All indicators point to the same direction: It seems we will have Jim Prentice taking over as the new premier of Alberta within a matter of months.
This could be a make-or-break move for the PCs of Alberta who have been running the province non-stop for the last 43 years, as the latest polls show their popularity in serious decline, around 20 per cent as opposed 40 to 45 per cent of the Wildrose Alliance under the leadership of Danielle Smith.
There is some ambivalence in Mr. Prentice’s bid to become Alberta’s next head of government.
On the one hand, you have a politician who has voluntarily washed his hands off federal politics with a belief in the motto that “a politician’s career should not last longer than a decade,” but one who has ignored that same principle to return to provincial politics.
Was he really persuaded by the PC establishment to run for the position to save the party from complete collapse or is this the next step in a strategy to use Alberta as the springboard to challenge Stephen Harper in the next leadership race within the federal Conservative Party?
Another facet of the probable Prentice premiership to ponder about is his personal past and his professional record: He is said to be deeply involved in solving the problems of First Nations throughout his legal practice before becoming a politician and credited with the 2008 official apology by the Harper government to the Aboriginal population of the country for the decades-long abuse of their children under the residential school system. On the other hand, he had just been recently hired by Enbridge to lobby with the First Nations in BC and other affected Aboriginal communities to promote the Northern Gateway pipeline project, which is opposed by most of those communities.
Should we hope that he could generate a magical formula that might reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable positions of the two sides?
If he doesn’t have the ability to pull that rabbit out of the hat, what should we think about his new position: Is he giving up on his commitment to Enbridge or on his commitment to protecting the rights of the First Nations?
If he is giving up on Enbridge, does that bring up a question of credibility and consistency? Should that be taken as a possible sign that he might switch positions in the nick of time when a crisis strikes?
If he is giving up on his lifelong dedication to First Nations causes, what does this tell us about his loyalty and devotion to his principles?
But above all of these, there is one more fundamental question: Will Jim Prentice continue on the path of relying on easy oil and gas money instead of taking the bull by horns and try to restructure the province’s economy to put it on a balanced footing, and hopefully, try to support development of technologies that will inflict less damage on the environment while exploiting its resources? Or will he continue the practice of governing Alberta is if it is a company thriving on bitumen revenue?
Questions aside, one thing is certain: After the disastrous tenures of the last two PC premiers, given his experience in federal politics, Prentice will probably bring a sense of stability and consistency to the PC leadership and if he acts fast enough, he may save the party from complete collapse in the 2016 elections.
Whether Jim Prentice will live up to the expectations, only time will tell. Let’s hope that the time period during which he will put his skills to use will not be another waste.