3 sleeps away from my last night here on the old Bunbury Farm and I cannot stop thinking about all the wonderful people on PEI that have made my 17 years here so special. So I want today to thank some of them by name.
I came to PEI from Toronto and an adult life in the big city as a very corporate person. My intent was to recover from that life and to find the real Rob who had got lost.
This was the Rob I needed to find again. He loves nature and lives in it. He has no pretense and he loves to play. This is the Rob that has come back and this is the Rob that now leaves PEI to play with his grand children.
I came to PEI because Marie MacDonald called me on the phone one morning. She told me that we have never met but that she had heard me speak and she wondered if I would give that talk to the Deputies on PEI. I knew at that moment that this was an invitation that was more than a gig. I said yes immediately.
My life changed as of that call.
It was the support of Barry MacMillan and Alex MacAulay that got me rooted here. Barry and Alex introduced and sponsored me all over the Island. They sent me everywhere and to every sector. What an introduction for newcomer.
Don Stewart and Kim Devine looked after my housing needs. After a year of so of wandering on PEI, I ended up renting from them on Water Street. They created the kind of home that enabled Robin to join me and they introduced us to everyone that Barry and Alex might have missed!
PEI is not an easy place to settle in. It is on the surface friendly but very protective. With this kind of support, I had a much easier time fitting in than many do.
So to my sponsors - thank you for giving me the opportunity to settle and so get also wonderful work.
We all need "Angels" - people who look out for us and on whom we can rely.
Nearly all my work and all my fun has come from blogging. Peter Rukavina was the person who introduced me to this back on 2002. I can never properly thank him for this.
Navigating through government is important and not easy on PEI. Wayne Hooper has always given me an ear and has helped me find my way in the maze.
The local CBC, Canada's most successful station, has always given me a hand too. Where else could this happen? Thank you Matt.
Johnnie Rousseau (my cousin by marriage) and Darla Thompson - fed me lobster (7 at one memorable sitting) and helped me understand the Island. They are both Back to the Landers and know the Island as only a Back to the Lander would.
Danny Carmichael - who taught me how to use a chainsaw but more importantly how to tell a good story!
Many complain that it is hard to get work on PEI. I think that that is true. So again I have to thank all of those that have dared to bring me into their work life. For when you hire Rob, you take a lot of risk. For when you do hire me - we go for the breakthrough. Your career is on the line.
My first "Risky Project" was bringing the Beta CAP program to PEI. CAP is on its last legs now, but for many Islanders it was their first introduction to the web. I was working for Doug Hull in Industry Canada. Doug was an even bigger risk taker than I! He wanted to test out the ideas behind Community Access and I suggested my new home of PEI. Mel Ostridge, then Minister of Education was our brave sponsor and he gave the file to the late Martha Burka - mother of the Burka Boys and the real founder of silverorange. CAP is a project that has helped many Islanders and it is one that I look back on with great pride.
I had another of those "Phone calls" from Tim Caroll who had left government and was now teaching at UPEI. He had a mad idea. Why don't we develop and teach the first ever online course at UPEI? So we did. Many thanks too to Wade MacLauchlan for giving us cover for this. This first course on the Natural Step and Business spawned many other courses like this and paved the way for a new kind of teaching at UPEI. I also had 5 wonderful years at UPEI where I met many of my pool of "adopted" children - you know who you are.
Rory Francis keeps popping up in my work life and so does John MacQuarrie. We spent 3 years working on a seed potato project in Ukraine as we attempted to offer PEI an alternative from processing potatoes. Ultimately we failed - it's too long a story for today - but we remain amazed today and how a team of 3 people from PEI could get so far when dealing with governments and large corporations who had resources that we could only dream of. I had always wanted to be one of the three musketeers and this was such an experience.
But it was not all a failure, for once you have worked with others like this, the trust and love that is the outcome is a powerful force for other things.
Rory also sponsored the project that I am most proud of. Best Start and the work on the Early Years.
