PEI·Analysis

King committed to co-operation because 'nobody's interested in going to the polls immediately'

PC Leader Dennis King says he has reached out to the other Island parties to tell them he wants to co-operate on confidence issues to avoid another election.

Overlap in platforms could help PCs find common ground on these 6 issues

There is some overlap in the three parties' platforms, which may provide an opportunity for the PCs to find common ground with the Greens and Liberals. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

PC Leader Dennis King says he has reached out to the other Island parties to tell them he wants to co-operate on confidence issues to avoid another election.

"The only issues of confidence that come up in the P.E.I. Legislature on a regular basis are the speech from the throne and the budget. So I have committed to both the other parties that we would be working in collaboration with them in the formulation of both of those documents," King said.

"Nobody's interested in going to the polls immediately and everyone is interested in following the lead of the people of Prince Edward Island. And that is to make this work. So we're focused on that."

King says he will proceed "issue by issue" as the eventual leader of a minority government in terms of securing support from opposition parties in implementing his government's policies.

King says he hasn't talked about a formal agreement with any party.

King's PCs won the most seats in P.E.I.'s election April 23, but came up two seats short of a majority. The PCs are widely expected to seek the blessing of P.E.I.'s lieutenant governor to form government once those election results are officially confirmed.

Support may or may not be needed

If King and the PCs can work with the other parties to agree on a throne speech and budget, the government can avoid a confidence motion that could threaten the government, sending Islanders to the polls again. 

Other times the PCs will need support, but a lack of it won't bring down the government — for example, in passing routine legislation in the House.

And then there are ways the PCs can move forward without requiring support from the other parties — in changing or enacting new regulations, which are passed by cabinet, or in changing government policy, for example on programs like social assistance or immigration.

If a King government does indeed move "issue by issue," these are issues where it can expect to have its way without too much trouble, because at least one of the other parties made similar commitments in its own election platform.

1. Creating a position for an ombudsman on P.E.I.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada without a provincial ombudsman — that is, an independent official who can receive and investigate complaints from the public regarding government services.

Creating an office for an independent ombudsman on P.E.I. ought to be a no-brainer at this point: it was included in both the PC and Green platforms (and if you go back to 2007, in the Liberal platform as well).

The PCs can also look to the Greens to support legislation to make P.E.I.'s child advocate independent of government, and to support a boost to the budget of the auditor general — all commitments made in both parties' platforms.

The MacLauchlan government announced the creation of a children's commissioner and advocate in the lead-up to the 2019 election, but was criticized by the PCs and Greens for not making the position independent. (Costea Andrea M/Shutterstock)

2. Small business tax rate: how low can you go?

The Liberals promised to reduce P.E.I.'s small business tax rate from the current 3.5 per cent down to 2.5 per cent, which they said would make it the lowest rate in the region. So with the support of the Liberals, the PCs should have no problem dropping the rate a full percentage point.

But the PCs promised to go lower — much lower, pledging to drop the small business rate not by one per cent, but to one per cent. That would constitute a 70 per cent drop from where the tax is right now.

3. Increasing the basic personal exemption

The Liberals promised to increase the basic personal exemption — the amount of money each Islander can receive as income in a year without being taxed on it — to $10,000 from the current $9,160 by the year 2020.

The PCs promised to go further — to increase that amount to $12,000 over the next three years, with the increase for the first year under a PC government costed at $7.7 million in terms of how much it would decrease provincial tax revenues.

4. Land bank

With the value of farmland on P.E.I. continuing to rise, the PCs and the Greens (and the NDP, which didn't win any seats) all pledged to create a "land bank" to help make land accessible and affordable for new farmers.

It's something P.E.I. has done in the past, and something that was recommended six years ago in a government review of the Lands Protection Act.

The PCs, Greens and NDP all promised to create a land bank to help new P.E.I. farmers get established. It's something the province had once before. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

5. Giving opposition the edge on standing committees

For years the PCs became frustrated as the Official Opposition trying to have witnesses called to appear before standing committees, only to have the Liberals use their majority on the committees to shoot down those requests.

In their platform the PCs came up with a solution — changing the rules of the legislative assembly to allow opposition parties to hold the majority on committees.

That's not quite what the Greens promised, though they did pledge in their platform to make committees more "inclusive, collaborative and effective."

If the PC government says the way to do that is to give the opposition enough votes to control committees, who are the opposition parties to try to stand in the way?

6. Going locavore in Island schools

The PCs, Liberals and Greens all promised a new school lunch program using locally-produced food. The Greens and Liberals also specified their programs would be "pay-what-you-can," that is, free for families who can't afford to pay.

Something else the three parties all promised to provide: incentives for Islanders to start collecting their own solar energy. The PCs and Greens also promised incentives for Islanders to purchase electric vehicles.

More P.E.I. news

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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