Pat Binns, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.
There's no fist pounding, rarely is he upset and during the last election campaign the party ran on the less than dynamic slogan, "Let's continue." It ended that campaign with all but one seat in the provincial legislature.
"I don’t expect that what works for me works for Ralph Klein, for example,” he says. “I try to keep in touch, understand people's needs and try to listen. You know the voters always have the last word and I respect that."
Binns is "from away" an Island term defining someone who was not born on P.E.I. Patrick George Binns was born in Saskatchewan on Oct. 8, 1948, to Stanley Ernest Binns and Phyllis Mae Evans. He holds a masters degree in Community Development from the University of Alberta.
Since graduating in 1971 he has rarely been away from politics or the public service. As a public figure in a small province you're never far from the voters, or their opinion and problems. Binns never tires of talking about issues, whether it's at the airport, the grocery store or with someone who drives up the lane of his farm in eastern Kings county.
"You can’t fix a problem if you can't understand. You'll hear versions of what the problem is but you often have to dig a little deeper to get into what's really behind that. What is the real issue here?
"And I don’t think that I or cabinet necessarily has a lock on good ideas. You have to get out and talk about the problems and that will produce solutions most of the time, so that's the approach I try to take."
Talking with people isn’t always easy for the politician. There are confrontations with angry voters, striking workers and people with more general beefs about what Binns and his government are doing. Those encounters rarely upset him.
"One of my colleagues knows one thing I don’t like is lumpy mashed potatoes," Binns says with a laugh, "and he said, 'The only time I saw him get upset was when they served him lumpy mashed potatoes.'"
Spuds aside, an encounter with Binns under the most stressful circumstances draws a calm response.
"If a person's upset they usually have a reason for doing that, and I'm not going to make them feel any better by being upset or arguing as well. I try to sit back, understand where they are coming from and if I can reasonably try to deal with it … then do that."
The commitment to community-based services followed Binns into the political arena. He has run on platforms of not closing any schools or community hospitals for the last two election campaigns.
"I really feel quite proud of the fact that communities are stronger today than when we first took office. I really feel there is a sense of pride and optimism in many Island communities," the premier says just days before calling this election.
His first term in provincial politics began in 1978. One year later he moved into cabinet, where he held several cabinet portfolios including, Industry, Municipal Affairs, Fisheries, Environment, Labour and Housing, and had responsibilities for Economic Development.
Binns then shifted his gaze to Ottawa, mounting a successful run at federal politics and becoming the MP for Cardigan between 1984 and 1988. He was a member of the standing committees on Agriculture and Fisheries and served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
That was followed by eight years in the private sector, Binns took to the land on his Hopefield property running his bean farm and acting as president of both Island Bean Limited and Pat Binns & Associates.
In the Maritimes, Saturday night is traditionally baked bean night, and if you look at the package and it reads Island Bean Co. you could be eating his beans.The farm is still where Binns enjoys what few quiet minutes he does have away from running the province.
"That's a bit of a diversion from politics, something that we can work on together at home. That's one of the things I like to do. The nice thing about a farm and some woodland is that you can kind of escape and do something totally different than the kind of political interaction you have in the political arena."
The call to public service came again in the mid ‘90s. Binns was elected MLA for District 5, Murray River-Gaspereaux, in the general election of Nov. 18, 1996. He became premier, president of the executive council and the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs on Nov. 27, 1996.
Three and a half years later, on April 17, 2000, Binns went back to the electorate and was swept back to power with an even more convincing mandate leaving all but one of the 27 seats in Province House filled by Tories.