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P.E.I.'s story-telling premier uncertain if his schedule will allow performance at Small Halls

Dennis King, left, David Weale, Alan Buchanan, standing, and Gary Evans bring “The Four Tellers- Top Hats and Tall Tales” to stage in this August 2017 Guardian file photo. King and Evans were scheduled to perform at the Festival of Small Halls in June. Now Premier Dennis King said he’d like to do the show, if his schedule allows.
Dennis King, left, David Weale, Alan Buchanan, standing, and Gary Evans bring “The Four Tellers- Top Hats and Tall Tales” to stage in this August 2017 Guardian file photo. King and Evans were scheduled to perform at the Festival of Small Halls in June. Now Premier Dennis King said he’d like to do the show, if his schedule allows. - Contributed

Call him the Island’s tall-tale premier.

Fresh off his swearing-in ceremony in Georgetown last week, Dennis King is set to spin a few yarns in front of a live audience in mid-June as part of the Festival of Small Halls. The new premier is set to perform at the Linkletter Community Centre for a “Tunes and Tales” performance, alongside fellow storyteller Gary Evans and the traditional music quartet Inn Echo.

The performance is slated to take place Thursday, June 13. Evans has performed many times in the past with King as part of the Four Tellers, a storytelling quartet.

However, when reached by phone, King said he still had to confirm with his staff whether he could do the show.

"I'm still considering it. I don't want to say no. I'm not sure if I can schedule it in yet, but I'll certainly try,” King told The Guardian.

"I'd hate to leave them without me if they thought it was important to be there.”

An organizer for the festival would not confirm whether King would still be performing. However, King’s name is listed as a performer on the festival’s website and Facebook page.

King has performed in the festival over the last several seasons, and said he was booked to perform last November. King entered the race to become leader of the Progressive Conservatives in late November and became PC leader in February.

He said he has not given the show much thought but admitted he might need to incorporate new material.

"I think if I was telling stories, I'd have to try to tell some of the campaign stories," King said.

"You enter into a different sphere where your stories aren't as funny anymore because of who you are."

King is not the first Maritime premier to come from a performing background. Rodney MacDonald, who served as Nova Scotia’s premier from 2006 to 2009, was a well-established fiddler and step-dancer.

However, King would likely not be able to accept payment for his performance. The Conflict of Interest Act prohibits government ministers from secondary employment or from the practice of a profession.

King told The Guardian he would not be accepting payment for the performance.

The Guardian reached out to the province’s conflict of interest commissioner John A. McQuaid, who declined to comment on the matter. He said he had not yet received private disclosure statements from King nor from members of his cabinet. All MLAs are required to submit the statements within 60 days of being sworn in.

UPEI political science professor Don Desserud did not believe King’s June performance, or any future performances, would constitute a conflict of interest. He also did not believe the performance would be a smart move on King’s part.

"It's incredibly naive. He won't have time. I mean, the work load is incredible," Desserud said.

"He's giving political ammunition to his opposition by doing that. He's setting himself up for criticism, which is not a smart thing to do."

The Festival of Small Halls lists the Government of P.E.I. as one of its key sponsors.

“I can't see that as being sustainable for more than one performance before he realizes that this is not going to work," Desserud said.

King said his reasons for considering the performance largely stem from his admiration for the Festival of Small Halls.

"I love the Small Halls. One of the best things about P.E.I. is that wonderful festival. I certainly wouldn't want to be a distraction to that," King said.


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