Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he is considering a request from 40 Liberal Party members to cross the floor and run for the leadership of their party.
In a letter sent Sunday to Mr. Schreiner – signed by past cabinet ministers, MPPs and candidates in the most recent election – the party members asked Mr. Schreiner to leave his post as the only elected member of his party to seek the top Liberal job.
Mr. Schreiner responded in a statement Monday, asking for “time to think” before making a decision. This signalled a change in tune from December when he said publicly he didn’t want to leave his party. Mr. Schreiner, leader since 2009, is serving his second term in the legislature after being elected in the riding of Guelph in 2018.
“I have always said that I have no ambition to lead any party other than the Ontario Green Party,” he said in the statement. “Yesterday, 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.”
The signatories, including former party leader Lyn McLeod and former deputy premier Deb Matthews, said this “unprecedented step” is intended to reignite a party that fell from government to third-party status in the legislature.
But other party members, including some considering a run for the leadership, have argued the request to Mr. Schreiner isn’t the right approach and could lead to a divided party.
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Sharan Kaur, a long-time Liberal Party member and former staffer called the letter “tone deaf” and not representative of the larger membership, who she says want a focus on growing the grassroots. Ms. Kaur took issue with the approach of the group, which did not consult the party as a whole, and its potential implications on the leadership race.
No one has officially entered the leadership race, but several have said they are considering a bid, including current provincial and federal members of Parliament. A timeline for the race hasn’t been determined.
“I think it’s just further digging a grave for the party,” Ms. Kaur said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “You don’t have to be inspired by every candidate who has put their name forward, but what you’re telling them essentially is we don’t want you in our tent because we’re going to go outside of our tent.”
Beaches-East York Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who said he is considering entering the race, called the letter a “gimmick” and a “Hail Mary” that won’t work to regrow the party or make it a serious contender in the next election.
Mr. Erskine-Smith said he understands the intention of the group in calling for politicians to work across party lines and engage with younger voters, two things he admits Mr. Schreiner has a track record of doing, but he said those values can be strengthened by those already in the party.
“I think it’s a bit of a mistake,” he said. “It’s aiming to find a path toward winning before we really put the hard work in.”
Kate Graham, an unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the past two provincial elections, is one of the party members behind the campaign to recruit Mr. Schreiner. She defended the group’s request on Monday and argued that Mr. Schreiner is the type of leader the party needs, and at the very least the discussion is generating buzz among party members about what they want to see in their next leader.
“I want people fired up and engaging on ideas and that doesn’t mean we have to agree all the time,” said Ms. Graham said, who also ran for the leadership of the party in 2022, and place third.
Liberal MP and former Ontario cabinet minister Yasir Naqvi has said he is exploring a leadership bid. MPP Ted Hsu, who represents the Kingston area, and Toronto MPP Mitzie Hunter, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020, also said they are considering running.
Current Ottawa-area MPP Lucille Collard is the only sitting member of the party to endorse the campaign to recruit Mr. Schreiner.
Ms. Collard said she will continue to work collaboratively with her caucus colleagues and respects their decision to run, but she believes Mr. Schreiner would be the leader with the best chance to lead the party to victory in the next election.
“We need to do things differently. We can’t just keep looking within ourselves to find new things if we want different results,” she said.
Steven Del Duca, who convincingly won the party’s leadership in 2020, resigned from the post after failing to win his seat in last June’s election.