CALGARY – A source working with Jim Prentice confirms the former federal cabinet minister is putting together a team to make a bid for the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership.
The source says Prentice has been talking to caucus and cabinet, and has received encouragement to run.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirms Prentice is forming a campaign and finance team and is expected to make a formal announcement in the next couple of weeks.
Prentice held several portfolios in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet before moving to the private sector.
He is currently a vice-president with CIBC and recently accepted a job with Calgary-based Enbridge to help clear the way for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline. The company said it wanted Prentice to forge agreements with about two dozen B.C. and Alberta First Nations that oppose the multibillion-dollar project.
Messages left with CIBC seeking comment from Prentice were not immediately returned.
The Alberta Tories are to hold a leadership vote in September to replace former premier Alison Redford. She resigned last month during a caucus revolt over questions about her leadership style and lavish spending.
Even though he has not officially entered the race, Prentice received a public endorsement last week from Alberta Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar, who said he thought Alberta would benefit greatly if Prentice were its next premier.
Prentice has been widely talked about as a potential candidate pretty much from the day Redford resigned, but has remained silent.
Only one candidate, former municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes, has officially entered the race.
Other possible candidates whose names have been suggested include cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk and Jonathan Denis.
Prentice practised law in Calgary for more than 20 years and specialized in property rights and aboriginal land claims. He was a land-claims negotiator for the Alberta government before he ran for leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative party in 2003. He came in second to Peter MacKay.
The following year, Prentice was elected as MP in Calgary North Centre for the new Conservative Party of Canada.
He served in cabinet in the industry, environment and aboriginal affairs portfolios. He was the federal minister who negotiated the residential schools settlement in 2006.
Once touted as a potential successor to Harper as Conservative party leader, Prentice left politics at the end of 2010 and joined the CIBC.