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Ontario Green Party targets Doug Ford’s pandemic response in bid to flip seats

Click to play video: 'Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sits down with Global News' Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sits down with Global News
WATCH: Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner sits down with Global News for a one-on-one interview. With just two weeks to go until election day, Global News’ Alan Carter sits down with Schreiner to discuss his campaign and aspirations – May 19, 2022

Ontario’s Green Party is tapping into COVID-19 frustration as it hopes to gain an edge over the Progressive Conservatives in Parry Sound-Muskoka and double the party’s seat count in the provincial legislature.

Mike Schreiner, who led the Green Party to a historic single-seat presence at Queen’s Park in 2018, has made four trips to the riding during the election campaign driven by positive polling numbers, a lack of an incumbent candidate and a Liberal candidate who was booted off of the ballot.

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That set of circumstances could serve as the pathway for Green candidate Matt Richter whose support in the riding has grown over the course of four election campaigns, increasing his vote share from 12 per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent in 2018 — a point Schreiner emphasized during another visit to the region on Wednesday.

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“We know that Matt Richter in the 2018 election finished actually slightly better than I did in the 2014 election in Guelph,” Schreiner told reporters. “We know what happened in Guelph in 2018. And we believe we’re well positioned for that to happen in Parry Sound Muskoka in 2022.”

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Schreiner’s most recent pitch to Parry Sound-Muskoka hangs on voter dissatisfaction over the pandemic policies of Doug Ford‘s Progressive Conservatives, especially those upset over the cycle of closures that critics argued favoured big box stores over small businesses. 

“Our plan especially to support small businesses has been getting a lot of positive feedback from voters in this riding,” Schreiner said. “This riding relies on so many small businesses, and they appreciate the fact that the Ontario Greens consistently throughout the pandemic was standing up for small businesses.”

Ford’s record on environmental issues also plays a big role in the Green push for support, with Schreiner pledging to ensure the “natural beauty” of cottage country is “protected and defended,” drawing a contrast with the Progressive Conservative’s approach to environmentally-sensitive lands.

While a second Green seat would be historic for the party, it would do little to improve its position in the legislature. Currently a political party requires a minimum of 12 seats in order to be official status in the legislature and to receive a spending and research budget.

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Schreiner, however, points to the success of the party in other provincial legislatures positioning itself as small but mighty.

“In British Columbia, three green MLAs held the balance of power in a minority government,” Schreiner highlighted. “We have shown how effective we can be at Queens Park or with one Green MPP. We know we can be even more effective with two or three Green MPPS and we want to use that influence to improve people’s lives.”

Schreiner also faces a formidable challenger in Graydon Smith, the mayor of Bracebridge, who often received praise from Doug Ford during the pandemic and has campaigned on his behalf over the past few weeks.

Still, the Green Party is hoping voters have the appetite not only for change in party, but in political style as well.

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“I think there are a number of voters — not just conservative voters, but voters across the political spectrum — who are just looking for honesty and authenticity in politics,” Schreiner said.

It’s a pitch that the Green Party will attempt to hammer home in the final week of the election campaign.

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