PEI

P.E.I. minority government could run to 2023, say 3 party leaders

Collaboration in the P.E.I. Legislature is off to a good start, say the three party leaders in the House, and they all look forward to that continuing until the next scheduled election in 2023.

No formal agreements to keep government afloat signed

The P.E.I. Legislature will see its first minority government in more than a century starting Thursday. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

Collaboration in the P.E.I. Legislature is off to a good start, say the three party leaders in the House, and they all look forward to that continuing until the next scheduled election in 2023.

In the April 23 election no party won a majority of seats, with the Progressive Conservatives taking 12, the Greens eight, the Liberals six, and one district's election deferred due to the death of a candidate.

Premier Dennis King promised a collaborative approach with other parties that would produce a functional government. The parties will meet in the legislature for the first time Thursday, and Premier Dennis King told CBC News this week he believes he has the support he needs to pass the throne speech and the budget.

King said there were lots of concerns during the campaign that the parties shared.

"There are over 30 pieces of all of those platforms that we're all mostly or somewhat in agreement of working toward," he said.

'The formal agreement that we have is with the voters of Prince Edward Island,' says Dennis King. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

King is proceeding without a formal agreement with either of the other parties. The Green Party has presented a framework for an agreement, but King said he prefers to move ahead issue by issue.

"The formal agreement that we have is with the voters of Prince Edward Island," he said.

"They have told three parties to get into the legislature, work together, and I have no reason to believe that we can't go a full mandate here by keeping this approach."

'The people's house'

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the Official Opposition, said he can work issue by issue, but would have preferred the stability offered by an agreement.

"We can work together without that. I just think it would be better for Islanders and for the workings of the legislature if we had a formal agreement," said Bevan-Baker.

Interim Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell prefers King's approach. He believes it opens up more opportunities for Islanders to get involved in the process.

'We can engage the public better,' says Robert Mitchell. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"The legislature is the people's house," said Mitchell.

"We have an opportunity now where we can engage the public better and I think that's more important than signing documents between parties."

Sharing priorities

The three party leaders have met only once since the election, said Bevan-Baker, but he said House leaders have been meeting regularly, and sharing priorities.

Both Mitchell and Bevan-Baker expect to see some of those priorities reflected in the throne speech and the budget. Bevan-Baker said the parties have also been sharing legislation they plan to introduce in the legislature during the spring session.

"That's never happened before," said Bevan-Baker.

"The legislation would be tabled and oftentimes you'd be debating it the next day. And that doesn't make for really good assessment of new ideas because there just isn't the time to look at them properly."

'Not every piece of legislation will get through,' says Peter Bevan-Baker. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Agreement on the throne speech and budget is key, because a defeat of either of those would mean non-confidence in the government. But other legislation will be up for debate, and perhaps even defeat, without threatening the government.

"Not every piece of legislation will get through and indeed, there will be disagreements," said Bevan-Baker.

"That's fine. That's part of work in the legislature."

King agreed there has to be room for debate.

"People should be prepared for the fact that the legislature will still have lots of spirited discussions and disagreements and that's what we're supposed to do," he said.

The spring sitting will begin with the election of the speaker, with the throne speech scheduled for Friday.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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