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P.E.I. premier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet to talk about minority governments

Premier Dennis King, left, is the first provincial premier to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since the federal election on Oct. 21. The two met in Ottawa on Thursday and discussed a range of issues, including running successful minority governments as well as replacing two of the ferries that operate out of P.E.I.
Premier Dennis King, left, is the first provincial premier to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since the federal election on Oct. 21. The two met in Ottawa on Thursday and discussed a range of issues, including running successful minority governments as well as replacing two of the ferries that operate out of P.E.I. - Contributed

Put the partisan nature aside, roll up the sleeves and get to work.

Premier Dennis King said Friday that’s been his mantra since forming a minority government on P.E.I. in April, and it was advice he shared with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who formed a Liberal minority on Oct. 21.

King and Trudeau met in Ottawa on Thursday. King is the first provincial premier to meet the prime minister since the federal election.

“(I) just really hope cooler heads can prevail at the national level, and they can do what we’ve done here on Prince Edward Island,’’ King told The Guardian. “If I can in any way help him navigate through the minority situation, he knows I’m a phone call away.’’

King said Trudeau had a number of questions related to the structural operation of a minority government and how that might translate to Ottawa.

“I told him what I tell everybody and that is it requires each party leader, and the members of each party, to take a little water in their wine to try to dial down the partisan nature and to focus on the issues that are important to Canadians or, in my case, to Islanders.’’

The P.E.I. premier said he left the meeting with the sense that the prime minister wants to do just that and hopes they can look to Canada’s smallest province for inspiration.

“I think we’ve shown the rest of the country that it can be done here.’’

Health, climate economy

They also talked a lot about health care, mental health issues, the environment and the climate crisis, how important it is for governments to find economic opportunities that go with improving the climate and the “greening of government . . . I think we share a passion with that as do most Canadians’’.

The Guardian asked King if the topic of the carbon tax came up. Earlier this year, the P.E.I. premier called it a "punitive tax for Islanders". King didn’t say whether the topic came up, preferring to focus on the fact he and Trudeau agree that politicians need to find opportunities to make the provinces, and the country, more environmentally friendly while still growing the economy at a rate necessary to make sure things like social programs are funded.

The topic of a new ferries also came up. Quebec shipyard Chantier Davie has been contracted to build replacements for two ferries — the MV Holiday Island, which runs between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S., and the MV Madeleine, which runs between Souris, P.E.I., and the Magdalen Islands. However, the two ferries are currently 12th on the order paper at the small, but busy, shipyard.

“He was a little discouraged that we were that far down the pecking order and we really want to do something sooner rather than later,’’ King said. “Obviously, there are procurement challenges. He seemed very open to do what we can at the local level to expedite the process.’’

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