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King hints at cabinet role for new MLA

Premier Dennis King congratulates Natalie Jameson on winning Monday's District 9 byelection.
Premier Dennis King congratulates Natalie Jameson on winning Monday's District 9 byelection. - Mitch MacDonald
In between constituent calls and media interviews, Progressive Conservative MLA-elect Natalie Jameson said she spent her first day in the role cleaning out the trailer off St. Peters Road that had served as the nerve centre of her campaign.
"It's looking like we were never in there. It's hard to believe. Within less than 24 hours, everything is cleaned up," Jameson said, reached in the late afternoon on Tuesday. "It's kind of been a bit of an anti-climactic day."
Monday night’s win in District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park by the political newcomer leaves the minority government of Dennis King just shy of a majority, with a seat count of 13, to the Greens’ 8 and the Liberals’ 6.
Her win also brings a much-needed female presence to the overwhelmingly male PC caucus and is the only presence the governing party has within the city of Charlottetown.
These factors have led many to suggest Jameson would be a likely contender for a cabinet post.
King himself hinted at this on Monday night at a PC party victory celebration.
"She has a tremendous skillset. She has many things that you would look for as you go about reconstructing a cabinet. To that, I would say stay tuned," King told reporters.
For the moment, Jameson says she is most concerned about representing her district.
“Ultimately it's the premier who decides,” Jameson said on Tuesday, referring to a cabinet position.
“I would be open and ready for that at that point. But for the time being, it will be just wrapping my arms around the role of MLA.”
Jameson won the deferred election in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park on Monday night by a decisive margin, besting longtime city hall staffer and Liberal candidate Karen Lavers and veteran conservationist and Green candidate John Andrew.
Jameson leapt to an early lead shortly after polls closed, taking 44 per cent of advanced poll votes. She kept up the lead throughout the night, winning the election with 43.7 per cent of the vote. Andrew drew 28.7 per cent of the final tally, while Lavers drew 25.7 per cent. The NDP’s Gordon Gay drew 1.9 per cent.
Jameson, a mother of two, grew up in the district. She recently returned to P.E.I. from Alberta, where she worked as a marketing representative and recruiter with Obsidian Energy Ltd.
Premier Dennis King said Jameson herself had managed to earn the confidence of voters in the area.
"A by-election often comes down to a candidate and how they're able to connect at the doorsteps,” King said in an interview Monday night.
“She's very genuine, she's a hard-worker.”
Jameson said the key issue in the deferred election was traffic concern along the St. Peters corridor. The PCs had pledged to complete a long-term traffic plan for the highway within the first 100 days of office.
On Monday night, King said he has instructed Transportation Minister Steven Myers to begin work on the plan.
"It seems government has always been fixated on short-term solutions,” King told The Guardian.
“I think what I've instructed our transportation minister, through his officials (to do) is to come up with a long-term plan, that is actually a conceivable plan that can deal with not just the traffic flows today, but the growth, the tremendous growth that we're seeing in this area going forward."
The deferred election in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park represented the last remaining piece of the puzzle for April’s provincial election. The election was delayed in the district after the death of Green candidate Josh Underhay, following a canoeing accident on April 19.
On Monday night, Lavers acknowledged voters chose to side with the winner of the general election.
“We were fighting against the government in power, which is difficult,” Lavers said.
Andrew said many residents were keen to have a voice within the new government.
"I think there's some effect of giving the new PC government a chance," Andrew said.
"There's a feeling in the district that voting for the government party will give the district some advantage."
Elections P.E.I. said the voter turnout Monday night was 60 per cent, lower than the 76 per cent turnout for last April’s general election.
Stu.neatby@theguardian.pe.ca
Twitter.com/stu_neatby

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