Despite being up all night in the legislature
on an urgent matter to debate the Government of Ontario’s use of the notwithstanding clause on third party election advertising, Mike Schreiner still took part in the Green Party of Ontario’s annual convention this weekend. In his keynote address, the Guelph MPP talked about all the ways the current government is doing it wrong, how the Green Party intends to do it right.
“When it comes time to vote, Ontarians know Greens are the party for them,” Schreiner said. “The party that puts science and reason before ideology and people before politics to protect the world we love. The party of community, and of care. The party that values a healthy planet, healthy people, and healthy communities. The party that will build the world you want.”
Schreiner’s speech tried to draw a connection between mixed messaging and inaction by Premier Doug Ford and his ministers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their likely future actions in dealing with the environment and the climate crisis. “Ford’s half measures did not contain COVID, and half measures won’t solve the climate crisis,” Schreiner said. “None of the three legacy parties have prioritized or prepared us for the climate emergency that is here.”
Schreiner said that his Green Party will fight for a “livable future” by stopping sprawl, protecting the Greenbelt, making capital investments in energy retrofit programs and other green investments, and working to create so-called 15-minute communities to reduce pollution and congestion. Schreiner explained that the Liberal and NDP plans don’t do far enough, and Ford’s been obsessed with undoing whatever small progress that’s already made.
“Since coming into office, Premier Ford has declared war on climate action and Ontario’s environment. He’s ripping up environmental protections, trying to pave over wetlands, increasing emissions, ramping up investments in fossil fuels, and taking our planning back to 1950s era sprawl,” Schreiner said. “Is Ford’s pave at all costs the world you really want? The world you want to leave to your kids and grandkids?”
Schreiner also talked about social issues in his speech. “COVID has exposed the massive gaps in how we care for each other,” he said listing off issues like systemic racism, affordable housing, childcare, basic income security, transit, and accessibility, which are all areas that need desperate attention and action from the provincial government.
“We need a recovery rooted in care, That restores dignity to elders, by putting care and compassion before profits; that rebalances our health-care system to focus on primary and community care, preventative measures and mental health; that cares for children, by investing in safe schools and affordable childcare,” Schreiner said, adding that it shouldn’t take “a minimum wage worker in a place like Toronto a 79-hour work week just to afford a one-bedroom apartment.”
Schreiner called on the people watching his speech to join the Green team, either by helping out on a campaign or becoming a candidate themselves. He said, “I am proud of our team and I am excited for the coming months,” but can the party capitalize on their leader’s 2018 historic win?
In the 2018 Ontario Election. the Green Party across Ontario secured just 4.6 per cent of the vote, which was down by one-quarter of a per cent from the 2014 election, and this despite Schreiner’s decisive 45 per cent victory in Guelph, more than the two runners-up combined. According to 338Canada, the Green Party currently sits in fourth place with 7.2 per cent support, while the NDP and Liberals are practically tied for second with 27 per cent each. The incumbent Progressive Conservatives sit in first with just less than one-third of popular support.
Schreiner though is convinced that Ontarians will have a greater appetite for change in the next 355 days before the next election. “It might just be me, but this time, things feel different. The pandemic has shown that we desperately need to do politics differently,” he said. “People are tired of the status quo, of the legacy parties who promise but don’t deliver.”