Greens propose ground rules for 3 parties in minority government
The draft sets out some of the basic terms under which the PC minority can stay in power
The P.E.I. Green Party has sent copies of a draft agreement to the PC and Liberal leaders, hoping they're willing to put down on paper how the parties will be expected to work together under P.E.I.'s first minority government in nearly 150 years.
Called a "confidence and supply agreement," the draft sets out some of the basic terms under which all parties would operate in the legislature, and specifically the terms under which the Liberals and/or the Greens will keep the minority PCs in power.
"The relationship between the parties will be based on the principle of good faith and no surprises," the document sets out, calling on the parties to work together with "mutual respect" while "maintaining their independent political identities and working in the best interests of Prince Edward Islanders."
"Without a formal agreement there's going to be all kinds of uncertainties and potential misunderstandings [that] I think could impact the ability of the legislature to do its work," said Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, adding that a written agreement among parties would add "stability" to P.E.I.'s minority government.
In P.E.I.'s election April 23, the PCs under Dennis King came out with 12 seats — a plurality but not a majority. The Greens under Bevan-Baker won 8 seats, enough to make them the Official Opposition when the House resumes. The Liberals won 6 seats and went from government to third party status — a first in Island politics.
The draft sets out a "minimum threshold" of consultation government would be required to carry out with opposition parties in order to count on their support in confidence motions on budgets and throne speeches:
Private pre-budget consultations with each opposition party, prior to cabinet budget deliberations.
Consultation regarding "significant government appointments" prior to the appointments being made.
Two weeks advance notice of bills to be introduced in the legislature, with briefings on those bills as requested.
'Necessary that we lay the groundwork'
The draft also calls for the creation of a special committee to develop a code of conduct for MLAs, to develop a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve conflicts among the parties, and to recommend potential reforms to make "government and the legislature more collaborative."
You cannot go out and buy a cellphone these days without signing a 10-page agreement on what you can and can't do.— Peter Bevan-Baker
Bevan-Baker noted leaders of all three parties coming into the legislature have expressed their desire to work in collaboration.
But he said making a minority situation work will require "more than just three people, you know, having a fondness for each other. It needs to be the whole House willing to work effectively."
"You cannot go out and buy a cellphone these days without signing a 10-page agreement on what you can and can't do. And here we're trying to run the government of a province in Canada. So it's, in my mind, absolutely necessary that we lay the groundwork ... about what's OK and what's not OK and how we're going to work together."
Interim Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell told CBC News he needed more time to go over the draft agreement, and that his caucus would discuss it later in the week.
A spokesperson for Premier Dennis King said the premier had only received the draft agreement Monday, and that the PCs would also need more time to go over the document.
Considering, but not committed
At a recent meeting of the leaders of all three parties King and Mitchell both said they would consider a written agreement but didn't commit to signing one.
A written agreement isn't required to make a minority government work. In New Brunswick, the People's Alliance agreed to support Blaine Higgs' PC minority "bill-by-bill" for 18 months without entering into a formal written agreement.
Whereas in B.C. the Greens signed a confidence and supply agreement to support the NDP minority for four years.
That agreement, while more detailed, in that it includes commitments on specific issues, also bears similarities to the draft put forward by the Greens on P.E.I.
According to the draft, P.E.I.'s agreement would be in place until the next fixed-date election. Bevan-Baker said everything in the agreement is subject to negotiation.
UPEI political scientist Don Desserud said the Greens have put forward an "interesting" document, but that the type of agreement they're calling for would not be binding.
"There's no sanctions that could be levied against the parties if one decided to break the agreement, except possibly a no-confidence motion or a request for dissolution," Desserud said.
"What this does is give the government a sense of stability. How long that lasts is another issue. I suspect before too long each party will be testing the others to see how far they can go."
The first sitting of P.E.I.'s new legislative assembly is set to begin Thursday, June 13 with the election of a speaker. The first throne speech from the King government is to be presented the following day.