Prentice Quits Politics…For Good?
Jim Prentice up and left politics last week, quitting to take a private sector job with CIBC. Prentice is currently serving as Environment Minister in Harper’s cabinet. Prior to that Prentice served as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Minister of Industry. While the decision itself is quite surprising, Prentice’s reasoning (whatever it may be) seems logical.
Prentice was known to be a Red Tory, which did cost him some support in his own party and from conservatives in general. But Prentice gained a lot of respect in his role as a cabinet member. He was a very effective member of parliament and nobody could deny the possibility that Prentice could replace Stephen Harper (if and when that is ever to happen). So why would he up and quit a job that appeared to have a bright future for him? There are many reasons, and quite frankly I don’t blame him.
The first problem, is that Prentice was stuck in a useless portfolio. It is no secret that the environment (despite Harper’s claims) is not a priority for his government. Prentice was handed a weak position, which he likely did not feel fulfilled in. Secondly, if Prentice did wish to succeed Harper as leader, it is anybody’s guess as to when that will be. Harper’s future largely rests on the outcome of the next election (again, it is anybody’s guess as to when that will be). If the next election occurs this spring, and Ignatieff makes major gains against the Conservatives, Harper could be out in the fall, and Prentice potentially in by next Christmas. However, that is the best case scenario for him.
However, what if the next election is not until next fall? What if the Conservatives get an increased minority? What if they get a majority? All of these scenarios put the possibility of a leadership convention many years away. It will take a lot for the Conservatives to dump King Harper. He is after all the leader that took down the mighty Liberals, and he will not let them forget it. Let’s say that Prentice did stick around long enough to see a leadership convention, there is no guarantee he would actually win. In fact, I would argue he would have a tough time. Yes he has the knowledge and experience that could make him successful in the job. But the party will have a tough time selling another western leader to the country. They will be dying to get an easterner or an illusive Quebec anglophone in the position. These were all things playing against Prentice, if he in fact did wish to seek the leadership of the Conservatives.
And lastly, the salary he likely got offered would be enough to make just about anyone quit their job and come on over. I think it was wise decision for Prentice. He could have put in many more years of loyal service to Harper and the party, but I don’t think he would have gotten anything out of it in return. This is not to say he is completely done with politics. Perhaps an extended absence is part of his game plan. He can go away, squirrel away some money, make some friends in the private sector and reemerge at the next leadership convention untainted by the political games that were played while he was gone. Ironically, quitting could be the one thing that helps him later on. I don’t know how likely this scenario is, but it is possible.
So now the questions becomes, who will replace Prentice. I am happy to report that I will have a say in it, as my parents (and myself before coming to University) reside in Calgary Centre-North. In the early hours after Prentice’s announcement it was made known that former mayoral hopefuls (or failures, depending on whether you are a glass half full or empty type of person) Ric McIver and Barb Higgins are considering seeking the seat. Since then, McIver has more or less confirmed he will seek it, while Higgins has stated she will not. First, I think it was a wise decision for Higgins not to seek the seat. Her chances of gaining the nomination over McIver are quite slim. I also think she is better suited and will be more comfortable in local politics. Second, if McIver does become the Conservative nominee (and thus win the seat, because this is Alberta) it will be interesting to see how he handles the adjustment. He was very effective at being the thorn in the side of the mayor in Calgary. If he continues with that strategy in Ottawa, he will make few friends. It is a different game altogether and McIver will be forced to tow the line for a while to earn his dues, something I think he did very little of as an alderman. It will be interesting to watch. We will also get to see who the Liberals, NDP and Greens put up to contest the seat. They will likely drag out the big guns in an attempt to at least make the riding somewhat competitive. UPDATE: Apparently McIver is backing down from the seat (maybe he read my post). This is not confirmed from McIver himself, but CPC insiders say Michelle Rempel will contest for the Conservatives. Not really sure who she is. Will have to do some digging and update more later.
And can I just say a completely unrelated note about Peter MacKay. I give him major props. This is a guy who a few years ago was the leader of his own party (yes a struggling party, but a party none the less). He gave it all away for the good of the political right, and let Harper have the first crack at leading it. Meanwhile he has been a loyal Harper follower, smiling for the cameras and performing in whatever position Harper has put him. He has to be counting the days until Harper is gone and he gets his shot at the top job. As was mentioned earlier, there is zero consensus about when Harper will be gone, and it could be another five years. If MacKay wants a shot at the position, he better not get restless and start shooting himself in the foot. MacKay is likely sending silent vibes to Harper telling him to hurry up and move over, because it is his turn soon!