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PROFILE: Green’s Peter Smith has roots in Chemical Valley

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Editor’s Note: The Journal is profiling the four candidates competing to be the next federal Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton. This is the last in a four-part series appearing daily this week.

George Mathewson

Peter Smith’s wandering life came to an end when he arrived in Sarnia with his wife and two children in 1987 to take a job at Polysar.

“In my adult life I had never lived anywhere more than five years,” said Smith, 64, a retired professional engineer.

“But when I came here this place felt like home.”

Smith worked 17 years at Polysar, running the rubber company’s steam and power plant, and another 10 years at TranAlta, as the company’s director of commercial operations for Eastern Canada.

With such deep roots in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley it strikes some as surprising that Smith is running for the Green Party in the Oct. 19 federal election.

But industry and the environment aren’t incompatible, Smith said. In fact, the Green Party prides itself on a combination of sound fiscal management and environmental protection, he added.

“There is a transition that industry has to make to become truly sustainable. You can stand outside and shout – telling them what they need to do – or you can work with them on the changes that are necessary,” he said.

“I think there is a growing realization within industry that things need to be changed.”

Born in London, England, Smith has been actively involved in the local community since his happy arrival 28 year ago.

The married father of two and grandfather of three served on the board of St. Clair Child and Youth. He’s active with Amnesty International, works with Adopt a Scientist to get scientists into the classroom, and handles media relations for the annual Lambton County Science Fair.

“I’m a science nerd, basically,” he said. “And I’m not a judge so I get to talk to the students and find out what it is they’ve done. Just seeing the joy on their faces with what they’ve learned is great.”

Opinion polls have shown Canadians are eager for change this election. Smith hopes those on the Anybody-But-Harper bandwagon will see the Green Party as a legitimate alternative and not automatically park their vote with the Liberals or NDP.

“The problem with (voting strategically) is, if you only vote against somebody, you’re only ever going to get second-best,” he said. “You’re never going to get what you truly want.”

About 15 years ago Smith started a group, since disbanded, called Sarnia Animal Welfare, which drew flak for protesting the treatment of circus animals when the Shrine Circus came to town.

‘I’m not frightened of controversy,” Smith said. “And I’m not frightened to say things that are perhaps a little unpopular.”

Today, circus attendance and public approval of training animals to perform as entertainment are both in decline.

A major issue for Smith is climate change, which has received little attention on the campaign trail.

Some people deny human activity is causing the world to heat up because they just don’t want to believe it, while others willfully attempt to mislead the public, he said.

“The same thing that happened with the tobacco industry is happening now with climate change.”

Smith said he relishes the opportunity to represent Sarnia-Lambton in Ottawa.

“I get frustrated on many occasions over the seeming inability to make the best of what we’ve got here,” he said.

“It’s a great place to live and work and play, but it could be so much better.”






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