It was perhaps fitting that in a downtown store jammed with relics of yore, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said Friday it’s time to shrug off the past and try a new brand of politics.
“I recently completed a leader’s tour, travelling 2,500 kilometres, visiting 20 cities, 30 events, doing 61 media interviews in nine days,” he told a small group of party faithful gathered around the Eclectic Café inside Carousel Collectables. “Everywhere I went, people said: ‘We are so hungry for a new way of doing politics. We don’t want wedge-issue politics.’”
He said his party would bring a new approach to Queen’s Park.
“A lot of people don’t want to vote for the establishment party that hasn’t governed the province very well,” he said of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals. He said many also “don’t want (to vote) for an establishment party that shows they can’t even govern themselves let alone the province and elected a leader that a lot of people feel pretty frightened about,” he said of the Progressive Conservatives and Doug Ford.
“People are looking for something different, not part of the status quo. That’s what the Green Party is offering,” he said to applause.
The provincial party leader said widespread disillusionment has repelled many voters, who opt not to cast a ballot as a form of protest. That is not a good strategy, he said.
“The only wasted voted is a vote you don’t believe in,” Schreiner said. “If we continue to elect governments we don’t believe in because we’re afraid of something else, we’re never going to get a government we truly believe in.”
He asked voters in Simcoe North to “set your fear aside and embrace hope, so we can leap into the future and create 21st-century jobs right now that put people and the planet first.”
Schreiner said he hopes the June 7 election results in a minority government that will force the parties to work together and, ultimately, force a change to proportional representation. That, he said, will help “to get way from this conflicted experience we have every election where we want to vote for something but feel we can’t because we have to vote against something.”
Schreiner answered a handful of questions from citizens – including ones related to large-scale dumping in rural municipalities and the perils of strategic voting – and also used the event to help rally support to see the Greens included in the upcoming televised debates.
“One of the reasons I think it’s so important for us to be included in the debates and why I’m so disappointed some media executives in a backroom decided in an undemocratic way that we should not be part of the debate is that you, the people of Ontario, have a right to hear the ideas we bring forward,” he said. “There are four political parties in the province that receive hundreds of thousands of votes, that qualify for public funding … we want to be held accountable.”
Simcoe North Green Party candidate Valerie Powell said she was “thrilled” Schreiner visited the riding. She said he is the “backbone” of the campaign and has worked hard to build the party over the past several years.
“He has a very good chance of getting elected in Guelph,” said Powell. “What happened with Elizabeth May (at the federal level) is once she was heard, she got elected. One voice in the Legislature will open the door for the rest of us.”
Powell said if Schreiner can get into the televised debates, she could see similar success provincially. Whatever happens there, she said the Green Party is now a viable option that voters should consider.
“It’s frustrating because people say ‘I’d like to vote for you’ but …” she explained. “I would say to those people: Don’t throw your vote away. If you do, you’re giving it to one of them. Vote for the party you believe in.”
She said she feels a voracious appetite for change swirling in the province. And while she says she’s not “delusional” about her chances in a tried-and-true Tory riding, she is ready to serve if elected.
“If I got elected, I’d be thrilled to represent Simcoe North. I’m ready to do that,” she said. “I know the chances are slim, but I’m not backing down.”
This is Powell’s first time running provincially in a general election; she also ran in the byelection called when long-time MPP Garfield Dunlop stepped aside so then-party leader Patrick Brown could run in Simcoe North. She has also run federally for the Green Party.