OTTAWA - Tributes to former federal cabinet minister and Alberta premier Jim Prentice are pouring in days after he and three others died in a plane crash, from tearful memories shared on Parliament Hill to quietly hand-written messages.
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose choked back tears as she spoke about Prentice in the House of Commons on Monday.
"He was a true gentleman politician — kind and possessing a love of public policy and public service," she said. "That was true, whether he was in opposition or on the government benches in this House or, of course, working for the people of Alberta as the province's 16th premier.
"His loss is Alberta's loss but it's also Canada's loss. We hope his loved ones find strength in each other — even in their grief — and that Jim's memory will be a blessing to them in time."
After a moment of silence for Prentice, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said everyone on both sides of the House feels the loss.
"We will all miss his intelligence, honesty, thoughtfulness and the kindness he brought to his work. Jim was a man of deep convictions, who dedicated his life to public service, to the people of Alberta and to all Canadians," Trudeau said.
"I cherish the time I spent working with Jim and will always remember his kind, thoughtful manner."
In Calgary, people were stopping at the downtown provincial building to sign books of condolence set up in the foyer. Books were also filling up at the legislature in Edmonton and on the province's website.
"I just thanked Jim for his focus and purpose and passion to serve the Canadian people, to serve Albertans and his drive to leave everything that he touched a little bit better than when he first started," said Travel Alberta CEO Royce Chwin, after penning a message at Calgary's McDougall Centre.
Paul Wong, who met Prentice a few times while volunteering for the CIBC Run for the Cure, said he also wanted to use his entry to express gratitude.
"I said, 'How can you thank someone whose mission in life is to make the world a better place for everyone?'"
Wong said he was struck by Prentice's down-to-earth manner.
"I think he was a very kind-hearted person. A genuine politician who wanted to help," said Wong.
"I think the idea is lost among some getting into politics, but I think his objectives have never wavered."
Wong was also a patient of optometrist Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of one of Prentice's three daughters and another victim of the plane crash.
"He was ever so kind to me," said Wong. "He literally opened up my eyes. It's an unbelievable tragedy."
Prentice was on board a small jet that went down Thursday night after it left the airport in Kelowna, B.C. The plane was en route to the Springbank airport, outside Calgary.
Retired RCMP officer and aviation enthusiast Jim Kruk was identified as the pilot. Media reports have said the fourth victim was Calgary businessman Sheldon Reid.
The Transportation Safety Board has said the plane disappeared from radar shortly after it took off and no emergency calls or signals were made before the crash. The agency is still investigating.
Prentice, 60, served as a federal aboriginal affairs minister, environment minister and industry minister before he quit federal politics in 2010 to take on a post as a senior executive with CIBC.
Four years later, he won the leadership race for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and became premier. He quit politics last May after the Alberta NDP swept the Progressive Conservatives from power.
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary