Alberta Politics

Albertan Graffiti: Jim Prentice buys a 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Jim Prentice Ford Thunderbird 1956 Albertan Grafitti
The 1956 Ford Thunderbird is a great car and was made iconic in the film American Graffiti.

After months warning Albertans that declining oil prices will have dire consequences unless we ‘tighten their belts‘ and make ‘tough choices,” Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has made some tough decisions of his own.

Jim Prentice Ford Thunderbird 1956 Albertan Grafitti 2
Jim Prentice, at the car auction in Arizona.

Returning home from an official government visit to Houston, Texas last week, Mr. Prentice made a side trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he bid $54,000 on a classic 1956 Ford Thunderbird at a Barrett Jackson auction. It must have been a day of tough choices, but through persistence and determination Mr. Prentice walked away as the proud owner of this classic American car.

You can probably detect a hint of sarcasm by now. And as you can imagine, the optics and timing of Mr. Prentice’s new purchase are not great.

Jim Prentice Ford Thunderbird 1956 Albertan Grafitti 1
A 1956 Ford Thunderbird

Some people will argue what Mr. Prentice does in his personal time is his business. I have nothing against a hard working private citizen, or wealthy bank vice-president, who decides to purchase classic cars as a hobby. But Mr. Prentice is not a private citizen, he is the Premier of Alberta. And when his recreational activities and personal purchases contrast what he is saying in public, then Albertans deserve to know.

Only ten days ago, Mr. Prentice told reporters that Alberta could be facing its worst economic situation in 25 or 50 years and signalled that he may look to public sector workers for cuts or salary freezes. Why there is some hyperbole to his messaging (politicians always claim Alberta is in tough economic times), it is mind boggling that Mr. Prentice would not have the political sense to postpone this personal purchase. After nearly 30 years in politics, it is hard to believe he would not recognize how bad the optics could look.

It is also notable that the trip from Houston to Arizona was not included in Mr. Prentice’s official itinerary. It is common for “private time” to be listed on a public itinerary when the premier or a cabinet minister decides to assume personal cost to take a day or two as personal time during official travel outside the country. It is perfectly reasonable for Mr. Prentice to have taken this private time, so why was the side trip to Arizona not listed on his public itinerary?

In his short time as Premier, Mr. Prentice has proven himself to be a shrewd and skilled politician. A boost in the polls and the mass-floor crossing of Wildrose MLAs demonstrate that he has strong appeal among conservatives in this province. Just as frequent visits to the golf club undid Don Getty and a taste for overseas travel and luxury penthouses helped undo Alison Redford, it would not take much to undo Mr. Prentice’s image as Alberta’s competent “new management.”

As Premier, he needs to lead by example. And if we are indeed facing tough economic times, this $54,000 purchase in Arizona definitely sends the wrong message.

39 replies on “Albertan Graffiti: Jim Prentice buys a 1956 Ford Thunderbird”

If you can afford $60K for a car, & you insist service cuts and a PST come before taxes on the rich – you may be Premier of AB.

the author is trying to make a story out of nothing. Who cares what he does with his own money on his own time. Get a life.

times are tough, dave. Prentice really wanted the $300,000 1950 Alfa Romeo. He had to settle for the $60,000 t-bird.

Reggie can whinge all he wants – and the reality is the used T-Bird cost less than the average Alberta pickup truck, new or used, even if it does get significantly worse mileage – but the optics are terrible and if you’re looking for evidence the Alberta PCs have left behind their arrogance and entitlement, this is another example. What’s more, buying a Ford – Fix Or Repair Daily, as they say – doesn’t speak well about Mr. Prentice’s common sense. Well, look on the bright side, at least it’s a union-made car.

Usually your posts are well argued, Dave, but I couldn’t possibly disagree with you more. What Prentice does with his own money is his own business. If he tried to spend public money to buy a car, absolutely, take him down – but what he does with his salary or savings is his own business, not anyone else’s. Period.

Normally i wouldn’t care what a politician spent their private money on but you make good points here Dave. Prentice needs to lead by example and this was a poor choice.

When public servants are threatened with wage rollbacks and pink slips they can think of Prentice cruising the highways in his classic T-Bird.

Bad timing, Jim. Leadership is also sacrifice. Guys like Peter Lougheed understood that.
You could have waited until better economic times to buy your new toy.

Curious about the itinerary. I wonder what else is being left off? The geniuses in the MSM missed that one. Good catch.

Dave your right that making this purchase at this time on the leg of a government trip looks bad. If he makes this a habit it could undo him as Leader.

