A dignified official portrait of Jim Prentice, last Progressive Conservative premier of Alberta, was unveiled in the Alberta Legislature yesterday.
It’s a very nice piece of official portraiture that does justice to the beautiful third-floor hallway of the Alberta Legislature’s Rotunda where portraits of the province’s former premiers hang. Its unveiling was accompanied by warm words untainted by the usual pre-election partisanship.
Mr. Prentice, Alberta premier from September 2014 until the general election in May 2015, died in an airplane crash in October 2016. His widow, Karen Prentice, spoke at the unveiling, which was also attended by many members of the family.
It almost seems as if the occasion of hanging former premiers’ official portraits in the Legislature has become under the NDP Government an opportunity for saying the kind words about the PC leaders that recently preceded them that many in the current generation of conservatives are disinclined to utter.
It was really too bad Mr. Prentice couldn’t be there to hear what was said at the unveiling, as was Dave Hancock, the PC premier who bridged the gap between Alison Redford’s troubled premiership and that of Mr. Prentice, at his. Both portrait unveilings were presided over by an NDP Speaker, but the words spoken were no less fond for that.
Speaker Bob Wanner described Mr. Prentice as “a man of integrity guided by a good balance of passion and pragmatism” and “a selfless leader who worked tirelessly to make life better for the people of Alberta” – both as an MLA and first minister and as an MP and federal minister before that.
Mr. Wanner reminded his listeners that Mr. Prentice was “a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and was steadfast in his commitment to resolving many of the issues affecting the community.”
Premier Rachel Notley praised Mr. Prentice for his dedication to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and gave him credit for creating the foundation of last fall’s historic settlement with the Lubicon Cree.
And, to be fair, Opposition Leader Jason Kenney – who was once Mr. Prentice’s cabinet colleague in Ottawa – praised him too for his “penetrating intelligence, dignity, and collegiality.”
The Legislature Rotunda’s really grown a little crowded with the portraits of the 16 Alberta premiers who have left office, and they’re going to need a new home soon if the recent rate of turnover continues. And that doesn’t count the portraits of the province’s former Speakers, which occupy another set of walls nearby.
But it must be said, Mr. Prentice’s portrait – by British-born B.C. artist David Goatley – is a more worthy contribution to the collection than several of the recent additions. It’s been argued here that if we Albertans are going to pay for them, former premiers ought not necessarily be allowed to pick their own artists, although in this case, Mr. Prentice seems to have done well even if he reached outside Alberta’s borders.
Nobody seems to have said yesterday how much the portrait cost the province, but recent premiers’ portraits of rather less inspiring quality were reported to have cost between $12,000 and $14,000.
Mr. Goatley has also painted such luminaries as former prime minister Kim Campbell, former B.C. lieutenant governor and Liberal cabinet minister Iona Campagnolo, Prince Andrew, and the Maharaja of Jaipur. In addition, he has painted portraits of many members of Canada’s Indigenous communities, which may be why Mr. Prentice chose the artist for this portrait, although the work began after the former premier’s death.