Peter Bevan-Baker arrived at the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly in May 2015 after following a long and winding road. That road began in Aberdeen, Scotland, moving through Newfoundland and Ontario before arriving in Hampton, Prince Edward Island in 2002.
On the way he studied music, became a dentist, married “the kindest person I’ve ever met,” had four children, wrote six plays and a musical, and ran as a Green Party candidate in 10 elections before finally succeeding in May 2015 when he became the proud MLA for Kellys Cross–Cumberland. In doing so, Peter became the first Green Party member of the Provincial Legislature. On April 23, 2019, Peter was re-elected in the newly established district of New Haven-Rocky Point, and with a caucus of eight, he formed the first Green Official Opposition in Canada.
Peter has always been active in his community, contributing in a variety of ways. Whether it was directing plays at his local elementary school, chairing the board of the Victoria Playhouse, or coaching soccer, he always felt and acted on a strong sense of community responsibility.
Peter Bevan-Baker's response to the Throne Speech is copied from the official Hansard transcript of his speech in the Legislature on June 18, 2019.
It is indeed a great pleasure to rise this afternoon and respond to the Speech From the Throne. I’d like to start out by thanking the Premier. Thank you, firstly, for including many of the opposition’s priorities in the throne speech, and I suspect that the level of cooperation and the level of consultation that happened in the production of this throne speech has never before happened on this Island. I think I could say that with great confidence.
It has been over a month since the historic provincial election that brought in a Progressive Conservative minority government on P.E.I. In that time, we have been hearing a lot about collaboration and the need to work together, and I couldn’t agree more. We have an opportunity here on P.E.I. to set a shining example for other jurisdictions, like
New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, whose transitions to minority governments have been fraught with conflict.
We are fortunate on P.E.I. that the three party leaders genuinely like each other and see the value of working together. We also agree on many policy areas – with campaign promises often appearing on more than one of the three party’s platforms. But goodwill and a desire to collaborate will only take us so far. We also need a blueprint of what collaboration will look like and set ground rules for when we can’t agree.
One of our kids’ favourite books was about a little girl who wanted a cat. The plot is pretty simple: a young girl wants a cat and pleads with her parents to get her one. She leaves pictures of cats all over the house, dresses up as a cat, and eventually will only eat fish and say meow. But all these efforts to get a feline friend fail. The parents are resolute, pointing out how lucky this little girl is to have all of her books, her bike, her toy train set. Then one day, out of the blue, Mom and Dad show up with a cat-sized box. The little girl is delirious with anticipation, but when the box is opened, it’s only a stuffed toy cat. You can imagine the daughter’s reaction – not cool.
When I was a boy growing up in the Highlands of Scotland, I was a member of the Cubs and later the Sea Scouts. There were many rules and routines associated with scouting that helped instil in me a sense of order and responsibility for which I am thankful to this day. Leading the way to this goal, and providing a vision for the organisation was the motto “Be Prepared”. The motto was devised in 1907 by Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement and an English soldier. In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” The motto has two distinct parts – preparedness, and service: to be ready for whatever comes, and to do your part.
Part of the skill of being human is to figure out what really matters; to choose what priorities you will place at the front of your life. Since it’s impossible to do everything, we need to pick what things we’re going to be truly, deeply committed to fulfil. I think that’s true in our individual lives, and for me, I carry it into my political work.
Politics is how we make collective decisions, and it touches on every aspect of our shared lives. Part of the art of politics, I believe, is in choosing what priorities get placed at the front of the line. The word priority quite literally means “prior to” – what things need to be done prior to the rest. In that sense you can’t have a whole bunch of priorities, only a few.
When I hear people saying that we don’t need to do anything more to reduce carbon emissions it is tempting to label them as “climate change deniers.” We often hear that term bandied about in reference to political parties that are fighting against carbon prices or arguing in favour of the continued use of oil, gas, and coal as primary energy sources. But within my experience “climate change deniers” are actually pretty uncommon, at least in Canada. There are only a few stubborn souls left who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence and still claim that human activities are not having an impact on the global climate.
Last week I wrote a blog with my “Thoughts on grandchildren and grand challenges” which explained why I became involved in politics 25 years ago and why I believe our response to the risk of climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. As political leaders in the 21st century, we must carry the heavy responsibility of making the policy decisions that will determine whether or not we will “leave a habitable home for those that follow us.”
I take this responsibility very seriously, which is why I have become so discouraged by the recent approach our provincial government has taken on this issue. In 2016, our Premier signed the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change committing PEI to introduce carbon pricing to meet our Paris Accord targets. Yet, since then, he and his government have been trying to evade their responsibility under the Framework.
Twenty-five years ago when I was running for the first time as a Green candidate, the opening lines of my speech at the initial debate went like this: “Future generations will look back at the decades we are now living in and they will call them the crazy years: that time when humanity, with full knowledge of the consequences of our actions, carried out the systematic destruction of our only home, planet Earth.”
In some ways everything has changed since then; in other ways nothing has.
In a blog post a couple of months ago, I lamented the amount of time that is required to get information out of government. In it, I mentioned that I have been trying to obtain copies of ads from Executive Council Office. In light of recent developments, I think this makes an interesting case study on the absurdities that can result when government and those responsible for holding them to account both lose sight of the principles of openness, transparency, and respecting the taxpayer.
Last week I wrote a piece on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the potential implications of a (then pending) new agreement on our provincial economy. We now have NAFTA 2.0, and it’s useful to examine how it might impact our Island.
In my previous blog, I wrote about the threats to our provincial economic sovereignty and well-being posed by such international agreements. The sector most impacted by the new agreement is our Island dairy industry. Farmers are often caught in the vortex of trade agreements, as perhaps more than any other part of our globally integrated economy, agriculture exists in a dizzying environment of subsidies (both overt and hidden), protections and other market distortions. Free trade agreements over the past few decades have pushed us inexorably towards a world of open markets, fewer regulations and dominance of multinational corporations.