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Jim Prentice

James "Jim" Prentice, PC, MP (born July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine, Ontario near Timmins) is a Canadian lawyer, and politician. In the 2004 federal election he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada. He was re-elected in the 2006 federal election and appointed to the cabinet as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. Prentice became Minister of Industry on August 14, 2007, succeeding Maxime Bernier.

Background

Prentice was born to a large, blue-collar family in northern Ontario. The family then eventually moved to Alberta. His father Eric Prentice was a professional hockey player in the National Hockey League (NHL) in the 1940s. Prentice was educated at the University of Alberta and Dalhousie University. He paid for his tuition by working as a coal miner in the summer months for seven years.

As a lawyer, he has specialized in physical property rights including relocations, environmental protection suits, and cases arising from restricted development areas. He also served as a Law Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada.

Prentice served for seven years on the Board of Directors at the Calgary Winter Club, including stints as President and Chairman. He is an active member and volunteer leader in the Grace Presbyterian Church.

Political career

Prentice joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1976, and has been active in Tory circles ever since. In the 1986 Alberta Provincial Election, Prentice ran for the Progressive Conservatives in Calgary Mountain View, being defeated by NDP candidate Bob Hawkesworth. He was the youngest Tory candidate in that election.

During the early 1990s, Prentice served as the governing federal PC Party's Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer (1990-93). Prentice first ran for Parliament as the nominated Progressive Conservative candidate in a spring 2002 by-election in the riding of Calgary Southwest that followed the retirement of Preston Manning as the riding's Member of Parliament (MP). When newly elected Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper replaced nominated CA candidate Ezra Levant in the by-election, Prentice withdrew from the race as a gesture of compromise.

He ran in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership election to support the "United Alternative" proposal to merge the PC party with the Canadian Alliance. He was seen by many as an alternative to the "status quo" candidate and front runner Peter MacKay. A basic platform of Prentice's campaign was that "no one has ever defeated the Liberals with a divided conservative family." Prentice entered the 2003 convention day with some momentum after delivering a passionate speech to the assembled delegates that encouraged Tories to be proud of their accomplishments despite recent setbacks and that recalled the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele. He also unexpectedly received the support of fellow leadership challenger Craig Chandler, who withdrew early. Prentice ultimately emerged in second-place on the fourth ballot to the eventual winner MacKay. Some political pundits noted that while Prentice was ultimately defeated in the final ballot, he had the ability to draw support from both the social conservative and Red Tory candidates who contested the race, after they were officially knocked off in the first and second ballots respectively. Consistent with his positions during the leadership race, Prentice was a supporter of the merger endorsed by both the CA and PC parties in December 2003 that formed the new Conservative Party of Canada.

Prentice was the first declared candidate for the leadership of the new Conservative Party, announcing his run on December 7, 2003, the day after the new party was ratified by members of the PC Party. Prentice began his campaign in Calgary and toured parts of Ontario, specifically visiting Kingston, Ontario, the hometown of the first Canadian Conservative Leader Sir John A. Macdonald and also the city where one of his daughters attends Queen's University. However, he withdrew from the race on January 12, 2004, citing difficulty in raising new funds less than a year after his unsuccessful first leadership bid.

Member of Parliament

Prentice ran in the riding of Calgary Centre-North in the 2004 election for the new Conservative Party, and won the seat.

After being sworn in as the MP for Calgary Centre North on July 16, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper named Prentice to the Shadow Cabinet as the Official Opposition Critic for Indian and Northern Affairs. In that role Prentice opposed the Tli Cho land claim agreement, which he says will make Canadian law secondary to Tlicho local law. Prentice is also a strong supporter of the proposed and controversial Mackenzie Valley pipeline. He criticized the Liberal government for its treatment of aboriginal women, and its alleged costs of administering the Residential School Claims program for aboriginal victims of abuse.

Prentice is one of the higher-profile Red Tories in the Conservative Party, by his own admission. For example, Prentice surprised many observers when he voted in favour of Bill C-38 supporting same-sex marriage. While the Conservative Party advocated a free vote, this put him at odds with many of his conservative constituents as well as conservative groups such as Concerned Christians Canada Inc. who have even advocated his removal as an MP. In February 2005, Craig Chandler, the CEO of Concerned Christians Canada Inc. suggested on CBC Newsworld that he would be campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the next 2006 federal election in Prentice's riding of Calgary North Centre, because of Prentice's pro-choice stance on abortion and his support of same-sex marriage. The March CPC Policy Convention in Montreal voted in favour of allowing sitting Tory MPs to gain their nominations uncontested in minority government scenarios where elections are less predictable. Like Prentice, Chandler was also a candidate in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership election where Chandler and his social conservative delegates endorsed Prentice's bid after Chandler withdrew prior to the first ballot.

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Prentice had been assigned the Indian and Northern Affairs portfolio in the Conservative government, and was sworn in to this role on February 6, 2006 until August 13, 2007. One of his main challenges as Minister was to implement the "The Nunavut Project," a 2006 report authored by Thomas Berger, to show tangible, measurable results to increase Inuit representation in the Nunavut public service.

