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Jim Prentice remembered as ‘absolute pleasure to work with’ by peers

WATCH ABOVE: As people continue to mourn the loss of Alberta's 16th Premier, his friends and former colleagues are weighing in on the kind of legacy he has left behind. As Shallima Maharaj reports, those on either side of the political spectrum say his character and integrity will be greatly missed.

On Thursday night, a Cessna Citation jet left Kelowna International Airport with four people on board. It disappeared off radar at 8,600 feet at 10:07 p.m.

The wreckage was found a few hours later northeast of Lake Country, north of Kelowna. There were no survivors.

READ MORE: Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice killed in BC plane crash 

Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice was killed along with Calgary optometrist Dr. Ken Gellatly. Gellatly is the father-in-law of Cassia Prentice, Jim’s daughter.

READ MORE: Jim Prentice’s friends Dr. Ken Gellatly, Sheldon Reid, also killed in BC plane crash

Global News has learned retired businessman Sheldon Reid and Jim Kruk were the other victims in the plane crash.

READ MORE: Fourth person killed in plane crash outside Kelowna identified 

Prentice served as Alberta’s 16th premier but held the position for less than eight months.

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“I think he’s going to be remembered most for his time in federal politics,” Alberta political commentator Janet Brown said. “He really had a successful federal career. A lot of accomplishments on the federal front … His provincial career – because he was only premier for seven months – I think that’s going to be a footnote to his career.”

In May 2015, Rachel Notley’s NDP won the provincial election, beating the Progressive Conservative party that had been in power for 44 years.

“He took over the party at a really difficult time,” Brown said. “I do think Albertans had high hopes in him. I do think Albertans were prepared to re-elect him.

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“If you remember, there were four by-elections and he swept those by-elections so Albertans initially bought into him but once they started having concerns about his leadership, I think things fell apart faster than they would have because of some of the concerns Albertans already had about the PC party coming out of Alison Redford’s term.”

Brown believes there were several events leading up to the election that hurt the chances of the PCs and of Prentice, including the floor crossings and calling an early election.

“Politics is all about calculations and taking chances,” she said. “He did have some miscalculations in his career and I think that’s why a very successful federal politician just wasn’t able to make a successful transition into provincial politics.”

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READ MORE: Obituary: Jim Prentice, 60, dies in Kelowna plane crash 

So why come back to politics at all?

“I think he came back because public service was important to him,” Brown said. “I think he saw that Alberta was headed down a difficult road. I think he saw the writing on the wall in terms of the economy and the price of oil and I think he thought it was important for someone to step back in and steer Alberta in the right direction.”

Brown said one of the highlights of Prentice’s political career was his relationships with First Nations.

“That’s one of the things that’s going to be very strong about his legacy, is the role that he had in developing better relationships with First Nations.

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“I think he had a lot to say about how environment, energy, the economy and First Nations relations all lined up,” Brown said. “That’s the real tragedy here … He could’ve played a really important role in the development, in the negotiations, for further pipelines and unfortunately he won’t be around to write that next chapter and he won’t be around to sort of help Alberta negotiate those rough waters.”

READ MORE: Jim Prentice to write book on energy issues at Washington think tank 

Tony Alexis, Chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, worked with Prentice and called him a friend.

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“To indigenous leaders, I knew he’d taken some risk to bring them to the forefront, to hear dialogue and to invite them to the table for dialogue — in some cases, negotiation, in some cases, looking for advice and guidance. That type of leadership is something that we need right across this country, with all governments. He was a pioneer in that,” Alexis said.

“I’m very honoured to have known him and I thank him for his friendship.”

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The former premier asked Alexis to sing at his inauguration. Alexis said he was honoured to do so.

“He was a good man. He was a good leader,” Alexis said. “He was an honourable man. He looked after the people he served whether it was in business or in government. He was always committed.”

Alexis said his thoughts and prayers are with Prentice’s wife, children and grandchildren.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan worked with Prentice in federal politics and said his character stood out the most.

“I had the privilege of working with Jim Prentice when he was environment minister and I was environment critic … I got to work very closely with Jim and it was a real pleasure. I travelled to international climate meetings with him and his family, his wife Karen, and he was always a gentleman.”

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Duncan said Prentice tabled some regulations to control greenhouse gases, but they “disappeared” once he left Ottawa.

READ MORE: Condolences pour in following former Alberta premier Jim Prentice’s death

The NDP MP said Saturday she was reflecting on their time working together and one exchange stood out.

“I put a question to him in the House of Commons and he responded. I knew Jim so well I guess I didn’t hear that people thought it was some kind of an insult. So the whole opposition side were screaming at Jim Pretnice … ‘Apologize! Apologize!’ It just shows who Jim Prentice is. Not only did he apologize, he came across the floor – which is unheard of of ministers – and came up and sat down with me at the back and apologized for whatever it was he said,” Duncan recalled.

“That’s the kind of person Jim Prentice was. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.”

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Duncan described him as “a good man.”

“It’s a loss,” she said, “and my heart goes out to his family.”

If you would like to share your message of sympathy and support with the Prentice family, the Alberta government has set up a condolence page on its website. Books of condolence have also been placed in the rotunda at the Alberta legislature.

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