‘The best is yet to come’ says new P.E.I. PC leader Dennis King

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Dennis King has won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. on the second ballot.

At the leadership convention at the Eastlink Centre Saturday afternoon, a total of 4,222 votes were cast, eight of which were spoiled.

Shawn Driscoll received the lowest number of votes at 307 and was dropped from the first ballot. 4,136 voters made a second choice on the ballot, meaning the winner needed a total of 2,069 votes. 

When votes were recalculated and the votes for Driscoll redistributed among the remaining four candidates, King came out on top with 2,071. Allan Dale received 803, Kevin Arsenault 661, and Sarah Stewart-Clark received 601. 

King shakes former leader James Aylward’s hand after his win, as the other seven MLAs look on. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

‘We don’t have time to rest’

In his victory speech, King said he was overwhelmed and humbled by the win. 

« What a testament to the renewal and the vigour of our party, » King said, noting the large number of party members who voted in the leadership. 

King hugs his wife Jana Hemphill after he won the Tory leadership Saturday in Charlottetown. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

An election is looming, he said, and it is the party’s job to come together to focus on that. 

Maybe I haven’t been elected before, but I’ve been around.— Dennis King

« I’m the first one to tell you I need your help, » King said, inviting the other candidates to join him on the stage. 

« We have momentum, we need to build on that momentum, » he said, promising to meet soon with the party executive to arrange an ambitious schedule for district nominations and policy forums across the province. 

The five candidates for the PC leadership, from left to right, Dennis King, Allan Dale, Kevin Arsenault, Shawn Driscoll and Sarah Stewart-Clark. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

« The best is yet to come, » he said. « We’re alive baby and we’re coming to get you, here we go! »

He also called former leader James Aylward a « pillar of strength » and promised that « he’s going to be a big man in this next government. »

‘Somewhat organized’

A spring election seems imminent, King said, and organizing the party for that is his priority, he said in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin. 

King said his caucus, behind him, is ‘full of strong personalities and strong opinions.’ (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Dennis King supporters react after he won the PC leadership in Charlottetown Saturday. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

« We are somewhat organized, we have some districts that are ready to go. I hope to be able to be in a position to release them as early as the middle of next week, » King said.  

King said he will seek to win a seat in the legislature in District 15: Brackley-Hunter River, where he lives, but said he will not take for granted that he will win just because he is the party’s leader.

« I’ll have some work to do, » he said. « I feel like I’m up for the job but it is a daunting task. »  

Dennis King speaks with Louise Martin shortly after having won the PC leadership. 9:37

Many of the candidates put forward ideas in their leadership bids that King said would make good planks of a party platform for the election. A successful platform will also include jobs and the economy, health care system improvements, and « figuring out some of these challenging land and water issues, » he said.

He said his leadership style will be to empower other people to put forth their ideas for change. He said his caucus of eight is « a great foundation to build upon, » and is « full of strong personalities and strong opinions. » He said he won’t be « barking orders » at them but will seek their opinions. 

Even though he has never been elected, King noted he has plenty of political experience and is skilled in knowing how to work with people who have strong opinions.

Dennis King waves to supporters after his speech at the leadership convention at the Eastlink Centre Saturday. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

« Maybe I haven’t been elected before, but I’ve been around. » 

King served as director of communications for the last PC premier of P.E.I., Pat Binns.

‘Just a boy from Georgetown Royalty’

King was first of the candidates to speak at the convention, describing himself as man of the people — « just a boy from Georgetown Royalty » — with values learned growing up in rural P.E.I. 

‘Today is about our future,’ said new PC leader Dennis King. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

« My name may be King but I don’t believe in political coronations, » King said. He’s said he proud of the campaign he and the four other leadership candidates mounted and predicted they would leave the convention united, promising there’s « room under a Dennis King tent » for his opponents. 

« I want to lead with kindness, with compassion, » King said, concluding, « I’m with you, I want you to be with me. »

Record number of votes cast

Online voting began Feb. 1. For the first time for an Island political party, all of the ballots are being cast electronically.

Angus Birt of Charlottetown, left, registers at the 2019 PC leadership convention Saturday in Charlottetown. At right is volunteer Ruth Sudsbury. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Lifelong Tory supporters Imelda Callaghan, left, and Mary McKinnon, were the first delegates to take their seats Saturday morning during the convention. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

‘We owe James a debt of gratitude on a number of fronts,’ says PC Party President Michael Drake, as part of tribute to outgoing leader James Aylward. ‘He was ready at all times to go.’ (Brian McInnis/CBC)

This leadership race saw more votes cast than in any previous P.E.I. PC leadership convention. 

