I do not regularly pay too much attention to federal politics, so I was surprised to learn yesterday that Environment Minster and Calgary Member of Parliament Jim Prentice was suddenly resigning to become Vice-Chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (apparently most Ottawa-watchers were surprised by the move).
What surprised me most about Mr. Prentice was his ability to handle the environment portfolio, the Conservative’s most toxic ministerial portfolio (no pun intended) without destroying his own political credibility among moderates. I am one of many Canadians who was less than impressed with our federal government’s lackluster participation and irresponsible handling of the COP15 Summit in Copenhagen, but I was impressed from a political standpoint with how well Mr. Prentice managed his role.
There is already mounds of speculation about what Mr. Prentice’s political future holds and there have been some consistent rumors about his political future that I have heard over the past few years (if we assume that his departure is only a sojourn until the next political opportunity presents itself).
1) Going Provincial: I know more than just a few Red Tories who see Mr. Prentice as the heir to Jim Dinning‘s dauphin throne. As a popular MP and long-time PC Party supporter, Mr. Prentice would be well positioned to be the moderate “Calgary candidate” in the next Progressive Conservative leadership contest.
I have no doubt that he would almost immediately receive the support of top level Tory organizers in Calgary, especially those weary of Finance Minister Ted Morton or another candidate from northern Alberta. His entry into provincial politics would also be interesting if he did run in the Calgary-Mountain View constituency, which is currently represented by Liberal leader David Swann (Mr. Prentice was the PC candidate in Mountain View in the 1986 provincial election).
2) Going Federal: As Environment Minister, Jim Prentice took on the most difficult political file for the Conservatives without looking like a buffoon or seriously damaging his own political reputation. Being from Calgary might actually hurt him in the next Conservative Party leadership contest (both Stephen Harper and Preston Manning represented Calgary ridings), but a few years working in the private sector could help to distance him from Prime Minister Harper’s government.
Not surprisingly, attention has already turned to some of the rumors circulating about what will happen if a by-election is held in Calgary-Centre North before the next federal general election. Former Mayor Dave Bronconnier and former Ontario MP Robert Nault (who now lives in Calgary) are two names that I almost immediately heard rumoured for the Liberal Party nomination after yesterday afternoon’s resignation. Four names that are already being circulated for possible Conservative candidates are former Alderman Ric McIver, former Mayoral candidate Barb Higgins, current Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and recent Aldermanic candidate Sean Chu. Rumours aside, under the current circumstances it is difficult to believe that a by-election in this riding would produce anything but another Conservative MP.