A journalist by trade, Dennis King knows how to ask questions.
And he knows how to listen, how to connect with people – from all walks of life, from all parts of the province.
He’s learned fairness. Objectivity. A readiness to hear every side.
Dennis knows: honest and open communication is key to forging relationships. To gaining trust and earning respect.
“Our politics needs a civility, it needs a kindness to it,” he says to the crowd that’s convened at the Evermoore Brewing Company in Summerside tonight.
“When I think of the great politicians through the course of P.E.I. history – like Pat Binns or Angus MacLean or Alex Campbell – you don’t think of them as bitingly partisan.”
You think of them as people who stood up, reached across the aisle and across party lines, he says.
“You think of them as people who made a difference for P.E.I.,” he says. “People who put Prince Edward Island first.”
It’s about people. Just as his campaign signs, posted throughout the room, proclaim.
Since announcing his bid to run for the PC leadership two weeks ago, Denny has been meeting with people all across the Island – having conversations, hearing their thoughts about policies, politics and partisanship.
He’s paying attention. Listening. He’s learning about the issues that matter to Islanders, from east to west.
Regardless of county lines and party lines, he believes there’s common ground.
“Let’s focus on what unites us, not what divides us,” he says, as some folks sip on glasses of craft beer, seated at the picnic tables that offer a humble but familiar setting for the event.
“Let’s sit down at the table and figure this out.”
There’s a parallel to be drawn between what Dennis is saying tonight and the location where he has chosen to say it.
The Evermoore brewery sits near the intersection of Water Street and Granville Street in downtown Summerside. A section of the Confederation Trail, once part of the province’s railway system, lies just behind it.
The building, at 192 Water, was the city’s former train station and later served as its library until 2016.
As a library, it housed the words and ideas of authors, thinkers, people who changed history. It offered a safe and welcoming space for a diverse demographic, regardless of social status. It provided an arena where thoughts could be discussed and opinions exchanged – quietly, respectfully.
It fostered learning. It cultivated culture.
As a train station, it greeted newcomers. It offered possibility and ventures to parts unknown. It advanced progress and prosperity.
Paths crossed. Lives intersected.
It served as a crossroads, too. Once ushering in new trade and technology of the day, later bidding farewell to old ways and traditions.
Now, on this evening, that same building accommodates a juncture of a different type and time. A turning point, perhaps. For Dennis King. For the PC party.
Collaboration, cooperation and common interests – such as affordable housing, renewable energy and taxation that aligns with income needs – highlight a passionate question and answer session between Dennis and his audience.
He’s the one getting asked the questions now. And he’s answering them.
As the evening draws to a close, a lady near the back of the room shares a comment she says she received years ago from Alex Campbell.
“He just looked at me directly and said, ‘Listen. Politics is the art of compromise. And if we compromise, we’ll get things done’.”
That seems to be the same thing you’re saying tonight, she says.
“This is what I’m hearing you want to do.”
Echoing the message from his opening remarks, Denny says leadership should be about bringing people together. Offering kindness. Respect.
Serving the interests of the province, not the party.
It’s important to be a great Tory, or a great Liberal, he says. But it’s more important to be a great Islander first.
“That’s how we find solutions. That’s how we stop fighting. And that’s what I want to bring to the table.”