Voting was being done using a preferential ballot. That means party members ranked candidates on their ballot in order of preference.

‘Prouder than ever’

Prior to the candidate speeches, the outgoing leader said his goodbyes.

« Thank you from the bottom of my heart, » said Aylward, who choked up during his upbeat farewell speech. « I’m prouder than ever to be a Progressive Conservative. »

Outgoing leader James Aylward gives a farewell speech at the leadership convention. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Aylward thanked his seven fellow caucus members for their « friendship and support. » He said stepping down was not an easy decision.

« Getting a little tired of being in Opposition, » Aylward said, adding he sees the « winds of change happening » to bring the PCs to power in the next election.

Aylward was chosen to lead the party at its last leadership convention in Oct. 2017, but announced less than a year later he would step down, saying he had « not been able to make a strong enough connection with Islanders. » However Aylward is staying on as an MLA and said he intends to run in the next election.

Jim Gorman, left, of South Melville, with Hilton MacLennan and his wife Marlene MacLennan, share a laugh while they wait for the 2019 Tory leadership convention to get underway in Charlottetown Saturday. Hilton MacLennan is the nominated PC candidate for Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Election looming

King doesn’t currently hold a seat in the provincial legislature — but may not have to wait long for a chance to win one.

A provincial election is expected as early as this spring.

Party volunteers Charlene Duffy, left, Sadie MacKenzie and Sylvia Poirier work at one of the registration tables for Saturday’s PC convention. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

« They don’t have much time, the new leader in the party, to get out there and meet Islanders and make a positive impression … to get themselves known and connect with the voting public, » said UPEI political science professor Peter McKenna.

« That’s going to be a challenge for them. »

The provincial cabinet set the wheels in motion for an early election by designating Feb. 1 as the start of P.E.I.’s referendum period, giving government eight months from that date to hold an election.

Islanders will vote in a referendum on changing their electoral system along with the next election.

King said he plans to vote for the Mixed Member Proportional system of voting in the election-day referendum. 

More P.E.I. news

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Toronto police evacuate King subway station after bomb threat

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Toronto police responded to a bomb threat near King Subway Station on Thursday. The threat was one of a number of bomb threats made in cities across North America.

King station was evacuated, according to police. Subway service was initially suspended between the Bloor-Yonge and Union stations, but has since resumed. Initially, the 504 King streetcar and bus route 97 diverted around the area, but they resumed normal service later.

In Calgary, police reported responding to multiple bomb threats, and said similar threats are being received across North America.
In Calgary, police reported responding to multiple bomb threats, and said similar threats are being received across North America.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact police.

In Calgary, police reported responding to multiple bomb threats, and said similar threats are being received across North America.

Police in New York said the threats they received were “sent electronically” to places across the city, and they linked these messages to the others reported across the country.

“We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau said in a message posted on Twitter. “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide (and) are NOT considered credible at this time.”

As word of the threatening messages spread Thursday, the FBI said in a statement that it was “aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”

Other law enforcement agencies and academic institutions echoed the message from the New York police. A spokesperson for the Chicago police said that city had received threats similar to the others, but he noted that there was “no elevated threat level” there.

In Washington, D.C., police said they received 11 emailed bomb threats between about 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. that law enforcement authorities attributed to the same situation echoing across the nation.

The San Francisco police said they responded to threats received at about 10 a.m. local time across the city, noting that there were “similar threats” in “several other cities across the United States.”

The police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, said businesses there received “what appears to be a robo-email saying there is a bomb threat to their business unless they pay money in Bitcoins.” But, the department added, it “found no credible evidence any of these emails are authentic.”

News outlets also reported that they had to evacuate their buildings due to the threats. The Park Record building in Utah was evacuated after staffers received the message, the outlet reported, while the News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C., also reported that it was forced to evacuate its building.

Academic institutions were not immune. A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania State University said the campus police, along with the FBI, were “investigating a message received by individuals in multiple locations on campus and across the state.” She said the message on campus was sent via email to eight buildings or facilities there.

“At this time, police say the threat appears to be part of a national hoax, however, an investigation is ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

The University of Washington said it was “investigating threatening emails sent to individuals on campus” and swept buildings before the campus police “determined there is no safety concern.” The school said the FBI had “advised that the email is not a credible threat.”

—with files from The Washington Post

Stefanie Marotta is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @StefanieMarotta

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King C. Gillette, le roi du rasage

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Si la mode de la barbe bouscule les habitudes, 800 millions d’hommes dans le monde utilisent toujours les produits de l’empire fondé parce parangon de l’« American Dream ».

