PHOTOS: Former Alberta Premier Dave Hancock in a typical pose, as he addresses the crowd at the unveiling of his official portrait yesterday. Below: The portrait, by artist Tom Menczel, former Tory cabinet ministers Doug Horner and Richard Starke.

The unveiling of Dave Hancock’s portrait in the Legislature yesterday may have been presided over by a New Democrat Speaker and featured a speech by an NDP premier, but it had the warm family quality one might have been expected from the official farewell the former premier never really got from his own Progressive Conservative Party.

Mr. Hancock was unexpectedly elevated the premiership by his caucus colleagues at the start of the summer of the Tories’ discontent – the date when he was sworn in was March 23, 2014, immediately after the PC caucus had for all intents and purposes fired his predecessor Alison Redford.

Mr. Hancock’s job was to keep the Tory home fires burning until the anointed one, Jim Prentice, could be elected leader by PC members and installed as premier, saving the party and preserving the dynasty that had ruled Alberta since 1971 for another generation.

That plan didn’t work out quite as intended, but certainly not because of Mr. Hancock’s efforts during what he described yesterday as “the best summer job I ever had.” Well liked in the cloistered world of the Legislature as a thoughtful consensus-builder and policy wonk, the former PC House Leader and cabinet minister was respected by allies and foes alike.

The thing was, though, when by-then-premier Prentice appointed a new cabinet in the fall of 2014, he wanted to put the embarrassments of the Redford Era quickly behind him. Accordingly, a high-profile figure like Mr. Hancock was out, with barely a word of thanks.

Well, the public side of politics can be a tough business. Mr. Hancock didn’t publicly complain, but he must have felt the sting.

It was telling that many of the ministers Mr. Prentice canned when he named his new cabinet in mid-September 2014 were there yesterday for the unveiling of Mr. Hancock’s portrait by Edmonton artist Tom Menczel. I spotted Doug Horner, Fred Horne, Richard Starke, Dave Quest and Dave Rodney for sure, and I may well have missed others. There was a big crowd – a couple of hundred at least, including many family friends, lots of government officials and plenty of NDP MLAs as well.

Bob Wanner, Speaker of the Legislature, acted as the emcee. Ms. Notley delivered warm remarks, praising Mr. Hancock’s consensus-building skills, his willingness to listen and his determination.

“He was the embodiment of public service in this House,” she said. “He worked long, long hours…” She paused, adding, to the chuckles of insiders, “and not all of them were taken up with his speeches in the Legislature!”

Before Mr. Hancock made his emotional remarks, the audience heard from MLAs Nathan Cooper, on behalf of the poorly represented Wildrose Party (Brian Jean was missing in action), Ric McIver of the PCs, and Greg Clark of the Alberta Party, as well as the artist, Mr. Menczel, who came to Canada as a child refugee in from Hungary 1957.

Born in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., Mr. Hancock was a lawyer by profession who served five terms in the Alberta Legislature. Over his 17-year legislative career, he held eight government portfolios – among them such important areas as health, human services, education and justice.

He observed: “I had the privilege of working outside and inside the Legislature with premiers Lougheed, Getty, Klein, Stelmach and Redford, and I learned from all of them and I have the highest regard for each of them. Now I get to join them.”

Mr. Hancock’s portrait, the proximate cause of yesterday’s congenial occasion, shows him during his pink-spectacle phase. I will leave the expert commentary about the painting to professional art critics.

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    1. I met him once, and he seemed to me to be (as chief Dan George so famously said in “Little Big Man”) a real human being! I am saddened that people like him and Ed Stelmach to name just two, have been driven from our political leadership for reasons that beggar comprehension.

  1. About four years ago, I visited the MOBA — the Museum of Bad Art, which describes itself as “the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms.”

    Why is it that the recent provincial premier portraits in Alberta all feel like they would find a suitable home in the MOBA Portrait Gallery?

    Although I don’t think we should be hidebound to the strict realism that the portraits used to adhere to, neither Redford’s portrait, nor Hancock’s, nor Stelmach’s are in the same league as Lougheed’s portrait, Richard Reid’s portrait, Getty’s portrait, Arthur Sifton’s portrait, or Ralph Klein’s. (Despite my dislike for Klein, I’m of the opinion that his might be a high water mark artistically.)

    I’m really tired of seeing art naïf portraits done of our premiers. This one may be slightly less awful than Alison Redford’s, but it does not do justice to Hon. Hancock’s decades of service, or his general reputation as a decent and honourable person.

    1. oh well, at least they didn’t hired someone like Kazimir Malevich or Pablo Picasso, though i guess something like “woman in stripped hat” for Redford or “bather” for Klein could be very appropriate.

  2. I spent three years in Calgary during the time my son was battling Stage 4 colorectal cancer. Dave Hancock was the Minister of Health.

    My son’s oncologist suggested a drug called Avastin might improve his condition as well as that of other cancer victims. At the time the drug was not on the approved list for payment by the Alberta Government. With the help of a sympathetic Liberal MLA, a group of us made the bus trip to Edmonton to try to convince Mr. Hancock.

    He graciously welcomed us into his office and later on the house floor announced that Avastin would be paid for by the government. I silently thank him to this day.

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