PEI

With a short bench, the PC cabinet on P.E.I. faces challenges

Dennis King was sworn in as P.E.I. premier along with his cabinet in Georgetown on Thursday after the PCs won a minority government in the provincial election.

1 woman, no MLA from Charlottetown or Summerside

Darlene Compton is the only woman in P.E.I.'s new government cabinet. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Dennis King was sworn in as P.E.I. premier along with his cabinet in Georgetown on Thursday after the PCs won a minority government in the provincial election.

But there are some big challenges when it comes to representation in this cabinet.

Darlene Compton is the only woman in the cabinet — as well as the PC caucus — and there is no one from the Island's two cities, Charlottetown or Summerside.

"Unfortunately we did only have one female MLA elected," King said.

King said Compton is "extremely capable."

"That's why I've given her the important job of being deputy premier, of being the minister of finance and to be the leader for the status of women."

King said he hopes to find balance some other way going forward.

'I was raised to believe that if you worked hard and really believed in something you could accomplish it,' says Darlene Compton, deputy premier, minister of finance and minister responsible for status of women. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Compton up to the task

Compton said she is up to the task. "I haven't had a problem doing it at the caucus table so I'm assuming the cabinet table will be no different." 

Compton's father was born in 1911 before women had the right to vote, she said.

"I was raised to believe that if you worked hard and really believed in something you could accomplish it and that's how I look at what I've done and what I intend to do."

In an email statement to CBC, the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government said the organization was pleased to see Compton included in cabinet, but also noted the province ranks among the lowest when it comes to women in government.

The organization also said King appointing a gender-balanced senior staff is a positive sign.

James Aylward was named minister of health and wellness and will be responsible for greater Charlottetown. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

No city representation

P.E.I. also went from having six cabinet ministers representing Charlottetown and Summerside to zero.

King said that's why he appointed James Aylward to represent greater Charlottetown and Matthew MacKay greater Summerside.

"That will entail sort of communicating very regularly with council and professionals in those jurisdictions to make sure that those two primary cities are represented at this table, their issues are brought forward and dealt with."

I believe we can handle these issues effectively and do so collaboratively. And I don't feel anybody should feel left out today.— Premier Dennis King

King said there are nine "very capable" people in his cabinet, including himself. 

"I believe we can handle these issues effectively and do so collaboratively. And I don't feel anybody should feel left out today."

King said they will be working with the mayors, councillors and MLAs from the two cities.

Those left out

UPEI political science professor Don Desserud said King's cabinet choices were interesting and he only has so much to choose from with a minority government.

"One of the things that is always a problem for a small province like this is you're not really talking about who's in cabinet, but who is not going to be in cabinet."

Desserud said sometimes MLAs simply don't want to be in cabinet.

One MLA who didn't get a cabinet position is Sidney MacEwen, who was re-elected in District 7 Morell-Donagh. King said the reason MacEwen didn't get a cabinet position is because MacEwen will play the role of House leader.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen was not given a cabinet position, but he will serve as House leader. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

The role is vital to the survival of a minority government, King said. Desserud agreed and said the position is "like the quarterback for the whole team."

The role basically prepares the party for the next step, Desserud said.

"Which is going to be the next election, and that starts right away."

Upcoming byelection

These holes in the PC cabinet could be filled in the upcoming byelection in District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.

King said he intends to give the Green Party as much time as needed to find a candidate and, as of now, there are no immediate plans to call the byelection.

Future of deputy ministers?

Desserud said he is interested to learn who will be voted as speaker.

"I think they would love to see someone from another party put their name forward. That helps them out a lot on the floor, but that really depends on if those parties think that is a good idea," he said. 

"So, that might be another challenge they have to overcome as well."

Desserud added that new cabinet members will have to learn quickly — and the learning curve is steep.

"It will be interesting to see what happens to the deputy ministers, are they going to rely on the deputy ministers that are already in place? There is no reason for them not to ... those positions are not supposed to be partisan."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Nicole Williams

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