P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz sworn in to office
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2007 2:36PM EDT
CHARLOTTETOWN - Twenty-one years after his father was first sworn into office as Liberal premier of Prince Edward Island, Robert Ghiz took the same oath Tuesday, vowing to usher in a new era of politics on the island province.
Ghiz, 33, was officially sworn in as premier, along with a 10-member cabinet made up entirely of people who have no experience running a government.
The new premier said that's probably a good thing.
He said Islanders voted for change on May 28 when they overwhelmingly elected the Liberals and sent the 11-year-old Progressive Conservative government packing.
The Liberals emerged on election night with 23 of the province's 27 legislative seats, leaving the once-powerful Tories led by Pat Binns with only four.
"Probably not many have noticed that we're going into government without any cabinet experience at all -- none,'' Ghiz said following the swearing in.
"That doesn't happen very often. I think it's good. We have a new and fresh perspective and that's what people are looking for.''
Ghiz was accompanied by family members, including his wife, New Brunswick physician Dr. Kate Ellis Ghiz, when he arrived at Government House in Charlottetown.
For many members of the Ghiz family, the ceremony revived memories of Robert's late father, Joe Ghiz, who was premier of the Island from 1986 until 1993. He died of cancer in 1996.
"There were emotions,'' the premier's mother, Rose-Ellen Ghiz, said following the ceremony. "I was looking at Robert, seeing him as a young man, and remembering. I thought back 20 years . . . His father would be so very proud.''
There are several examples in Canada of sons following fathers into the premier's office, including one earlier case on Prince Edward Island. Former Liberal premier Alex Campbell followed in the footsteps of his father, Thane Campbell.
Ghiz said the first thing his administration will do is honour an election promise to cut the tax on a litre of gasoline by 4.4 cents. He said that will take effect on July 1.
But Ghiz said his government basically will pass the Tory budget, brought down shortly before the election was called, with a few modifications.
That means it will be next spring when the Ghiz government brings down its first budget, before Islanders get a true sense of the new government's intentions.
"We want to make sure we are running an effective administration without making any rash decisions,'' he said. "We'll take our time now, and then next March or April, we'll bring down the first Liberal budget.''
Ghiz said he met last weekend with New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, also a Liberal, whose electoral circumstances were similar to those of Ghiz.
Last year, the Graham Liberals defeated a long-standing Tory government and swept into power on a commitment to change and lower gas taxes.
While Graham went ahead with a gas tax reduction, he said he was forced to raise other taxes after an audit of the province's books indicated a looming deficit.
Ghiz is also promising to review P.E.I.'s books. He said he is hoping there will be no unpleasant surprises.
As for Ghiz's cabinet, there are only two women in the group -- Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour Minister Carolyn Bertram and Tourism Minister Valerie Docherty.
Ghiz said the legislature will be convened soon to name a new Speaker.
After that, he said, the legislature will likely be recalled in the fall to pass the budget.
"That will give our ministers lots of time to get up to speed on their files.''