Top News

P.E.I. opposition leaders pleased with openness, transparency in lead-up to first session of minority government

Premier Dennis King says he has made it a priority to reach out to both the opposition Liberal and Green parties in the lead-up to his government’s first speech from the throne.
Premier Dennis King says he has made it a priority to reach out to both the opposition Liberal and Green parties in the lead-up to his government’s first speech from the throne. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Both opposition leaders say they are encouraged by the access and input they have had to planned motions and bills from the minority Dennis King government.

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell said negotiations for the first throne speech and budget of King’s government have been occurring daily, while all parties have shared advance drafts of legislation they plan to introduce.

"House leaders are going to meet every day to ensure that everybody knows what's going on and, to use a term of government and Opposition, (that) there's no surprises," Mitchell told the Guardian.

Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell says the spring session could allow more of a role for public consultation prior to the collaboration of legislation. He says other minority governments have functioned without a formal agreement. - Stu Neatby
Liberal Leader Robert Mitchell says the spring session could allow more of a role for public consultation prior to the collaboration of legislation. He says other minority governments have functioned without a formal agreement. - Stu Neatby

In fact, the term ‘no surprises’ has so far become something of an unofficial motto of the planned spring session. 

These measures alone represent a marked change from legislative sessions of the previous Liberal government of Wade MacLauchlan. Complaints were frequent from the Opposition and Third Party benches that MLAs would not have access to proposed bills prior to them being introduced.

King said his government is focusing on delivering what he promised to Islanders during the April election campaign: a more collaborative approach of government.

"I think we've been operating under the realization that Islanders have given us a minority government. If you follow me when we've been making announcements, we're quick to point out it was the former government who had initiated these projects and we give them credit," King said.

Still, the PCs and Liberals appear to diverge with the Greens on the question of establishing a formal agreement between parties.

With King’s 12 seats in the legislature, it is conceivable that the Liberals and Greens could vote down a confidence motion, such as a budget, forcing the government to dissolve.

Bevan-Baker had proposed to the leaders of the PC and Liberal parties that an agreement on confidence motions be signed. Bevan-Baker said such an agreement would establish the expectations of all parties and would establish stability of the minority government.

But, one day before the legislature opens, Bevan-Baker said he is not holding his breath about establishing such an agreement

"We'll go into the session without one, and my suspicion is that the premier wants to carry on without a formal agreement and just sort of making this work, as he puts it, on an issue-by-issue basis," Bevan-Baker said.

Green Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says he has been pleased to see all three parties sharing details of government and private members bills. But he cautions that a minority government without a formal agreement could be unstable. - Stu Neatby
Green Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says he has been pleased to see all three parties sharing details of government and private members bills. But he cautions that a minority government without a formal agreement could be unstable. - Stu Neatby

Mitchell said his priority during the coming legislative session will be to involve more Islanders in consultative processes. He pointed to the process prior to the passage of the Water Act, which he oversaw as minister of Communities, Land and Environment, as an example of establishing a role for citizens in amending legislation.

Regulations for the Water Act have yet to be fully enacted, but the consultation involved meetings with hundreds of Islanders. 

Mitchell said a similar process on other legislative matters would be his priority.

"As long as this structure of the house has the confidence of Islanders, this is a system that could be in place for some length of time," Mitchell said.

"I think that's more important than signing documents between parties."

King said he told the other leaders he would support a formal agreement if all three parties were interested but would otherwise attempt to gain the confidence of the legislature.

"That seems to be where we've landed right now," King said.

All three leaders said negotiations related to the first budget of the government have been successful.

Mitchell said he was pleased with the decision by King to use the budget developed by staff of the previous government as the basis.

"The bulk of the budget will be exactly what the previous government was putting forward, to the point of 85 per cent," he said.

As for his first budget, King said he planned to introduce a budget that maintained a surplus. He said high spending promises contained in the PC election platform, such as a 2.5 per cent reduction in small business taxes and the introduction of universal preschool for four-year-olds, would be phased in over multiple years.

Twitter.com/stu_neatby


On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend the Journal Pioneer?


Recent Stories