice and his handlers have tried to muscle other contenders out of the Progressive Conservative leadership race – or out of the provincial election race all together. Although the accusers have failed to provide evidence, coercion and persuasion are known to be common backstage political tactics in most elections. To preserve plausible deniability, most campaign staff and strategists won't communicate their less conventional strategies and actions with their candidates.
As we examine Jim Prentice's history as a Federal MP, the allegations from his opponents might start to seem less far-fetched. Comparisons between himself and Alison Redford also begin to show themselves.
In response to Ric McIver and Danielle Smith, Jim Prentice's staff publicly scoffed and feigned outrage over their allegations. A similar sense of dismissive, righteous arrogance can be seen in how Prentice handled criticism and contention over his 2008 copyright bill – the infamous Bill C-61. During a brief phone interview on CBC's now defunct Search Engine radio show, a hostile Prentice hung up after he was asked how copyright infringement would be investigated and enforced using the rules laid out in Bill C-61. After weeks of being unable to answer more questions from media and opposition critics, Jim Prentice was accused of not knowing the technicalities involved in digital locks, which were outlined as a key element of Bill C-61.
In the weeks before the bill was introduced, Jim Prentice also dismissed claims that the Federal Government was being lobbied by US interest groups to pass copyright legislation, even though lobbying by RIAA and MPAA affiliates in Canada has been widely known since 2006. Before tabling the bill, Prentice also refused to meet or consult with high ranking groups and individuals that criticized his bill.
Although Canada's opposition parties manufactured much of the fear over Bill C-61, Jim Prentice's dismissive nature toward genuine questions was worthy of disdain. What's more disdainful and troubling is Jim Prentice's inability to understand the technicalities within his own legislation.
Before the controversy surrounding C-61, it was alleged that someone from an Industry Canada IP address had tried to erase negative entries on Jim Prentice's Wikipedia page. Most of the alleged edits replaced biased, negative entries about Prentice with biased, positive entries. The entries attributed “strong management of the Industry portfolio” to Prentice and called him the “strongest Minister in the Harper government”. Of course, Jim Prentice dismissed the allegations in the face of evidence and told his staff to refuse comments to the media. To read more about Jim Prentice's Wikipedia conflict, click here.
Opposing An Expense Review
There isn't much available by means of credentials to determine if Jim Prentice would have the same liberal spending policies as Alison Redford. There is, however, a record of Prentice's opposition to a review of MP expenses in 2010. Jim Prentice joined doomed Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, in opposing an audit and decrying a possible review. Prentice dismissed calls for an audit and claimed that MP expenses “are thoroughly reviewed by staff”, making the need for an external review unnecessary.
Following Alison Redford's bad judgement, we should assume that the next leader of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party will need to be completely open and transparent.
Spending $80 Per Day On Meals
From the information that does exist regarding some of Prentice's travel expenses while he was a Minister, we can see that his spending wasn't as lavish as Redford's. It also isn't as unusual when compared to other MPs. On “meals and incidentals”, Prentice's average daily budget was $80 in 2010. During a particular 9 day trip to Japan and China in 2010, Prentice's meals and incidentals exceeded $150 per day, for a total of $1390. In total, that trip cost taxpayers over $14,000 over 9 days.
Based on some of his 2010 meals and incidentals, if Prentice had expensed his meals over 365 days, it would have cost taxpayers approximately $29,000. In 2012, the average Canadian household spent just $7,739 on food from stores and restaurants.
Jim Prentice is an elitist, an insider, and an old boy with an “old boy's club” mentality. Chances are that he'll win the PC leadership and give the party a fighting chance. If anyone else wins, the PCs will sink fast and steadily to the bottom. Jim Prentice's real battle won't be for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, it'll be for the leadership of Alberta. He'll face three opposition leaders in Alberta's legislature. He'll face a constant bombardment from liberals, socialists and conservatives in the media. His real up-hill battle will begin when he takes the blackened PC throne. The one question all of us will be asking is: can Jim Prentice be trusted to steer Alberta back onto the right track?