TORONTO — Ontario’s Green leader spoke about housing and youth issues Tuesday in two ridings where he sees the best chances of growing his party, seeking to build on the momentum from his fiery performance at the leaders’ debate the night before.
In Huntsville, Mike Schreiner directly addressed young voters at an announcement alongside fifth-time Green candidate Matt Richter, who the party hopes will clinch a seat in Parry Sound-Muskoka given the race there has no incumbent Tory and no Liberal rival in the running.
“I want to give a quick shout out to young voters: the future is in your hands,” Schreiner said at the event, flanked by young campaign volunteers — some of them former students of Richter’s.
He hit on repeated campaign themes of anxiety over climate change and affordability, saying the Greens are here to “fight for your future” before calling for voters to send more Greens to the legislature.
“We need more MPPs like Matt Richter to fight for the Ontario you want,” he said.
Schreiner made a strong impression Monday night at his second debate of the campaign, landing sharp criticisms of Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford’s record on the pandemic, the environment and his relationship with health workers.
Out canvassing on Tuesday, Schreiner was at times recognized and complimented on his debate performance as he knocked on doors in a scenic Huntsville neighbourhood. Others honked their horns at the sight of Schreiner’s campaign wheels: an electric vehicle painted signature Green.
After winning the Green party’s first-ever seat in the legislature in Guelph four years ago, Schreiner said Tuesday that he hopes to grab another in Parry Sound-Muskoka for Richter. He said similar themes to his 2018 campaign are emerging with a large group of enthusiastic volunteers and lawn signs popping up across the geographically large riding.
At the announcement — which included a promise to build 1,000 affordable rental units in the riding — both candidates spoke to housing strain in Parry Sound-Muskoka, which they said has made it difficult for employers in tourism and health care to attract and retain workers, among other challenges.
Schreiner also spoke about climate concerns in the region such as worsening flooding and touted himself and his party as the team best suited to address the climate crisis.
Richter, who won 20 per cent of the vote in the 2018 election, had just returned from a trek around the riding he described as more than twice the size of Prince Edward Island. The surprise lack of a Liberal candidate after that party dropped theirs last week shortly before the nomination deadline has boosted some extra hope into the campaign, he said.
“It’s certainly given a lot of encouragement for people to vote Green who might have been on the fence, and it’s given everybody who has already voted Green an exceptional amount of enthusiasm that this riding truly will be the second writing in Ontario’s history to go Green,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Schreiner stopped in Toronto’s University-Rosedale riding, where former environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe is considered another star candidate for the Greens.
Schreiner mentioned both Saxe’s and Richter’s campaigns on Monday night in his final plea to viewers of the election debate.
Saxe introduced Schreiner on Tuesday as the “winner oflast night’s debate.” Both candidates focused broadly on the party’s climate plan that they said would help secure a more livable future for children and youth — touting a pledge to lower the voting age to 16 so young people can have more of a say in political decisions.
When asked about his party’s unlikelihood of forming government, Schreiner encouraged people to vote for Green candidates in their ridings anyway.
“If you want Green, vote Green,” he said.
He argued that even a few Green representatives would have an oversized influence in policy decisions — a theme he also hit on in Monday’s debate, where he repeatedly suggested that the NDP tweaked its platform to “keep up” with the Greens on housing and disability support promises.
Saxe also made the case that the Green message is picking up steam in the Toronto riding where an incumbent New Democrat is running for re-election, saying she’s heard frustration from voters about the NDP’s climate plan.
Tim Abray, a teaching fellow in political studies at Queen’s University, said he was “deeply impressed” with Schreiner’s debate performance.
“He was extremely well prepared and he did a very good job of driving always to facts and to accountability, which if you’re trying to make headway in the political arena, those things are extremely important to focus on,” he said.
“By holding the other people in the debate to account, holding the other parties to account, and putting forward clear, very, very well-stated short expressions of things that he would do, facts about the problems that exist in Ontario right now and the way in which he would address them, it gives people something tangible to hang on to.”
At Monday’s event, Ford faced attacks on health care and education from the other three leaders, but he stuck to his message of building more infrastructure, creating jobs and making life more affordable.
The PC leader announced a union endorsement Tuesday in Toronto before door knocking later in the day in York South-Weston, the riding in which his nephew Michael Ford is running.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was focused on education, with an announcement in Toronto pledging to clear the province’s school repair backlog within 10 years, followed by another in the bellwether riding of Peterborough-Kawartha about doubling mental health supports in schools.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca highlighted his four-day work week pilot plan and other worker friendly measures in west Toronto.