Early in my time on PEI, I went to see Ann Robertson, the ED at CHANCES Family Resource Centre. I hoped I could get her to give me some money for a little project. I ended up working for her to bring the knowledge of the science for the Early Years to PEI and then to getting the money to finance Best Start.
Now the Early Years is the normal. Then it was new and feared by the system. Ann is the most resilient and courageous person I have ever met. There were many black days when it seemed that "They" had got her.
But we had a few wonderful supporters who believed in what we were doing. Not the least my old mentor the last Dr Fraser Mustard the Moses of the Early Years. Mitch Murphy, in his early role as Attorney General got us the first money. He also got himself into big trouble with the Premier for defending us against some of his colleagues in cabinet. He paid quite a price for his support. Thank you Mitch. Wayne Easter was a huge help. He got us all the funding that we needed - but this was rejected out of hand by "Them" in a meeting that set us back years.
Ann was also helped by 2 great Chairs. Our warrior chairman, who could dish it out as well as any of our detractors was Robert Mercer, took on the premier and "Them" in our darkest moments. Then Verna Bruce took over when healing had to happen. I learned so much about political combat and peacemaking from them.
But in the end with Rory's support we finally got what we needed. But the battle was not won. For years after, "They" kept doing their best to stop this. But Ann is made of steel and would not give up. Now the Early Years is a foundation of PEI as is Best Start. The progress we have all made is why Mrs McCain has made PEI the cornerstone of her support.
And of all the things I have done, this is the work that I will value the most. And of all the people I have met on PEI, Ann is the bravest of the brave and the most wonderful.
Lastly I hope that as I leave PEI that we will have the local food revolution that we need to restore our economy and our health. There are a number of people that are key to this and with whom I leave with great regret. Phil Ferraro at the Farm Centre. Shannon Courtney who is the co founder of MEAL and one of my UPEI Kids and above all Raymond Loo. I think when the history books are written of this time, it will be Raymond who will be seen as being central to the emergence of a local food system that will give PEI back its power.
In less than 2 weeks this will no longer be our place. As the days pass, I can no longer take any of this place for granted. Every glance out the window, every walk with the dog is an opportunity for appreciation.
Starting to think of my life like this too. Funny how it is so easy to not consider how amazing life is. Every day is a good day.
One of the new age mantra's is "Letting Go". I have been letting go of our lovely place here on PEI. Letting go of much of our stuff. It's hard. But next week I let go of one of my Meme Babies, and this is hard.
The Queen Street Commons is one of the earliest co working sites in the world. Dan James, Cynthia King and I founded it in a moment of intuitive madness back in 2005. I have been its chair for 3 years and next week I give up my role as chair and become the most junior of members - a non resident Network Member.
But I leave it as a parent does when they have a grand child. There is a special love for a child that now has taken up the full role of being an adult and that gives new life to others. I know this feeling well as both my real kids have their own children now. So I know that how I feel about the QSC as it moves on playing such a role in the life of PEI.
What a wonderful Tribe it has become. What a proud grandpa I am. How fortunate!
Much of what defined Canada was not being the USA. We had wars with America about this. We like each other but have very different cultures. We were not a collection of individuals. We did not have dreams of empire. We were warriors but not warlike.
Much of what defined Canada was fighting for freedom for others. We played an enormous role in WWI and II - greater than any other allied nation by percentage. We then stood as the honest broker. We were boring but honest and really did care about the world and acted upon that feeling.
Much of what defined Canada was a culture of cooperation rather than an idealism about the individual. Business did not build Canada nor did the gun. The people as part of the state built the nation and the Mounties arrived first in the new territries and with them law based on laws. We had good laws that resprected people.
So on this Canada day weekend, I am sad. We are governed by a party who has been voted in by voters who care little for any of these aspects of being Canadian. It's not just Mr Harper. It's all the people who want a very different country than the one we celebrate.
They appear to want to live in a very different place. It's all about "Me". It's business first. Laws for the rich. Who cares about the world, it's all about me?