Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jim Prentice Aims to Go from 'Under the Bins' to Apex of Power in Alberta

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Jim Prentice Aims to Go from 'Under the Bins' to Apex of Power in Alberta

Article excerpt

Ex-MP Prentice aims for apex of Alberta power


EDMONTON - Jim Prentice says voting for same-sex marriage was one of the most trying moments of his political career -- especially after people set fire to his house.

"The pressure was incredible," said Prentice, recalling his days as a Conservative MP in 2005 when he made it known he would support the controversial bill put forward by the Liberal government.

"(But) there's a duty to balance and protect the rights of everyone."

That humanist rationale, however, didn't cut much ice in his riding of Calgary Centre-North.

There were angry letters to the editor. Staff in his riding office quit. People told him his political career was finished.

One angry Calgarian passed him in a pickup truck, pulled over and threatened to clean his clock on the spot.

Someone set fire to his veranda.

In the church where he was married and his three children were baptized, Prentice and his wife, Karen, arrived one Sunday to learn the sermon was a warning about him.

Nine years later, Prentice, 58, is back in the arena, one of three candidates vying to become the next premier of Alberta as leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives.

Five decades earlier, his only goal was to play hockey.

Prentice was born on July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine in northern Ontario.

His dad, Eric, was a gold miner and former pro hockey player, a 17-year-old whiz kid winger and the youngest person ever signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Eric was a career minor leaguer, save for five games with Toronto in the bigs in 1943.

As the gold mine dwindled, the family moved in 1969 near a new coal mine in Grande Cache, Alta., and eventually to the mines further south in the Crowsnest Pass.

Through university, for seven summers, young Jim worked in the mines "under the bins."

Coal was dropped by trucks from above into bins and then down onto an underground conveyor belt where Prentice and others -- amidst the choking dust, heat, and deafening mechanical din -- would pry off the massive rocks that had gotten mixed in with the coal and smash them up.

Hockeywise, Prentice became a top flight winger in his own right, but his promising junior career ended with a devastating knee-on-knee hit. …

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