Green Party of Prince Edward Island Leader Peter Bevan-Baker has made quite a political turnaround.
“I’d run in numerous elections, with spectacular lack of success, for 25 years,” said the Scottish-born former dentist, who became the PEI Green Party’s first-ever MLA, 3 years go.
He’s since been joined by a second Green MLA, Hannah Bell.
His party has made stunning gains in popularity.
Two years ago, the Greens had the support of nine per cent of Islanders. By last year, they’d risen to 18 per cent, before bounding to 38 per cent this fall, topping all other parties, including the governing Liberals.
Bevan-Baker’s natural, poised manner has made him the most popular leader on the Island.
He insists he is driven by a desire to improve Canada’s smallest province, not by personal ambition.
“This will be an accidental premiership, if it happens,” he said.
Conditions for Green growth have been perfect.
The Liberals, currently led by Premier Wade McLaughlin, have been in power for 11 years. Some voters believe they’ve gone stale.
The Progressive Conservatives are plagued by leadership problems, and the New Democrats have never gained traction on the Island.
Bevan-Baker thinks his party’s surge in popularity is real.
“Every day, I get people coming up to me and saying, ‘You know, I’ve been a Liberal all my life,’ or ‘I come from a lineage of Liberals, but this time I’m going to vote for you,’ or ‘I’m a worn out Tory,'” he said.
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Former Liberal MLA Cynthia King has converted to the Green Party.
“What our choices are have been the same for a very long time. So, we just happen to have a different choice now,” she said.
Bell says party members are surprising even themselves.
“I don’t know if anyone saw this coming. It would have been an amazing crystal ball to get that one right,” she said.
At the University of Prince Edward Island, political science professor Don Desserud says the shakeup is another sign Canadians are breaking with convention.
“People getting fed up with the status quo and the same old, same old parties, election after election,” he said.
Bevan-Baker promises a Green government would make policies for the long-term good of PEI, regardless of election cycles.
On the controversial issue of pesticides, he says he’d open discussions on new ways of farming, without excessive pesticide use.
Now comes the hard part — converting those unprecedented polling numbers into enough seats to form Canada’s first Green government.
The PEI election could come as early as spring. Only then will it become clear how hard the winds of change are blowing.