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.
There is no end of things in this life for which to prepare: some inevitable, some likely or possible, some improbable.
In the category “inevitable” sit such things as the need to eat, paying bills, and the turning of the seasons. We’d all better be prepared for those, or we get ourselves in trouble. But what about those things that only “might happen”? How prepared do we need to be for them?
Sometimes it is absolutely essential to prepare for the improbable. For example, as a dentistry student much of my time was spent developing competency and skills to fulfill my basic professional duties. But we not only prepared for the routine aspects of practice, we also prepared for extremely unlikely occurrences, like a patient having an allergic reaction to medication or hemorrhaging excessively during an extraction. These are rare events, but it is critically important to be prepared and respond quickly and appropriately in an emergency.
Then there are other times in life that no matter how well you prepare, you simply can’t anticipate all the complexity or potential complications. One of the most obvious examples is parenthood. Like most new fathers, I wanted to be a “really good Dad,” but nobody can ever prepare for the full range of joys and challenges that parenting brings. Although planning is important, success often comes down to being committed to do your best, learning from your mistakes, and allowing plans to go out the window when circumstances demand.
In some ways the legislature is similar to parenthood. You prepare, but being in the legislature is unpredictable and your plans are often preempted by someone else’s. Last week I wrote a blog about how the Office of the Third Party determines its priorities. Of course, once we have identified priorities the next important step is preparing to implement those priorities. When it comes to my legislative role, I find the best preparation is developing solid evidence-based policy. Policy may not sound glamourous, but it is the foundation of everything we do.
For example, two of our priority areas were climate change and housing. Both are large and complex issues. To prepare, we spent a good chunk of the summer researching and developing our carbon pricing plan and our Integrated Housing Strategy. Both of these initiatives took weeks and weeks of research, consultation and analysis, but when the fall session arrived Hannah Bell and I both knew that we had an in-depth understanding of the issues and solid policy backing our positions. In those circumstances we may not be able to anticipate where debate will go, but we can be confident that we have developed our arguments on the latest evidence.
As 2018 gives way to 2019, I am focused on what it means to be prepared. The popularity of the Green Party is growing, and although polls are just snapshots in time, it is impossible to ignore that the Greens have been running neck-and-neck with the Liberals for much of the year.
I was asked in a recent interview if I thought the Green Party will win the next provincial election on PEI. These are new questions not only for me, but for the leader of any Green Party anywhere in the world. I answered by saying that while I didn’t necessarily expect us to win, we need to be ready for that possibility. We need to “Be Prepared”.
In all honesty, that is not something I have seriously considered before now: not as a Sea Scout or dental student, not as a young father or nine-times defeated Green candidate. Never once did I say to myself “One day you might be the Premier of Prince Edward Island, so you need to get prepared.” Yet, as I imagine PEI’s political future, I feel buoyant with the possibilities; I am invigorated by all the Islanders who share our vision of a sustainable and prosperous future; and I have confidence that our nominees, our members and our supporters are, in fact, prepared. We are in a state of readiness in mind and body to do our duty, although I cannot predict where that duty may lead us.
2018 has been an extraordinary year for the Island Green Party, and 2019 promises to carry on in that vein. I wish you all the love, joy and peace of the season, and look forward to travelling these next twelve months together on this beautiful Island we are lucky enough to call home.