For over 30 years I went to work as a dentist, and knew with a pretty high degree of certainty what my day would look and feel like. I felt ready and capable to meet pretty well any challenge that I might face. A few months ago I started a new job, and those feelings of security, predictability and comfort flew right out of the window. Every day in my new job as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island is an adventure; and I say that with equal measures of affection and terror. For the first few weeks in my new position, I had no idea what I was doing: I’m still not sure most of the time. If I were flying, the seat of my pants would have worn out long ago. The job description – if there is one (I haven’t found it yet) – would make interesting reading. I have always been a big fan of avoiding stagnation, and of introducing new challenges to one’s life, but I always imagined doing it in a gentle, incremental way. Going suddenly from decay to debate; from replacing fillings to resisting filibusters; from poking around premolars to promoting plebiscites is a larger leap than I had in mind.
But here I am, MLA for district 17, Kelly’s Cross – Cumberland, leader of the Third Party, lone member of the Green Party caucus, “Uncle Peter” I am told, to some of the other representatives. This moniker may come from my collegial nature, and my never-ending efforts to work co-operatively with other people. I fully expect one day to stand up in the House and mis-introduce myself as the representative of Kellys Cross – Kum-ba-yah! But I hope I’m not so naïve that I don’t at least have a working understanding of the multi-layered beast that is politics. Games are played, postures are assumed, hidden agendas run rampant, and even though I always approach everybody with the assumption that they have good intentions, I’m not blind to the elements of politics which have caused an awful lot of people to give up hope in the process and to join the growing chorus of cynics. But politics doesn’t have to be like that, and if I do nothing else in whatever time I have as an elected representative, it will be to never give up on the ideal that politics can and should be a collaborative, respectful venture. I am also acutely aware of my own personal limitations, and try not to tie myself in knots when I don’t live up to my own expectations or those around me.
But above all I feel blessed. I am a lucky man. I have been given an opportunity afforded to very few: the chance to participate in the political process and to make a real difference at a deep level in my community, and in my neighbours’ lives. I love my new job, and as I become more familiar with my new surroundings, and the demands of my new vocation, I might even start to relax a bit. Heck, soon it will be just like pulling teeth.