A View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – The Departure of Jim Prentice – November 8, 2010 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – Media speculation continues over the impact of the resignation of Jim Prentice and his decision to leave federal politics. The focus has been on whether or not his decision will improve his chances of becoming a future leader of the party. But there is also an impact for the government as well.

There is no doubt in my mind that this government is worse off with his departure. He was both a voice of reason and someone who could get things done. His skilful management of the issues before the cabinet Operations Committee was not visible to the public, but was essential for the success of the government. Others will now have to step up their game and take over.

Was he leadership material? Yes definitely. Stepping out of the political quagmire that is Ottawa will only help his profile and help to insulate Prentice from the daily mud slinging that occurs here. When Harper leaves, people will be knocking on Prentice’s door, but will he be interested?

Reporters reference those who have left for the private sector and returned with John Turner, Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper often being mentioned. But we should keep in mind that others (Manley, McKenna) have realized that there is life after politics and chosen to stay in the private sector.

Every party leader, premier and prime minister has a “best before date”. Sometimes they recognize it and exit on their own terms. In other instances they are forced out by election results, scandal or a caucus revolt. With no one challenging Harper at this time (and no one interested in doing so), we won’t know Prentice’s final answer for quite some time.

As to whether or not a future leader will come from the social conservative or red tory side, that too is pure speculation. Whichever side a leader comes from, they still have to get both sides working together for the common good. The tendency of the media to lump all former Progressive Conservatives serving in this government into the red tory segment of the party is rubbish. Most former PCs, be they ministers, MPs or staff would have been in the political middle ground of the former PC Party. Perhaps being labelled a red tory today, says more about the present party than it does about their political leanings.

Given enough time to develop their own public personas a number of ministers will be able to step forward and be legitimate leadership candidates. Loosening the strings and allowing ministers to do more on their own and giving them the opportunity to handle both their successes and failures will insure a pool of talent for the next Conservative leadership race, whenever that might be.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

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