Just over a week ago, Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner was pretty overwhelmingly re-elected as the MPP for the riding of Guelph. With 54.46 per cent of the vote, Guelph sent a strong message that they like the way Schreiner does business at Queen’s Park even while the rest of Ontario sent a stronger Ford government to the legislature. So what’s next for Guelph’s (and Ontario’s) Green MPP?
“This election was really the first time we had an opportunity for the vast majority of Ontarians to really see the Green Party as a major political party,” Schreiner told Open Sources Guelph in a post-election interview. “We were the only one of the four major parties that actually saw our vote share go up and not down. Even the Conservatives with their strong majority, the number of votes they received actually went down.”
Schreiner also discussed the unusual position he now finds himself in being the only elected opposition leader in the legislature. With Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca both resigning on election night, might we now think about Schreiner as the real official opposition leader?
“There are a lot of people in the media really turning to me for my thoughts about what the next legislature is going to look like, what priorities we have, and the approach that we’re going to take,” Schreiner explained.
“I think it will give me an opportunity to continue to build on the momentum we saw coming out of the leaders debate,” he added. “We’re hoping to build on that momentum going into the legislature and the fact that I will be the only elected opposition leader who doesn’t have interim before their name, and might give me a little bit more attention than I might have otherwise.”
Schreiner is going to need all the attention he can get looking across the floor of the legislature at a Progressive Conservative bench that’s now 83 seats strong.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat things, obviously the Conservatives have a very strong majority, though I will have to say that it does raise significant questions about our electoral system when somebody can only receive the vote of about 18 per cent of the electorate given the low turnout was and have such a commanding majority,” he said.
Schreiner went on to explain that he’s looking at three immediate priorities for this term. First, he’s going to exploit every opportunity to work across party lines to get results for Guelph, second he’s going to hold the government to account on behalf of the 60 per cent of voters that didn’t cast a ballot for the PCs, and third he’s going to co-ordinate with citizens’ and community groups to ramp up public pressure for action on select issues, especially climate change.
“I’ve already started having conversations with citizen groups and other organizations in the province about what role that the Ontario Greens can play in helping to mobilize citizen movements,” Schreiner said. “I think the ‘Stop the Sprawl’ movement in particular is really bringing together a unique coalition of people to protect farmland, wetlands, and nature, and I think I can play an important role in helping to engage and mobilize those citizen-led efforts and amplify their voices at Queen’s Park.”
In terms of working with the government, Schreiner has some ideas there for common points of interest where he can collaborate across party lines on.
“There are certain things that I really want to deliver on, particularly funding for Youth Wellness hubs, and our permanent supportive housing projects,” he said. “Right before the election, we received the announcement of $15 million in funding for the first major renovation at Guelph General Hospital in 20 years, and Ted Arnott and I have worked very closely together on that because a lot of his constituents come to Guelph General.
“I’m very confident that MPP Arnett and I will continue to have that really good working relationship, because there is so much overlap between what his constituents in the County need and the kind of services they access in Guelph,” he added.
Having said that though, Schreiner said he’s ready to go hard against the government’s agenda to build more highways, and he’s still confident that one MPP can make a difference in the fight on climate action, especially if he’s making the economic argument.
“We’ve got to keep our eye on the prize, which is a livable future and a strong economy in the emerging markets of the new climate economy,” Schreiner explained. “I think Mr. Ford can be convinced that he shouldn’t be actively hostile to climate economy jobs, and he certainly has backtracked on his hostility to electric vehicle manufacturing because I think he’s seen that market forces are overwhelming his opposition.
“I think that’s probably the one area where I can gonna hopefully influence government as much as possible,” he added.