Q&A: P.E.I. Premier Dennis King talks tourism season and looks back on 1st year in office

As Islanders enter another weekend during the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin was joined by P.E.I. Premier Dennis King for a Skype interview Friday evening.

The latest case of COVID-19 was announced more than a week ago, on April 15, and the province has said it’s working on a plan to ease restrictions beginning May 1.

The number of cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. remains at 26, with 24 of those cases considered to be recovered. 

Here is that conversation, edited for clarity and length.

Q: P.E.I.’s ease back plan, when do you think you’ll be able to give more specifics on that? 

You’ll see in the middle of next week that we will be able to go live with more information as to what the risk assessment process would look like, what a phased in plan … for the immediate future looks like. 

But like everything … we’ve worked on here it will need to change and adapt on a regular basis to meet the realities of each day as it moves on. 

Q: New Brunswick unveiled some really specific details, Saskatchewan has, so will it be more like that? A breakdown of what will open and when? 

It wouldn’t necessarily be specific to individual businesses. But I think ours will be like Saskatchewan’s from the perspective that we will put some targets and goals in place of when we could see certain phases and parts of the economy coming live.

Q: What kind of conversations are you having with New Brunswick of potentially opening up the border of that province?

All of the conversations that I’ve had with Premier Higgs so far … have been in the early stages. 

We’re both very cautious yet, we put these things on the long-term agenda and try to figure out a way toward them. It’s certainly a goal we have in mind but we’re also mindful of the fact that we’re still in a health pandemic, still lots to be worried about. So we have to be cautious and careful with our optimism.

Q: How realistic is it to think that the cruise ship season or any big tourist events will happen this summer on P.E.I.? 

I think as you saw today with the Confederation Centre of the Arts cancelling their summer season, you know, my great fear and the reality of what we’re taking on here is the understanding that a lot of this stuff that we’re used to isn’t going to happen. 

The cruise industry — I don’t know. There’s some uncertainty there for obvious reasons. Large gatherings, Dr. Morrison has said from the beginning, will be one of the last things to be lifted. I’m concerned this year and what our summer looks like and what we can get out of it from a tourism industry perspective. 

Q: The leader of the Official Opposition is asking for the legislature to reconvene, will you make that call? 

I don’t think anyone on P.E.I. is more eager to get to the legislature than I am. I enjoy the legislature, Islanders want us in the legislature. Right now, I don’t think we’re allowed in the legislature because of the health pandemic emergency that we’re in. We will meet again this week via telephone, with the Speaker’s office, with the leaders of the parties to discuss, like all Island businesses and organizations are discussing right now, as we look at ease back in P.E.I., where does the legislature fit in all of that.

Q: One year ago today I interviewed you as P.E.I.’s premier-designate. I’m wondering what advice today you would give yourself one year ago? 

I would say, there’s going to be some good days and some tough days. That’s for sure. But to keep focused on who you are, you’re going to look back in a year’s time and say, “Wow, that was quite a journey.”

I’m certainly proud of the achievements that we have made so far and still very, very proud of the mandate that Islanders have given us. I feel that we have stayed true to who Islanders voted for a year ago today. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

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