Legal Aid lawyer has sites set on CBS district for the Liberals

By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 5 (April 24 2019)

After decades of practicing law in Newfoundland, Kevin Baker feels he can use his skills to serve residents of Conception Bay South as the new MHA for the district.

To do that, Baker, the Liberal candidate in the May 16 provincial election, will have to beat PC Party incumbent Barry Petten, who has a honed his campaign skills through a couple of tough previous contests.

Baker graduated from Dalhousie University in 1998 where he studied law, and wasted no time returning home to CBS to pursue work in his field at the Legal Aid Commission.

At the time, he said, his plan was to spend a few years working there, but those few years soon became a couple of decades, and now, approximately 22 years later, Baker finds himself dipping his foot into the world of politics.

Save for a brief attempt at a nomination on the Bonavista peninsula some years ago, this is Baker’s first solid attempt at taking on the role of politician. He says this decision came from not only a lifelong interest in politics, but also a love for his home town. He feels confident that the skills he acquired as a lawyer can benefit the people of the district, but perhaps in a way that most people might not initially think.

“My family’s here on the shore, the kids are here, the grandkids graduated from Queen Elizabeth last year … I mean, this is home,” Baker said. “If you’re looking for a reason as to why I’m running, it’s that. This is home. It’s a beautiful community, beautiful people, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I know that sounds like a big cliche, but I seriously wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

The jump from a secure job to the uncertain life of politics is a big one, but Baker is confident he is ready, and that the roles are similar.

“You know, I think I’ve figured out why that is. It’s because this is an opportunity to help people,” he said. “Too often in the work that we do as lawyers, there’s a perception out there, because people see the lawyer for someone charged with a criminal offence. What they don’t see is all the work we do in making sure that under-represented people in family court get counsel, or getting people help with everything from an EI claim to a Worker’s Comp claim. I enjoy what I’m doing, because I really do get to help people.”

Baker’s past experiences working as both a lawyer and a teacher have provided him with skills he sees as being very beneficial to anyone looking to take on a role as an MHA, specifically, accessibility, and being able to advocate for people.

Generally, as a lawyer, Baker was advocating for a single person at a time, however, he says the chance to advocate on behalf of a large number of people is both familiar and exciting.

“I think that’s a skillset that’s applicable whether we’re talking about one person, or an entire town. The ability to be heard, and speak up, and be receptive to the concerns of the people around you,” Baker said. “My agenda is your agenda, it’s the agenda of the people of the community. That’s how I approached the practice of law for decades, and that’s a skillset I’d bring to being the MHA, if the people were so inclined.”

As for specific issues he sees in the district, Baker noted the majority of the concerns he’s heard up to this point revolve around infrastructure. Baker says he hears all concerns loud and clear, and will continue to do so if the people see him as the best fit for MHA of CBS.

“I’ve had decades of devoting myself to being accessible to people. From my years as a teacher, to my decades as a legal aid lawyer, that’s where I’ve been in life, being accessible to people and hearing what they have to say,” Baker said. “When you come to your MHA, you come as an individual, you’re coming with your concerns. That’s why I try to show people that I’m sincere and express my desire to be an advocate for them.”

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