What Prentice chooses to do with his own money is his business. Lets hope he picks up the tab for the Airfare home to Alberta. Also the he consider how it looks when he does something like this. He has only been in the job just a few over his first 100 days.


Must be nice to be able to blatantly afford such luxuries when the rest of us are bracing for an economic crisis here in Alberta. No wonder he’s a fan of sales tax – clearly won’t affect him much since he’s doing quite well financially. I find this reinforces how politicians are so out of touch from average folks.

We should all care very much what he does with his money as it’s a direct reflection of how he will , and the PC Party of Alberta has,treated yours and mine.
While many of us in the oil industry are brainstorming and holding strategy meetings , while many Albertan’s worry about their jobs and their futures, Jim spends $54,000 on a collector car. This is while telling us to hold on for a rough ride,the future is certainly going to be rough, we will be taxed , public sector will have wages frozen and possibly cutback, projects are put on hold,unions are covertly warned and all because the PC Party of Alberta has done a horrendous job of taking care of our (YOURS and MINE) money for decades. This Premier simply has no understanding of being middle class or poorer in Alberta nor does he seem to care as his recent purchase has shown. Sure it’s his money. But I though he might try and ride this out with the rest of us. Anyone want to buy a 2004 Dodge Durango?

Just another example of a rich Albertan, but in this case the premiere, running a province for the benefit of other rich guys and at the behest of the oil and gas industry.

This makes perfect sense in a banana republic like Alberta, where everyone must tighten their belts- except of course the rich guys and their corporations who refuse to pay their fair share.

Our license plates ought to depict the Alberta motto: Me first.

Here we go! Let’s try to pick at everything the Premier does, hoping we can cast a disdainful shadow across his character and somehow make ourselves feel better. If he can afford to buy a car he’s been looking for, more power to him. What people do on their own time and money should be none of our business.

The next time Jim Prentice mentions government cutbacks and revenue problems, I will picture him driving his t-bird classic car across the Arizona desert.

Must be a slow news day Dave. Haven’t you got anything better to do?
It’s his money, not the taxpayers — which is something that couldn’t be said about Ms. Redford. He claims he’s been saving his money to buy this toy.

Move it along. Nothing to see here. This is nothing more than opportunism on your part.

I am interested as to why you failed to mention that Premier Prentice has been looking for a car like this for five years and actively shopping for one for three years. This has been mentioned in pretty much every news story about this purchase. Additionally, you failed to mention that he paid his own way from Houston to Arizona and from Arizona to Edmonton. Furthermore, I enjoy that everyone seems to want a Premier with substantial success in his/her private life before entering politics yet, if that person decides to spend some of that money they somehow have lost touch with Albertans. As, ironically enough, Climenhaga points out, this car costs less than the average “rig truck” you see every day in Alberta. Have these people lost touch with Albertans as well? I generally disagree with you but still respect that you take the time to make informed arguments. This article just seems petty.

Thank you for all the comments. This post has clearly generated some interest and different opinions. I don’t think Mr. Prentice’s purchase is a particularly big issue, but I do believe that when a Premier’s recreational activities and personal purchases contrast what he is saying in public, then Albertans deserve to know.

– Dave

Ah, Dave – you are a fund of information! Prime Time. As a car buff , believe Prentice bought himself a good deal – and, it ‘s a beauty. Don Getty – was chosen to lead because of the Principal Group and didn’t he have his own private golf course? . Prentice was chosen because the oil group knew in advance the monetary world of oil was about to crash. As for any other leader for Alberta? Do think – think he is about the best in many a year. Now, if he was caught speeding in that T Bird? How could he help but not speed – it has a powerful motor.

Petty. As long as he uses his own money to buy what he wants that makes him happy, and may even go up in value, then he has made an investment in himself and his financial future. Unlike the idiots spending $60,000+ on the diesel 4×4’s to go roaring around town annoying residents, who don’t get any mention about “cutting back” on their spending habits, Jim’s purchase will no doubt be a lot quieter. What is next? Eating food from other countries instead of home grown Alberta food. His choice in clothing. Should he go to the $1 store to continually buy crap that wears out/ breaks continually, and not spend $20 on a Quality product that will last years? If he should start to use OUR money to make foolish purchases, then speak up. I really don’t think his work and personal life should be one. Government is a business and if it is bloated, cutbacks need to be put in place. What has that got to do with a personal decision to buy a collectible item? Maybe he was expected to donate HIS money to the government coffers?