S’il était encore vivant, King Camp Gillette serait un startuppeur. Il possédait une vision entrepreneuriale depuis son très jeune âge, c’était un conceptualiste», raconte Pankaj Bhalla, directeur Amérique du Nord de Gillette et Venus. En 1892, cet agent de commerce, qui a grandi à Chicago, poursuit sa carrière dans l’entreprise de fabrication de bouchons qui vient de révolutionner la société de consommation et le business des verres consignés avec la capsule de bouteille. Son patron a remarqué ses talents pour le bricolage mécanique et lui demande d’inventer un article dans le même genre. Cette pensée l’obsède, jusqu’à ce matin, quand, devant son miroir, une idée lui saute au visage. «S’apprêtant à se raser, il se rend compte que la lame de son coupe-choux ne fonctionne plus. Il imagine alors une pièce d’acier aplatie, aiguisée aux deux extrémités, maintenue en place par un manche, un peigne en dessous et un capuchon sur le dessus. Il suffirait de changer la lame abîmée», explique Greg …

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One year in data deems King St. pilot project a success

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A $1.5-million pilot project that gives priority to streetcar traffic on King St. between Bathurst and Jarvis Sts. marks its one-year anniversary Monday with the city’s latest data showing a spike in transit ridership, cyclist and pedestrian travel and a slight improvement in customer spending in the busy downtown corridor.

City of Toronto data for July and August shows double-digit increases in streetcar ridership during the morning and evening commutes on King St. during the period compared to ridership before the project began last Nov. 12, with average all-day ridership jumping by 11 per cent to roughly 80,000 boardings per day.

A decision on whether the King St. streetcar pilot project will be made permanent is expected by the end of the year.
A decision on whether the King St. streetcar pilot project will be made permanent is expected by the end of the year.  (Eduardo Lima)

The next “key metric” update, for September and October, is to be published on the city’s website soon while a decision on whether the pilot will be made permanent is expected by the end of the year.

Restricting car traffic and eliminating parking along a portion of King St., the project has reduced streetcar and car travel times while pumping up cycling volumes on King at Spadina Ave. by 440 per cent during the afternoon commute in July, with a similar trend observed in pedestrian traffic, the city data shows.

“King St. wasn’t working for anyone,” Mayor John Tory said during the summer.

“The King Street Transit Pilot demonstrates that we can move a larger number of people on the city’s busiest surface route, quickly and reliably, while managing the impact on drivers and local businesses,” Tory Tweeted in August.

“We believe the King St. pilot has been nothing short of transformational for the residents of Liberty Village,” added Todd Hofley, president of the Liberty Village Residents’ Association, representing about 10,000 condo dwellers. The group is among more than 15 organizations that launched a “We Love King” campaign to show support for the pilot project.

“We no longer have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for a streetcar and bunching has been substantially reduced,” he said in an email. “ We can now get downtown, reliably in 7-10 minutes and the significant increase in ridership is testament to this pilot’s effectiveness. We absolutely believe it should be made permanent and look forward to this becoming a reality — as Mayor Tory promised.”

Restaurant and other business owners in the area, however, have reported a big drop in customer traffic, with some taking part in a social media campaign that encourages people to use the hashtag #ReverseKingCarBan to protest the project.

Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill, who placed a large ice sculpture of a hand showing the middle finger outside his restaurant earlier this year, told the Star on Saturday that his business has declined at least 30 per cent because of the pilot, which he wants reversed. He said several restaurants have closed since the launch and his business has been forced to function with a skeleton lunch time staff thanks to reduced car traffic, parking and the resulting loss of patrons.

The city’s data shows 0.3 per cent growth in customer spending in the pilot area in the first six months of the project versus average annual growth of 5.7 per cent for the area surrounding the pilot and 3.8 per cent for the city overall. Carbone said even if the city’s data is to believed, the growth rate is not enough.

“The time savings are paltry compared to the loss of parking revenues for the city, the increased congestion on neighbouring and parallel streets, and the loss of revenues for our establishments.”

After Tory met with business owners to discuss their concerns about the project, the city in January announced measures including free on street parking in the pilot area for up to two hours, additional parking spaces on side streets and additional loading zones for vehicles and trucks. That was followed by a promotion where diners could get $15 toward a meal that led to “significant sales increases and new customers” at enterprises near the contentious project.

Michael Lewis is a Toronto-based reporter covering business. Follow him on Twitter: @MLewisStar

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