Opinion: Is PEI over its fear of change?
There is a dangerous phrase that is often heard on PEI. “It’s always been like this and it will never change.” There couldn’t be a more dangerous attitude. It’s downright selfish and people who have it aren’t just a stick in the mud but they are also being harmful to other Islanders.
People who use that phrase are essentially throwing their hands in the air and saying, don’t try to make things better. Don’t try to help your neighbour and don’t try to be a good person because it’s not worth it. Those people are basically saying look out for number one and don’t worry about anyone else.
As terrible as that attitude is, it is understandable why some people might have it. On PEI we have some deep, pessimistic roots about our station in life, both as a society and as individuals. We’ve been economically depressed since joining Confederation and because we lack the resources that other provinces have, Islanders have viewed themselves as second class citizens when compared to other Canadians. Plus, promises of change have largely gone unfulfilled or intentionally broken.
Islanders will say it first that we’re not too keen on change. It’s human nature to not like change. For better or worse, change can sometimes ruin a good thing or inadvertently try fixing something that was never broken.
But very recently we’ve seen Islanders embrace change in a very real and bold way. With the elections of Peter Bevan-Baker and Hannah Bell shockwaves have gone out across the country. The growing popularity of the Green Party in PEI provincial politics has sent the message that this small and (usually) predictable Island has thrown off it’s fear of change and is embracing a new way forward.
It won’t last, some people are saying. It’s just a ping on the map. The Greens will mess it up. Or the other parties will come to their senses and regain their status.
Perhaps. Although it seems unlikely that that will happen.
If we objectively look at the attitudes, traits and vision of our new Green politicians and what their party stands for, we see that they’ve tapped into something fundamental. It’s an optimism and sense of connectedness that hasn’t existed in Island politics for a long time, if ever.
The current Green wave that we’re seeing is quite possibly a once in a lifetime turning-point in Island discourse. Such turning points are rare. In contemporary history we can look to the changes that took place under the premiership of Alex Campbell. In the 60s and 70s, Islanders committed themselves to his leadership in order to finally bring the Island into the 20th century. The Campbell years saw a great leap forward in terms of infrastructure but more importantly in terms of the Island’s standard of living. Each house across the province was connected to the electrical grid, roads were paved, and new schools were built.
The next such turning-point was when Islanders voted for Joe Ghiz to have the fixed-link constructed. By finally having the Island physically connected to continental North America, PEI opened its doors to a globalized economy. Arguably there have been some serious downsides to our local economies by giving large corporations easy access to our supply chains. But on the whole it has been good for Islanders’ standard of living.
Whatever the future of the PEI Green Party might be, it doesn’t really matter. Because with the elections of Bevan-Baker and Bell, Islanders have proved in two very big ways that we’re no longer so severely opposed to change that we’ll keep our heads stuck in the sand for the sake of it.
Perhaps it’s because by now we’ve all been through so many changes in life and as a society that we know that change isn’t as frightening as we once considered it to be.
Afterall, change is inevitable. The life we’re living now is going to evolve and become something new whether we like it or not. It’s our ability to adapt that determines if we succeed or not.
But the world is going to hell, some Islanders will continue saying. Things are getting worse. Some of those negative-nancies will even mumble something about Muslims, millennials, queers, or all of the above.
Well, actually no.
Jihad and self-entitlement and being fabulous and all those stupid stereotypes aside, life is actually pretty swell. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact. The stats show that almost every aspect of life for people around the globe has been getting a lot better, and pretty quickly.
Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself and this nifty website, OurWorldinData.
It turns out all of those changes that we’ve been reluctantly making are actually making life better for the vast majority of us. If we just take a moment to think of how far we’ve come on PEI, the advances have been pretty remarkable.
LGBT Islanders now enjoy the same rights as straight-Islanders and can live open and freely without fear of harm or discrimination; Marijuana--a substance that is proven to be safer than alcohol and aleaves pain for a lot of chronically ill Islanders is on the verge of being legalized; Patronage is no longer a determining factor of someone getting a job in the public service; And Islanders instituted recycling and composting well ahead of other jurisdictions on the continent.
Despite our greatest fears--and against the threats of some “morally righteous” old people, PEI has changed for the better.
While the historical turning-points of Alex Campbell and Joe Ghiz raised the standard of living for Islanders, those changes were largely because they were seen as a necessity. Those tough decisions were brought about in order to catch up with the rest of the developed world. They were because of the need for electricity and the need to move supplies and goods faster into a dominating market.
In today's political landscape there’s no need to put your support behind a different party. Instead what we are seeing is a generation of voters that are breaking off the shackles of tradition and who are no longer blindly loyal to one-single party or individual.
The Green Party of PEI has made leaps and bounds not found in other provinces. Obviously Bevan-Baker, Bell, Elizabeth May and their party peers deserve the credit for such success, but it also says something about Islanders. It shows that despite what other provinces are doing, Islanders are actively forging a new path to meet our own needs.
It shows that PEI is no longer governed by a fear of change.