• Thomas Trappenberg

Why I Don't Want to be a Politician

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

A friend told me that offering your political candidacy is a like a big job interview. Maybe it is. But the strange thing is, I don’t desperately want this job. So why am I now asking all of you to work even harder to get elected? Here is why.

Like many in Nova Scotia, I was brought up with some sense of civic duty. This means, at least, staying engaged and following what is going on in Nova Scotia. And certainly speaking up when I think something is wrong. A wonderful trait of Nova Scotians is that they usually go further, that we really care when people are in need.

At the same time, I understand that Nova Scotians are fed up with politics. Do the words of politicians mean anything? Some are clearly great speakers; they fire us up with `this will be the last first-past-the-post election’ like our prime minister did, then giving up after being elected; or that `we will be the most transparent government’ and then going on to make backroom deals and denying access to information as our Premier constantly does.

These things bug me. However, what even bugs me more is that we leave people behind. The rich get richer and the poor fall of the cliff. I do believe in a market economy. Indeed, I believe that a market economy, in particular the right one, is strong enough to push things forward. However, it is my strong conviction that it is the government’s role to look out for all of society.

This is where I differ from the conservatives. Conservatives think the way is to make some people rich which in turn will help the rest of us. I have no problem with people getting rich, but the wealth can reach us all.

So, should the government run it all like the Left thinks? Certainly not. This where I increasingly disagree with communism. I believe in people and their diversity of thoughts and skills. I believe in a dynamic environment where people thrive given the opportunity. I do not think that some righteous leader just subscribes what everyone should do. And while the NDP is certainly not a communist party, their view of supporting labor against big companies make the world also black-and-white.

Why is it always us-versus-them? Why do the left have to back polluting industries? They have to support them because they have the jobs of today and forget to work on building sustainable jobs of the future.

I think many of us know that there must be a better way, so why does nothing change? Why do people elect the same old puppet heads that are squawking meaningless sentences without simply answering a question? I think there are many reasons, and everyone must answer this for themselves. My answer has been to run for office over the last 15 years.

Clearly, so far, I have not been elected. So why am I doing this? Maybe it is just a selfish try to relieve my conscience of not just watching us heading towards a cliff.

I admit that until last year I was never under the illusion that I would be elected. I was always hoping to find someone else to carry this cause forward. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened at this point, but now the situation changed for me.

It is now very clear that Greens, and maybe I, have to be elected to step up our efforts. Why? Because we have no time to lose. Hollow politicians are only squawking that they will do something about climate change by 2030, 2040, or maybe 2050.

Sure, you can promise anything down the road 30 years from now, but promising to do something later is promising nothing at all. We elect leaders to lead now. To take council, make decisions and act.

I still don’t really want this job. I have a job, a job that I love. I always wanted to be a scientist, and I am a scientist with all my heart. I am not a good public speaker. I am especially bad at pretending, I do not have a good memory for people, and I do not like to sit in committees. I also get paid twice the salary of an MLA to do the job I love.

So why did I spend the last 5 years with countless hours as leader of the Green Party, without any pay, so that I get elected to lose half of my income? Because someone has to say difficult things, challenge stupid decisions made by hollow politics, and hopefully change our course. I am willing to make drastic sacrifices at this point, and my lovely wife supports me on this path. I want to do this to represent a different politics. I want to be able to communicate what is really going on behind the currently closed doors. I want to tell myself everyday why I am doing this.

And I never want to do this to get re-elected.

Unfortunately, the reality is that all the bad behaviour of the old politics pays off. People are still drawn by nice words, nice suits, and nice hair. It is easy to incite fear that changes will be bad and that only people that belongs to the old parties can lead a government. Maybe it is true that they are much smarter than me, getting involved in a political brotherhood early on, rather than wasting time to study, learn and getting a PhD in Physics.

It also doesn’t help that money matters in politics, and that the old parties have all the money, in addition to the benefit of 250-year-old electoral system that favours the establishment on the left and the right, and loyalty for people who have voted this way for generations and would don’t even ask questions anymore. It also does not help that many people are so disgusted that they would not even vote anymore. Just another win for the usual suspects.

But I believe in people. I believe that the tide can change rapidly, and I see that the time is ripe.

More important, I feel more positive and excited than I have been for years. I see how the new green economics kicks in and gives new perspectives. I am encouraged to see the next generation who says we do not want any more live in a racialized world; they clearly say that is not us. And I am excited that we have everything we need to save the beauty of Nova Scotia while building a modernized economy that leaves no one behind.

I am willing to work on that, with everyone, with all of my heart, even though I don’t want this job, and I’m asking for your support. I’m not doing this because I think politics is fun or because I have all the answers, but because I want to make a difference and I believe it’s my time to serve.


Dr. Thomas Trappenberg is the leader of the Green Party of Nova Scotia, a professor at Dalhousie University, a published authority on artificial intelligence, a motorcyclist, karate instructor and devoted family man. He lives near Hatchet Lake, Nova Scotia.

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