With a potentially power-shifting byelection on the horizon for the district of Charlottetown-Winsloe, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says a majority government would not change the way he governs.
King's Progressive Conservatives currently hold a minority government with 13 of the 27 seats in the legislature. A PC win for the district seat — recently vacated by retiring Liberal MLA Robert Mitchell — would give King the numbers for a majority government.
"Nothing will change in how we operate this government. Islanders have seen the success that we have had by working together, by putting pettiness aside, and by doing a really, really strong job for islanders," King told the crowd of PC supporters at the District 10 nomination event on Saturday evening.
"It would be not only foolhardy for me and us to change that approach, it would be something that Islanders, I believe, would soundly reject."
'Good ideas from all parties lead to good decisions'
King has often said he entered politics to see things done differently. On Saturday, he said he believes it has become a part of his "personal brand" and does not see it changing.
"The fact that I had that minority allowed me probably more leeway than I would have had to get there," he told CBC News.
"It's naive the way we govern for so long as a province to believe that one party would get 40 per cent of the vote and believe they have 100 per cent of the ideas and they're the only ones that matter.
"We have demonstrated with our collaborative governing style that good ideas from all parties lead to good decisions for Islanders, and that will continue for me. So, yes, I will continue to collaborate."
In neighbouring New Brunswick, Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs recently moved from a minority to a majority government after calling a general election. Other party leaders there called the move a "power grab" — capitalizing on a vulnerable moment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If newly nominated PC candidate Zack Bell was to win the byelection, it would give the PCs more than half the seats and a slim majority with 14 seats, including the speaker, who votes only in the event of the tie among the other 26 members.
"If he is to get elected, we would still need another party to support legislation to govern," King said. "I don't want to prejudge this next byelection, whenever it is held.
"I think it would be foolish — and as a former political watcher and observer and commentator, it would be very, very bad political advice for me to change the way we do things."
It's on Premier King to call the byelection, and it will likely be very soon.
The premier said he wants the newly elected member from District 10 to sit in the legislature when it resumes around Nov. 12, less than six weeks away.
"I think it would only be fair for the people of District 10 to be represented in the legislature and to make sure their views are brought to the table," he said.
"You can do the math from that."
I think all parties have been given a fair and equitable chance to get their individual houses in order. — Premier Dennis King
P.E.I.'s four major political parties have all moved forward with selecting candidates this weekend.
Liberal Zac Murphy was confirmed on Friday evening and the NDP's Lynne Thiele was confirmed Saturday morning. Bell was confirmed after a three-person race on Saturday evening.
"I feel we've had adequate time. I think three parties now have a candidate in place," King said at Bell's nomination.
"So that wouldn't now preclude me from looking towards setting a date for a by election."
On Sunday at noon, the Greens closed their nominations, leaving Chris van Ouwerkerk as the presumed candidate. He still needs to be confirmed as the candidate at a meeting being held Tuesday.
"I think all parties have been given a fair and equitable chance to get their individual houses in order," King said.
"So, I think we're just awaiting the date now."
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