The proctologist called, he found your head. This isn’t journalism people, it’s another example of looking for a story where there isn’t one. Perhaps a career at Global TV is in your future

So if he bought a pickup truck it wouldn’t be a story & everyone would pat him on the back for being an Albertan? What’s next for the intrepid investigative reporter? Are you going to tell us when he buys a new recliner to watch the Oilers games??

Dave, you are correct that this post generated some interesting thoughts. I tend to agree with you and those who acknowledge that Jim Prentice, the person, can do whatever he likes with his excess. However, the buck stops for me when that person is the Premier and he is clearly getting ready to ask Albertans to pay more taxes in one form or another. Many, but not enough to vote against the Party, are not going to want to send more money over to government whilst there are still plenty of questions and no transparent answers about this new management. I find it difficult to believe that a person’s personal decision making and judgement would be completely distinct from decisions and judgement exercised in the workplace. The optics and timing of his purchase are bad given the script he’s been repeating as of late. Maybe this is not the type of leadership that people will be inspired to follow.

Had the Premier worn a business suit rather than a plaid shirt and jeans in his leadership videos, I would be inclined to say he should shrug off the criticism because he is smart and financially successful. But, remember, back then he wanted to appear as though he was part of the masses of working class Albertans, showing empathy perhaps. The car purchase compared against his speaking points does not align with a sense empathy for most Albertans whose core budgets are going to be impacted by this downturn.

Politicians. Watch what they do; not what they say. And…look out for sheep’s clothing.

There is no story here….. Buying a classic car or a new truck has little or no real validity. Especially since many more Albertians spend much more on their trucks, SUVS and bar tabs for business. This is his own money and not on taxes payers dime. The timing couldn’t be better as he got a pretty good price for the car and will maintain its value if not increase. Where the avg 4×4 in AB will be full of rock chipped windshields and dented with a depreciating value. If you hate the man hate him for the PST but don’t criticize him for his freedom to spend his own earn money. Write something that is worthy of a journalism and not fluff to keep your name in the headlines… The title is right this article is no more than Alberta Graffiti. If you hate him for politics then show up and vote instead of being and armchair critic who shows up after the elections.

“We are all in this together!” Jim Prentice

T-Bird Prentice may conspicuously, consciously consume as he wishes. In a democracy, a free press has a duty to inform citizens of the conspicuous behavior of our representatives. Citizens gauge the congruence of word with deed.

While it may be Prentice’s business what he does with his own money, his actions have made the argument more effectively than anyone on the political left that this province needs a progressive income tax. The 1% are so out of touch with the rest of society that Prentice thinks nothing of making this kind of purchase while thousands lose their jobs.

I want a 1%er running this province. They have been successful in their own business and will use the same acumen to make the province successful.

“Oh. Yes. Come in. How are you? And the twins? I have a tough, painful, hard, duty to perform. With the price of oil, head office says lay-off everybody. Yes, I know times are tough, but we are all in this together. Would you like to see my new Rolex? I picked it up last weekend in Arizona.”

Jim’s car just got delivered to his house today after the driver from TFX got himself unlost and found it. Nice ride Jimmy. But terrible timing and optics since the only belt he will be tightening is the one in his car.

Are you kidding me guys.
Jim would have bought that car whether he was premier this year or not. A hard working business man should not be scrutinized for how he spends his money. Frick even his premier salary warrants a little free spending. If you think because of this that he does not deserve his salary maybe you should put the work in and run for premier lol !

Given the fact that Prentice recently told Albertans it is “our fault” that the province is in the mess the media says we’re in, I do have a hard time stomaching his frivolous spending. OK, he used his own money. OK, he made the purchase during the personal time he was allotted on a public trip. But remember…who paid for him to go down there in the first place? Tax payers pay for those trips, whether public officials are afforded personal time or not. Are we expected to clap our hands and say “yay, he used his own money to make a purchase that exceeds the annual income of some of the tax payers who paid for the trip. Yay, we paid for him to avoid buying his own flight to a Barret Jackson auction.”

How about “Yay, there is an election on the horizon and we have a chance to get rid of the PC’s inappropriate spending!”

On the tail of Redford’s antics, I am appalled that he would take advantage of his position to make this purchase. This purchase is a slap in the face to those looking at unemployment because we are supposed to ‘tighten our belts’. I agree with all those before me on this thread; lead by example.

I half expect a Christmas letter from him next telling all Albertan’s how great his holidays have been, how much he has enjoyed his lifestyle and on and on while many Albertans struggle to put food on the table for their families and heat their homes during the cold months!

Many say he can do what he wants with his own time and money. Yes, he can. But he dang well better stop telling this province WE are in this together, because he clearly has no plans to practice what he preaches.

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