Kelowna Accord and residential schools

In the fall of 2006, Phil Fontaine, National chief of the Assembly of First Nations, expressed disappointment over the Conservative government's refusal to honour the Kelowna Accord, endorsed by 14 jurisdictions (the federal government, 10 provinces, and three territories). Fontaine previously described the federal government's point person on Kelowna, Jim Prentice, as an "honourable" person sensitive to native concerns. Prior to January 2006 election, Fontaine and two vice-chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations had a meeting with Prentice. "Prentice acknowledged all the hard work that went into Kelowna and (said) that the Conservative party would not put this aside," says Fontaine. "We took him at his word." Prentice does not recall saying that: "I've always been very, very careful about what I've said about Kelowna," According to Fontaine, in their first meeting after the 2006 election, "(Prentice) wanted to apply a very focused approach to his responsibilities." In the federal budget of May 2006, Fontaine and other native leaders got a glimpse of what "focused" meant: just $450 million (over two years) was committed to implementing Kelowna, not the $1.64 billion for the first two years that Paul Martin had agreed to.

Prentice argued that there was actually $3.7 billion in spending on native peoples in the May 2006 budget, "more than the previous four budgets in total." That figure includes $2.2 billion in compensation for victims of abuse in residential schools (another deal that was worked out with the previous government) and $300 million for off-reserve housing.

On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanked Jim Prentice for his work on addressing the matter of the Indian residential schools and providing a government apology for the residential school system. Stephen Harper's thanks to Prentice came before he made the apology to former students of the schools.

Minister of Industry

In a cabinet shuffle on August 14, 2007, Prentice became Minister of Industry, succeeding Maxime Bernier.

Copyright legislation and controversy

Prentice has been headed with changing Canadian intellectual property laws akin to the DMCA in the United States. This has been linked to pressure from the United States government and multinational media advocacy groups. Bringing "Canada into (WIPO) treaty compliance," has been stated as one of Prentice's goals in future copyright legislation. It has been pointed out repeatedly, however, that at the time of Prentice's statement of his rationale for introducing amendments to the Copyright Act, there was no international legal obligation to implement any provision of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) or the WIPO Performances & Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) since neither had been ratified by Canada. Prentice has promised to "put consumers first." claiming in an editorial that "(C-61) allows the recording of webcasts and TV and radio programs to be enjoyed at different times" while ignoring the fact that if the files are protected by DRM it is illegal to break the DRM to make the recording. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has suggested that the core desire of the draft legislation is "to satisfy U.S. pressure by enacting something very close to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act".

Prentice has been hostile to Canadians who requested to consult with him regarding the issue. Prentice refused to discuss the issue with CBC Radio Canada despite the hundreds of questions that flooded in from concerned Canadians. He also refused to talk to a group of protesters who went to his office to express their concern, stating "When Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner and I have reached a consensus and we're satisfied, we will introduce a bill. Prentice has also implied that he will not follow the Government's policy to table the WCT & WPPT 21 days prior to introducing copyright amendments designed to implement parts of these treaties contrary to the Government's policy on treaty implementation. Industry Canada announced on June 11, 2008, that Prentice "will deliver brief statements and answer media inquiries shortly after the tabling of a bill to amend the Copyright Act ... [on] Thursday, June 12, 2008". After less than two hours, hundreds of Canadians and critics panned the new Bill C-61 as nothing more than pandering to US interests at the expense of Canadians.. As of July 14, 2008 more than 87000 Canadians have joined an ever-growing Facebook group to protest the proposed legislation, Bill C-61. This represents nearly 3000 additional people protesting C-61 on Facebook for each day since the legislation was introduced.

Prentice has also been unwilling to candidly respond to questions from the public. On a 10 minute interview with the CBC's Search Engine radio program he dismissed any question related to DRM as "extremely technical" and claimed that the market will take care of copy protected CD's. Prentice then hung up mid question and refused to continue the interview at a later time. Jim Prentice’s abbreviated interview and inability to provide coherent answers places the power and direction of the bill into question. Most notably, Jim Prentice hung up before answering Jesse Brown’s final question about who, under this bill, would have the power to investigate potential copyright violations.

Wikipedia controversy

During the period of May 27, 2008 to June 4, 2008, edits originating from an IP address belonging to Industry Canada were made to the Jim Prentice article on Wikipedia. The edits included the removal of references to new copyright legislation (claiming that it did not exist) and the addition of two passages about Prentice's recent accomplishments as Minister of Industry. Specifically, information about the copyright controversy was deleted from Prentice's biography by someone using an Industry Canada IP address. Jay Walsh, spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, said in an interview there are tens of thousands of living people with biographies on Wikipedia, "so challenges about information are not uncommon." Walsh said neutrality of language and guarding against conflicts of interest are two of the central pillars of Wikipedia. He said "The edits which should be trusted would come from people who don't possess a conflict of interest, in this case, it would be worthwhile saying that if someone is making edits from a computer within the government of Canada … if it was someone within that ministry, that would theoretically constitute a conflict of interest."

Auto industry

In a February 29, 2008 speech to the Toronto Board of Trade Prentice rejected the concept of direct subsidies to the auto industry, insisting that setting up a strong economic foundation is a better route to strengthen the business. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says the Conservatives are refusing to recognize the economic challenges facing Canada despite the planned shutdown of the GM truck plant in Oshawa, Ont.

Net neutrality

Prentice has sidestepped the issue of Canada's net neutrality, refusing to answer questions about the government's position on throttling practices by national ISPs. New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus raised the issue to Prentice in the House of Commons and said the government's "hands off" approach was bad for Canadian innovation. Prentice claims the issue is being appropriately handled by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which has invited the general public to an open debate on net neutrality.

Text Messaging

Prentice has refused to intervene on the issue of Telus and Bell charging 15c for incoming SMS text messages despite widespread opposition by consumer groups.

References

External links

Political office

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