Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner is staying on to lead his party after a group of Liberals tried to persuade him to cross the floor, saying he hopes to unite progressives against Premier Doug Ford’s government.
Mr. Schreiner, the only elected Green Party provincial representative in Ontario, spent three weeks mulling a public request from 40 Ontario Liberals to defect to their party and run for the leadership.
On Tuesday, as the Ontario legislature resumed from winter break, Mr. Schreiner announced he is sticking with the Greens after all.
“I’m very proud to be the leader of the Ontario Green Party,” Mr. Schreiner told reporters after Question Period.
“I think the events of the last three weeks have just shown the difference we’re making at Queen’s Park, how much people value the work that we do here, and how important it is to have a Green voice especially when it comes to pushing for action on the climate crisis.”
Mr. Schreiner said he had “no regrets whatsoever” about the time he took to consider the request. He said he consulted with residents in his Southwestern Ontario riding of Guelph, as well as thousands of people from across the province who encouraged him to stay on with the Green Party.
“They see me as somebody who can work across party lines to push for democratic reform and electoral co-operation moving forward, somebody who can help unite progressives to push back against the damage the Ford government is doing to our province,” he said.
In a letter sent late January to Mr. Schreiner – signed by former Liberal cabinet ministers, MPPs and candidates in the most recent election – the party members asked him to leave his position with the Greens to seek the top Liberal job. Former leader Steven Del Duca, now the mayor of Vaughan, Ont., resigned as leader after disappointing results in the 2022 provincial election, in which he failed to win his own seat.
The letter’s signatories, including former party leader Lyn McLeod and former deputy premier Deb Matthews, said the “unprecedented step” was intended to reignite a party that fell from government to third-party status in the legislature in back-to-back elections.
Kate Graham, an unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the past two provincial elections, was one of the party members behind the campaign to recruit Mr. Schreiner. She said on Tuesday she’s disappointed with Mr. Schreiner’s decision but was pleased to see his call for parties to work more closely together.
“I still hope that we see a leadership race in the Ontario Liberal Party that includes people with a long history in the party and some newcomers, people who have built experience outside of the party. I think that’s part of a dynamic and healthy race,” she said.
The Liberals have to yet to announce the parameters of the next leadership contest, but will debate the rules at the next general meeting the weekend of March 3 to 5.
Liberal MPP Stephen Blais, one of eight current members of the provincial caucus, has proposed an amendment to the leadership rules that states anyone running for leader must have been a member of the Liberal Party as of Jan. 1. If passed, that change would have excluded Mr. Schreiner from the contest. Mr. Schreiner declined on Tuesday to comment on the proposal.
In an interview, Mr. Blais said he considered the recent overture to Mr. Schreiner by some party members when he crafted the amendment.
“If we’re going to rebuild the party the way that it needs to be rebuilt in order to be competitive in 2026, I think it’s very important that that person have a connection to the party that’s not just instantaneous,” Mr. Blais said.