By the time Peter Bevan-Baker became the first Green Party member elected on Prince Edward Island, he was anything but green.
“If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try, try, try, try, try again,” the provincial party leader said after he was elected in 2015 on his tenth attempt at elected office.
Nova Scotia Green Party Leader Thomas Trappenberg knows the feeling.
“I [have] run three times provincially and three times federally, so only six times in all,” he told CBC News. “A few more to go.”
Trappenberg, Bevan-Baker and New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon, elected to his provincial legislature in 2014, spoke with Mainstreet host Bob Murphy about why the party has broken through in the other Maritime provinces, even as Nova Scotia has remained Green-less.
Bevan-Baker said it was a confluence of events that saw him elected: an electorate seeking change, a candidate with a relatively high profile and a disproportionate amount of effort put into one riding.
“That target-to-win campaign where you don’t look so much at the overall picture but you try and get one body in the House, recognizing that having somebody there being to able to talk about Green issues can have a profound impact on the debate,” he said, noting that Coon and federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May took similar one-riding-or-bust approaches.
Bevan-Baker also said he benefited from the NDP’s relatively weak presence on P.E.I. While the NDP have formed government in Nova Scotia, they’ve only ever taken one seat on the Island.
“I think the political spectrum is only so wide,” he said.
Changing the narrative
In New Brunswick, the political landscape is dominated by only the Liberals and the Conservatives. Coon said that was to his advantage in the riding of Fredericton South.
“We in New Brunswick have gotten into this cycle now of four-year terms and then the electorate throws the government out and goes to the other traditional party, so there was a real taste for something new and once people during the campaign came to realize that in fact I could win the riding … that really pushed things over the top.”
Once in the legislature, Coon said, even one MLA can have an impact, either by influencing the discussion or through private member’s bills.
Coon had a bill passed during New Brunswick’s latest session that mandates government to incorporate Aboriginal culture and history into the New Brunswick public school curriculum.
Trappenberg said what sets the Green Party apart is its commitment to facts. He noted that Coon is a biologist, Bevan-Baker was a dentist and he is a physicist.
“We are very evidence based…. I grew up in Germany where we were actually educated after World War II that it is not good to stay silent,” he said. “We have to stand up and speak up when we think something is not right.”
Trappenberg, who is running in Clayton Park West, notes that there’s no incumbent in that riding, which means everybody is on relatively equal footing concerning voter recognition.
“They can make history,” he said of the voters.
Not a 1-issue party
Both Coon and Bevan-Baker said getting into office helps dispel the myth that the Greens are a one-issue party.
Coon said he’s pushed for the local-food sector in New Brunswick, as well as increasing access to mental health care.
Bevan-Baker said he’s been big on electoral reform, election financing, rural schools and mental health.
“I never ever hear now that misconception or that prejudice that the Green Party is a single-issue party,” he said. “We’re so far beyond that.”