Guelph made history in 2018 by sending Mike Schreiner to Queen’s Park, the first elected Green Party Member of Provincial Parliament. While the cynical talked about Schreiner as a “caucus of one”, political observers have come to view him as a political free agent, able to collaborate past party lines *and* act as a provocative voice of dissension. In 2022, Schreiner is asking Guelph to send him back, now with full knowledge of his capabilities.
“It is amazing what one MPP can accomplish for their riding when they’re willing to do politics differently. I think that’s one of the things I’ve proven at Queen’s Park, and I’m hoping that some of the other MPPs from other parties learn from that and we have less hyper-partisanship in the next parliament,” Schreiner said optimistically last Thursday on Open Sources Guelph.
Schreiner has made less partisanship a mantra in his four years at Queen’s Park, whether he’s successfully advocating against government policy like the MZO to build a massive warehouse on sensitive wetlands, or successfully sponsoring legislation with the government, like the Reserved Parking for Electric Vehicle Charging Act. Still, Schreiner’s “hallway diplomacy” has not always been effective.
“I was working really, really hard to try to bring all four parties together around the Our London Family Act because I thought it was just so important to pass it before the election,” Schreiner explained. “I was working some of the Conservative members and some of the NDP members pretty hard just to say, ‘Hey, can we set aside our partisan differences on this and really get it passed?’ and we just ran out of time.”
Schreiner said that the Our London Family Act, which is named in honour of a Muslim family killed in a hit-and-run last summer in an act of violent Islamophobia, directs the government to come up with an anti-racism strategy, and investigate instances of racial inequality and systemic racism in Ontario. Schreiner said he will make the act a priority in the next session if he’s re-elected, but that will be one of several priorities.
“The number one issue people are telling me is housing affordability in this campaign,” Schreiner said. “The Ontario Greens’ vision is let’s address the housing affordability crisis by making sure we build enough affordable housing supply in the community you love, near where you work, and near where your family and friends live, so you don’t have to commute as far, and in doing so, contribute to the climate emergency.”
Schreiner’s frequently pointed out in debates and appearances that the Toronto Star has called the Green Party housing policy a “master class” compared to what’s coming from Premier Doug Ford and the current government. The plan calls for 182,000 new permanently affordable homes, 60,000 supportive homes with wraparound supports, eliminating speculation, and getting government back into housing. How fast can the Greens make this happen?
“We want to make sure that homes are for people, not speculators, so we believe the vacant homes tax and the multiple home speculation tax will actually free up some of our existing housing supply immediately for first-time homebuyers,” Schreiner explained. “The other components are really targeted to address people who are struggling to find an affordable place to rent, or just a place to have a roof over their head period.”
“There’s still some municipalities that don’t allow co-housing, or create huge barriers,” Schreiner added. “We have a number of seniors now who are wanting to live independently with a right-sized home, but they also don’t want to be isolated and lonely, so having some options like co-housing creates affordable spaces for our elders, which then frees up more single family homes for growing families.”
It makes you realize that bringing some of these options into fruition would be easier if Schreiner had some more Greens getting his back in the legislature, and the Green Party leader likes his odds in this election.
“I think we have a real possibility of doubling, or even possibly tripling, the size of the Green caucus, which has me very excited because I keep telling people we need to export more Guelph to the rest of Ontario, and that’s exactly what the Ontario Greens are working hard to do,” Schreiner said.