Categories: Provincial News

Former premier Jim Prentice dies in plane crash

Jim Prentice

Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice died in a plane crash near Kelowna, B.C. on Thursday evening.

Prentice, 60, was en route to Calgary when the twin-engine Cessna went missing from radar shortly after takeoff from Kelowna, around 9:40 p.m. PT.

The plane’s wreckage was found northeast of Winfield in Lake Country, a small community north of Kelowna. All four people on board were killed, including another member of the Prentice family, Dr. Ken Gellatly.

Gellatly, a Calgary-based optometrist, was the former premier’s good friend and the father-in-law to one of his daughters.

“To lose two family members at once is unbelievably painful,” reads a statement made by the family Friday afternoon.

“Jim was a loving and compassionate man who dedicated his life to his family and public service. He will be so greatly missed.”

This sentiment was shared on social media in the hours after news broke of his untimely death. Thousands took to Twitter to share their condolences and highlight the former federal and provincial politician’s career.

Prentice served as Alberta premier from September 2014 to May 2015. The current government is still pursuing many of his initiatives.

Premier Rachel Notley, who beat out Prentice in the spring 2015 election, issued the following statement: “There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well. But there are words to remember Premier Prentice’s contributions to Alberta. He served our province in so many roles for so many years. He deeply loved Alberta.”

Premier Notley’s own father, Grant Notley, died in a small-plane crash near Slave Lake in 1984 while serving as leader of the official opposition NDP.

Prentice first entered public service in 2004 when he was elected as Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Calgary Centre-North.

He held a number of cabinet portfolios, including minister of Indian affairs and northern development, industry minister and environment minister, under then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

Prentice retired from federal politics in 2010 to become an executive with CIBC, before running provincially when disgraced premier Alison Redford resigned.

In September 2014, he won the Progressive Conservative leadership race, beating out St. Albert resident and former PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk.

Lukaszuk was deeply saddened to hear of his former political rival’s death. He called Prentice an “avid politician” and a “formidable opponent.”

“We had different visions for the future of our province, but I have nothing but respect for anyone who puts their personal life aside and decides to serve the province in an elected capacity,” he said. “Politics aside, I had a lot of admiration for Jim as a person.”

Former St. Albert-Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber was also saddened by the news. The two served in the House of Commons together from 2008 to 2010.

“As two of only a few Alberta lawyers who were MPs, Jim took a genuine interest in my work on the justice committee,” said Rathgeber in a written statement. “I can’t say that I knew Jim well; but I always enjoyed our interactions. He was a thoughtful and dedicated public servant and he will be missed.”

Rathgeber said Prentice encouraged him not to give up on public service after he resigned from the Conservative caucus in 2013.

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined. The Transportation Safety Board will be collecting radar data and background information on the aircraft.

Michelle Ferguson: