In politics, a certain amount of discord is almost to be expected between the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition. It’s almost an unwritten rule at this point.
On PEI however, it’s a bit different right now. Our province, currently operating under its first minority government since joining Confederation, and most people weren’t sure what to expect when the news first broke.
Yes, all parties have to get along to an extent, and a certain amount of give and take is to be expected in order to get anything done, but I don’t think Islanders were expecting relations between Premier Dennis King and Peter Bevan Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition and of the Green Party, to be so cordial.
The morning after the election, both Premier King and Mr Bevan Baker were recorded hugging prior to an interview with CBC’s Mitch Cormier, who noted the two hadn’t had the chance to talk the night before.
When Premier King was preparing for his government’s first Throne Speech and budget back in October, he sought input from both the Green and Liberal parties. Earlier in the month he had sent out mandate letters to his cabinet ministers which advised that a new co-operative approach would be critical to the success of their government. The ministers were also told each to ensure Green and Liberal MLAs were appropriately consulted on major issues and legislation.
It didn’t stop there. During the first day of debate under the new legislature a motion to end the practise of heckling was supported by all parties. The support for this motion was surprising, as heckling and politics seem to almost go hand in hand, but it has been a refreshing change. While studying journalism at Holland College, we would sometimes walk down to the Legislature to cover what was going on, and during Question Period it often felt like we were watching or listening to children as opposed to grown men and women. It was disappointing to say the least.
An interesting exchange between the two leaders took place during Question Period on Nov. 22. Before responding to a question from Mr Bevan Baker regarding the framework for wellbeing of Islanders, Premier King took the time to say “One thing that I’ve been impressed with the Leader of the Opposition over the course of his career is that he has successfully lead us to change the way we look, in terms of the environment and economy as competing interests. I think the line of questioning that he’s embarked upon here is one of those examples where we need to change the way we look at things...”
In response, Mr Bevan Baker commented that “A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes between the sitting of this Legislature... What the fruit of that is pieces of legislation come to this floor, they’re well debated, they’re collaborated on, they’re strong pieces of legislation and they have widespread support. We’re moving through bills here in a way that’s never been done before. I think we should be proud of that.”
Not everyone is as fond of the so-called bro-mance between the two leaders, feeling it’s almost to saccharine. Some have even said they’ve missed the heckling.
It will be interesting to see if this cordiality can last. Here’s hoping it does.