The clock read 2:30 p.m. and everything was under control for Mary Lou Babineau. Just one last question from the audience before the debate wrapped up, giving the Green Party candidate enough time to pick her daughter up from ballet class.
But panic crept upon her when she heard the moderator say, “Next up, we have six more people with questions.”
The St. Thomas Spanish professor got up from behind the table with her car keys in hand. She walked over to her brother in the audience and told him he was going to have to pick up Neomi.
“Historically, the traditional politician is a man who has someone at home taking care of such things,” said the single mom. “As a mom, it’s a lot of extra work, the campaign gets rough, but it’s a choice you make.”
Babineau acknowledges the campaign that wrapped up Monday night was a disruption to her child’s life, but she knows the power of example will benefit her daughter in the end.
“It’s more important for me to be a leader in the community than just tell her she can be a leader. It is more powerful when she sees me doing it. I hope this will make an impression on her positively and, eventually, she will understand.”
Mary Lou Babineau was born and raised in the coal-mining village of Minto, 50 kilometres northeast of Fredericton.
She is the oldest of six children. While at Queens University, she had to work part-time jobs to pay for her education and later, got her MA and PhD at Arizona State University.
“I really have no memory of any time in my life when I was not working very hard,” she says.
In 2003, her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and Babineau came home to care for her. Her mother passed away a year later in 2004.
“My mother was the only woman in my little town that I knew who worked outside the home. She taught for 33 years. I remember she would be up with us all night when we all had the flu and still she went to work in the morning,” she says.
This same year, a position teaching Spanish at St. Thomas University opened and Babineau got the job. She has been working as a full-time professor ever since and was the faculty union president for three years.
When Mary Lou Babineau considered running in the federal election for the first time in 2008, she was pregnant and unsure of her decision.
“I asked Elizabeth May, ‘Do you think I can do this?’ and she said ‘Of course you can. I’ve been doing it with (my daughter) Victoria Cate my whole life.’ This speaks back to the power of example. It is not easy but it can be done,” Babineau says.
After the election in 2008, people would ask Babineau if she was going to run again. Her reply was always the same, “when Neomi is older.”
Babineau sits crossed-legged in her kitchen with her pajamas, eating Oreos.
Even though she has been a perfectionist her whole life, she has come to accept that not everything will go as planned. Not even with her perfectly planned schedule.
“You have to learn to just let things go,” she says. “Also, you have to love what you are doing, or else you would just have a breakdown at some point.”
Other techniques Babineau has learned over the years are to focus solely on whatever she is doing at the moment and sleep at least seven hours every night.
“During this campaign I haven’t been up after 11 o’clock, not even once. If you are more tired, you lose perspective and your energy is not good.”
Babineau admitted Green strategy this election was to get enough members elected to form a caucaus, but she’s optimistic for the party’s future.
“The really cool thing about the Green party is that people are actually inspired,” she said. “I think we’ll see a Green government in my lifetime and that’s really encouraging and exciting.”
Every day, she drives Neomi to school in the campaign car. There’s always a lineup of girls waiting to see the car and tell her how much they love it. Her voice softens as she describes her favourite moments of the campaign so far.
“One of them said, ‘when I grow up I want to be a politician like Neomi’s mom.’ And the other one said ‘when I grow up I want to be a Green prime minister of Canada.’ These girls are seven years old. I think it’s making an impression on them to see a woman on the poster and especially to know her,” she says. “It’s what I will remember the most.”
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