Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker
Looking for an opportunity for a third party
While he was born on another continent and has lived on P.E.I. just 12 years, Island Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker lays claim to an unusual Island connection that dates back to the Charlottetown Conference.
His great-great-grandfather was George Brown, a Father of Confederation. After Brown's death in 1880, his widow moved the family back to Scotland. It was there in 1962, three generations later, that Bevan-Baker was born in Aberdeen, and grew up in the small fishing village of Fortrose.
All the individual efforts ... to secure a good future for our kids could all be totally sabotaged- Peter Bevan-Baker
He lived there for his first 14 years, but finished his schooling in Glasgow.
"I loved the little village I grew up in but Glasgow opened up all kinds of possibilities," he said.
"It was certainly the working class, poor neighbour of Edinburgh in many respects but I absolutely loved it."
Bevan-Baker finished high school and then a dentistry degree in Glasgow. He also played the trumpet around town, mostly jazz, but also in a big band that he says he wasn't really good enough to play in.
After graduating, he moved into a program that could have led to a career in academia, but he wasn't sure that was what he wanted.
"I did dentistry because I loved working with my hands. I loved art and I loved sculpting things," he said.
A move to Canada
Bevan-Baker wanted "to get his hands wet," and a friend offered him an opportunity to fill in at a dental practice in Newfoundland. He jumped at it as a chance to discover for certain if dentistry was for him.
While in Newfoundland he met the woman he would marry. Ann was a native Newfoundlander, and a decision had to be made about where the two would raise a family.
Canada won out.
Bevan-Baker's official entry into politics began around 1993. The family was living in Prescott, near Ottawa, and a federal election was on the way. Bevan-Baker was growing increasingly concerned about the direction Canada and the Western world were heading. He and Ann now had four children.
"All the individual efforts that Ann and I were making to try to secure a good future for our kids could all be totally sabotaged," he said.
"I came to realize that the world where my children were going to live their lives was probably a very different place from the one we were inhabiting, because they were one, two, three, four years old. And what I saw didn't really fill me with optimism."
Organizing the Greens in Ontario
There was no Green Party organization in the Prescott area at the time. It was not a well-known party in Canada, but with his European roots Bevan-Baker was familiar with it. He banded together with a group of like-minded friends and started a Green Party association. When it came time to choose a candidate, they chose Bevan-Baker.
There is this relentless sense of responsibility.- Peter Bevan Baker
It was the first of nine campaigns for him, at both federal and provincial levels.
Bevan-Baker acknowledges in none of those campaigns was there a hope of winning. He continues because he feels it is essential to get Green Party ideas in the political debate.
"There's this incredibly persistent inner voice that taps me on the shoulder, sometimes to the point where it's painful, and tells me you have a responsibility to do this," he said.
"There is this relentless sense of responsibility."
That sense of responsibility goes back to his first political speech in 1993, when he said he wanted to be able to look his kids in the eye 20 years later and be able to say he had done his best.
"To a certain extent I feel I have not fulfilled that promise."
While he does not expect big change in this election, he does believe the opportunity for a third party is perhaps better on the Island than anywhere else, or at least to elect a government with green principles that could be a beacon for the world.
"Because it's a small place, 140,000 people, 100,000 voters," he said.
"I actually really believe that's possible."