The man whose party won the most seats in P.E.I.’s provincial election Tuesday says he does not expect to seek a formal coalition agreement with the Greens or Liberals, and his Tories will forge ahead as a minority government.
Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King says he plans to work collaboratively with the Opposition Green party and the Liberals, who were reduced to third-party status.
He plans to work on an issue-by-issue basis in order to maintain a minority government that he hopes won’t be brought down by mere partisan differences.
“We are going to need the help of other parties to get legislation passed … focusing on what unites us more than divides us,” King told reporters Wednesday.
“We know it’s going to take a lot of co-operation and collaboration, and it’s going to take us implementing ideas from other parties, which I don’t have any issue with. If they’re good ideas and Islanders like them, I think we should put them into action.”
Not only is he poring over the Green and Liberal platforms to identify what measures a Tory minority would be willing to implement, King also suggested he would be open to offering a cabinet or senior government role to members of other parties.
The Tories won 12 of Prince Edward Island’s 27 seats Tuesday – the first minority outcome in the province since 1890. With eight seats, the Green party will form the official Opposition – a first in Canada.
The incumbent Liberals won just six seats after enjoying majority status for the last 12 years. Outgoing premier and Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan lost his seat to the Tory candidate, dairy farmer Bloyce Thompson.
MacLauchlan spoke briefly to reporters Tuesday evening following his defeat, but has yet to respond to questions about his and his party’s next steps.
During the 27-day campaign, the party leaders rarely disagreed on policy and refrained from personal or partisan attacks, even during debates.
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Promises of taking a more courteous and respectful approach to politics featured prominently in King’s platform, and it’s something he says he plans to continue as the leader of a minority government. After all, he says, this is what Prince Edward Islanders voted for.
“It’s going to be delicate sometimes, getting things passed through the legislature, but I think if you listen to Islanders, Islanders want us to work together,” he said.
“They didn’t want any one party to have a full majority. They want people in the legislature to work together.”
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said Wednesday he has not yet had conversations with his new eight-member caucus nor with the other parties about potential co-operation or coalition partnerships.
But he’s not ruling anything out.
“We’ve had no formal discussions about where we go from here, but as far as I’m concerned, all options are open,” he said.
Bevan-Baker conceded that he, of all four P.E.I. party leaders including the NDP, was the only one who sometimes strayed from the unusually collegial tone during campaign debates – challenging the governing Liberals on their record and questioning the costing of the Progressive Conservative platform.
But he cited his longtime kinship with King – the King family were once patients of his former dental practice – as evidence of their ability to work together to navigate an unfamiliar political landscape for Canada’s smallest province.
“There are so many things that are undetermined at this point, but I come at this with an absolute sense of goodwill and optimism that the collegiality that was displayed during the election campaign will continue on in how this next parliament functions,” Bevan-Baker said.