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EDITORIAL: Cabinet has a lot of work ahead

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and his cabinet are sworn in at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown Thursday, May 9, 2019.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and his cabinet are sworn in at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown Thursday, May 9, 2019.

It was a warm and fuzzy moment for Dennis King.

The newly-elected premier was in Georgetown on Thursday to be sworn-in by Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry before a crowd of about 300 people, including King’s mother.

King grew up in Georgetown Royalty, but now lives in the Brackely-Hunter River district that elected him.

We can appreciate the sentimental and nostalgic importance for King to divert from tradition and hold the swearing-in ceremony somewhere other than the provincial capital.

It’s still the early days in King’s Progressive Conservative government, and people will likely forget that the ceremony was held in rural P.E.I. in the PC stronghold of Kings County.

That still doesn’t mitigate the fact that the PCs have a lot of work to do in finding support in the Liberal and Green dominated urban centres of Summerside and Charlottetown.

A byelection is coming up in Charlottetown’s District 9, and the PCs would love to add that seat. It would bring their total to 13 seats – only one shy of a majority. And, in four years, a lot can happen – from another byelection to a defection – that could give them a majority.

The PCs appear to have a plan to get around not having MLAs elected in either city. They’ve created two minister positions – one responsible for greater Charlottetown and one for greater Summerside.

At the helm of these portfolios is Stratford-Kinlock’s James Aylward, who is adding to the already demanding minister of health and wellness portfolio. Representing the Summerside portfolio is Matthew MacKay of Kensington-Malpeque, who also has a significant portfolio as minister of economic growth, tourism and culture.

You certainly have the give the PCs points for creativity.

But while they look nice, it’ll be interesting to see what these portfolios will involve or how they will work in tandem with the Green and Liberal MLAs who were actually elected in those cities.

Besides Aylward, King’s cabinet has other familiar faces from the official Opposition years, including new Finance Minister Darlene Compton, who will also be tasked with serving as the minister responsible for the status of women and the return of the deputy premier portfolio.

There was also speculation that King would open up cabinet positions to MLAs from the opposing two parties. This time, King chose not to go down that route; although he didn’t close the door on that idea altogether.

It’s hard to say if any Green or Liberal MLAs would have accepted a cabinet position.

Let’s not forget that Opposition MLAs are just that – in opposition. Their job is to hold the governing party accountable. It’s hard to image how that would work if, say, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker was in cabinet and involved in cabinet decisions. Would he then be able to stand up in question period and challenge the government on those decisions?

It would be an odd situation, to say the least.

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