TORONTO — Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner isn’t ruling out a bid for the leadership of the Ontario Liberals.
The party has been without a permanent leader since Steven Del Duca stepped down last year following a devastating election loss — the party’s second such result in a row.
Several Liberals have publicly said they’re exploring a run at the top job, including MP and former Ontario cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and current Ontario Liberal caucus member Ted Hsu.
But a group of Liberals — including former cabinet ministers Deb Matthews and Liz Sandals, and current Liberal caucus member Lucille Collard — released a letter Sunday urging Schreiner to join the party and run for the leadership.
“Our party needs to rediscover a politics of purpose and principle. We need to reach out to a new generation of voters. We need to open up to new people and new ideas and to embrace the kind of energy and enthusiasm that is driving grassroots activism and engagement across the province,” the Liberal group wrote.
“And that’s why we’re turning to you … We believe that your strong principle-based approach and your ability to connect and motivate activists — especially young people — is exactly what our party and province need now.”
The Liberal group argued that as Liberal leader, Schreiner would have a broader platform to rally Ontarians on issues he cares about such as climate change and the environment.
Schreiner has previously dismissed the idea, but now appears to be mulling it over.
“I received a serious letter from people who expressed concerns I share about the current government and the need for urgent action on the climate crisis,” he wrote in a statement Monday evening.
“They have reached out across party lines in a unique way in the spirit of doing politics differently. So, I’m going to ask people to give me time to think about their arguments.”
Schreiner said he has no ambition to lead any party other than the Greens, but first wants to get thoughts from his Guelph constituents, his family, friends and colleagues.
The letter and companion DraftMike.ca website are not going over well with some Liberals.
Erskine-Smith wrote on Twitter that purpose and principle are indeed needed, along with “serious renewal” in the party.
“But we don’t need gimmicks, open letters, or Hail Marys,” he wrote. “There is no substitute for hard work and grassroots engagement. We need serious leadership. For a change.”
Schreiner has been the leader of the Ontario Greens since 2009 and in 2018 won the party’s first seat in the legislature.
His performance in the 2022 election debate was widely praised and he is well liked at the legislature, but despite the party’s high hopes of winning a second seat in that election, the Greens remain a caucus of one.
Schreiner grew up on a farm in the U.S. and later moved to Canada with his wife, now residing in Guelph with his family. He has said his background as a small-business owner and in the non-profit sector helped him build the skills to build the Ontario Greens into a “viable party” over the last decade or so.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.