Prentice on Jonathan Denis as candidate: ‘I have confidence in him as a person’

Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice says he has confidence in Jonathan Denis as a candidate, despite asking him to step down as justice minister over a legal dispute with his estranged wife.

CALGARY — Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice says he has confidence in Jonathan Denis as a candidate, despite asking him to step down as justice minister over a legal dispute with his estranged wife.

The Alberta premier said he requested that Denis step down after learning over the weekend that legal proceedings had started between Denis and his wife, Breanna Palmer.

Records show a private hearing was held at the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench last Friday, but a court clerk said there was a publication ban placed on the evidence.

Prentice told reporters Monday that, under the circumstances, it wasn’t appropriate to have Denis stay on as justice minister.

“I think this is a private matter between him and his spouse. It’s not appropriate for anyone to serve as the minister of justice and the attorney general when they have legal proceedings or are a party to legal proceedings that are before the courts,” Prentice said.

“The minister of justice and the attorney general are responsible for the administration of justice and he cannot be a private litigant at the time he serves as the minister.”

Prentice said he is comfortable with Denis continuing as the PC candidate for Calgary Acadia.

“I have confidence in him as a person and he will press ahead as our candidate.”

Denis has not spoken publicly about his situation, but issued a statement on Saturday.

“My wife and I have had difficulties in our marriage over the last several months. I am very saddened by these recent circumstances,” Denis said in the statement.

“This is a very difficult time for my family, and I would ask for respect for our privacy on this matter while it’s being resolved.”

Denis agreed it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to continue as justice minister and solicitor general while the matter is being handled.

Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson will take on the justice portfolio on a temporary basis.