Striking a balance

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One of Canada’s leading voices on our energy future offers a powerful case for taking back control of our resources.

– Triple Crown, Frontispiece

This commentary may read like a book review but instead it is intended to reflect on the broad background and the brilliance of Alberta’s 16th premier.

Triple Crown is the title of the book authored by the late Jim Prentice and his former chief of staff Jean-Sebastien Rioux that was published subsequent to Jim’s untimely death last October. Some might consider the book an autobiography but it is more than that; it presents the vision of this remarkable man and how to solve Alberta’s and Canada’s economic, environmental and native land claim crisis.

It has always been my concern that this man was taken from his passion too soon before he could accomplish what he set out to do. This was true after Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Before he could accomplish his mission to restore some sanity to the department he was whisked away to lead the Department of Environment and again too soon was moved to the federal Department of Industry. Then in 2010, he left politics for banking and then went on to head up a lobby group on the Northern Gateway pipeline. Before he could accomplish this task, a political crisis in Alberta took him to the premiership and again before he could accomplish his mission, bringing all of his talents to restring confidence in the Alberta PC party, he lost the 2015 provincial election. Before he could complete this book and document his vision he was taken from us in an unfortunate plane crash.

Jim had a background as a lawyer, dealing with aboriginal and Métis leaders in resolving problems. He understood their concerns and treated them as equals in negotiations with them. But on both occasions – as federal minister and as negotiator he didn’t get the opportunity to complete his mission.

As a young man, growing up close to nature, he was a born conservationist. He instinctively knew that we had to balance our interactions with the land and preserve it for future generations.

Also in his youth, working as a labourer in the coal mines in the Crowsnest Pass, he learned the value of hard work and the contribution that industry made to Canada’s social structure. These were also the days when the coal mining industry was learning its responsibility to observe and clean up its devastating impact on the environment and the health of its workers and neighbours.

Based on his breadth of experience, Jim Prentice learned how to balance the economy with environmental concerns. This balance he was able to take to Canadian indigenous leaders to solve everyone’s economic and environmental concerns and recognize their role as partners in economic development. I am convinced that he could have come to a resolution of all concerns over the Northern Gateway pipeline and given the native bands ownership in the project and in turn guaranteed Alberta’s and Canada’s economic future.

Triple Crown is indeed an inspiration, a vision in how we could do better in balancing economic and environmental objectives to the satisfaction of industry and the indigenous community. Jim Prentice leaves us a blueprint on how to balance the economy, the environment and indigenous rights.

Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.

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