PEI

King has lieutenant-governor's go-ahead to form government

P.E.I.'s lieutenant-governor Antoinette Perry says PC Leader Dennis King "deserves to form a new government," having won a plurality of seats in April 23 election.

Premier-designate met with Antoinette Perry on Tuesday

Premier-designate Dennis King says this is an 'extraordinary opportunity for our new government to do things differently.' (P.E.I. PC Party/Facebook)

Premier-designate Dennis King has received the go-ahead from P.E.I.'s  lieutenant-governor to form government.

King met with Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry on Tuesday morning to seek her endorsement to form a minority government that will have the confidence of the legislative assembly.

King's Progressive Conservatives won 12 seats in the April 23 election. The Green Party won eight seats and the Liberals six. 

"This is an exciting time in the history of our province, and an extraordinary opportunity for our new government to do things differently as we work collaboratively and co-operatively, across party lines, for the betterment of our province," King said in a news release.

I want the public to know what the parameters of any particular agreement are between the parties so that we know when a decision is made, when an agreement is made, that it is in keeping with that agreement.— Peter Bevan-Baker, Green Party Leader

Perry also issued a release confirming the meeting.

"Islanders have given Mr. Dennis King and the Progressive Conservative Party the plurality of seats and I believe Islanders will want me to give him the opportunity he deserves to form a new government," she said in the statement.

Multi-party cabinet?

King said he plans to have a new cabinet sworn in on Thursday, May 9, which is declaration day according to P.E.I.'s Election Act — the day the results of P.E.I.'s April 23 election become official.

As to what that cabinet could look like though, there's a lot of uncertainty. With a caucus of 12 PCs, including just one woman and no representative from either Charlottetown or Summerside, King said "the formulation of a cabinet is challenging," and he's broached the idea of a multi-party cabinet with both the Greens and the Liberals.

King said right now those discussions are at "a 30,000-foot level. We would all have concerns about how it would work if it could work et cetera. But I think all parties realize that the mandate that we were given in the election is not that one party is in charge here, and that Islanders really want us to work together."

'The confidence in order to proceed with government here has to come from the legislative assembly,' says Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said it was "premature" for the PCs to issue a release stating Dennis King has the "confidence of the lieutenant-governor" to form the next government.

"The confidence in order to proceed with government here has to come from the legislative assembly," Bevan-Baker said, adding that he's had "productive discussions" with King and is "optimistic that we will be able to make this government work."

But he said there's still no formal agreement to have the Greens support a PC government, which he would prefer to have in place rather than proceeding "issue by issue" as King has suggested.

"I want the public to know what the parameters of any particular agreement are between the parties so that we know when a decision is made, when an agreement is made, that it is in keeping with that agreement," Bevan-Baker said.

To give people the confidence that we're all in this together and that we're going to work together. So that would be the priority to set the tone for me.— Premier-designate Dennis King

As to having a Green MLA sit as a member of the provincial cabinet, Bevan-Baker said it would be "awkward" and "complicated," given issues of cabinet confidentiality and cabinet solidarity, to have an MLA from the party forming the Official Opposition to be part of government.

He said there are governance models which allow for ministers that serve outside of cabinet, but that there's "an awful lot of work to get through" before next Thursday, when King said he wants a new cabinet sworn in. 

"I'm not saying it's impossible but it's going to require a great deal of sitting down with members from all parties to figure that out," said Bevan-Baker.

House sitting in June

King said he doesn't have a firm date in mind, but anticipates the P.E.I. Legislature would begin sitting in mid-June, with a throne speech and a budget to be passed during that sitting.

He said whatever budget was prepared under the previous Liberal administration would form "the basis of the initial budget."

"We would want to make sure we have a look to make sure it matches the priorities that we have as a party. Also the other parties, to make sure there's enough in that for everybody to feel comfortable going forward," he said.

King said he's not planning to completely revamp senior levels of government under a new PC administration and would keep some senior bureaucrats who served under the Liberals.

"There will be senior management members who are there now who will remain in their jobs," he said, adding some may be moved within their current departments or to other departments.

King said his priority in the first sitting of the new assembly would be to give Islanders a sense of "stability" with the new government.

"To give people the confidence that we're all in this together and that we're going to work together. So that would be the priority to set the tone for me."

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