The leader of Ontario’s Green Party is now asking for “time to think” about a bold request from members of the Ontario Liberal Party to consider switching parties.
On Sunday, a collection of senior Liberal figures issued an open letter asking Green leader Mike Schreiner to consider ditching his party to run for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.
The letter heaped praise on Schreiner’s political career and principals, asking him to consider applying his talents at the top of the Ontario Liberals.
Schreiner initially knocked back the approach emphatically. “It’s a no,” his spokesperson told Global News.
However, in a more detailed statement published later on Monday, the Green leader asked for more time to think.
“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 statement said.
“So, I’m going to ask people to give me time to think about their arguments.”
Schreiner emphasized his continuing commitment to his local riding and the party he leads, noting, “I want to know what my constituents in Guelph, my friends and colleagues in the Green Party and people across Ontario think about this letter.”
Kate Graham, a former Liberal leadership candidate who published the letter on Sunday, told Global News the group has received a range of responses from party members including some who “share the view that Mike would be a fabulous entry to the race.”
“There’s no sort of master plan here. A group of people shared a feeling that he should enter the race, and we want to just say so publicly,” Graham said
Schreiner’s background advocating for climate-first politics is a key reason the collection of Liberal figures say they want to see him at the top of their party.
“Climate change is a defining issue of our time,” the letter said. “And on this — as on any other matter relating to the environment — you speak with both passion and authority.”
They referenced controversial Ford government policies to allow development in parts of the Greenbelt, reduce the power of conservation authorities and lower development fees as issues that required strong opposition.
Some of those considering a run for the Ontario Liberal leadership themselves poured scorn on the suggestion.
Nate Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP for Beaches-East York who is considering a run for provincial leader, said that the party doesn’t need “gimmicks, open letters and Hail Marys” to solve its issues.
“That kind of change has to come from within,” he said.
Another potential leadership hopeful Ted Hsu said the letter, while “unprecedented,” went “too far afield” in search of a candidate for Liberal leader.
“I don’t think the next Liberal Leader should come from the leader of another party,” Hsu told Global News., adding that the move would be “very strange” to voters.
Other Liberal party stalwarts called the letter an “insult” the those who have signaled their intent to run and that the authors of the letter should be “ashamed of themselves.”
Interim Liberal leaders John Fraser, who has vowed to remain neutral in the race, characterized the letter as a means to “express an opinion.”
“I don’t think it says anything other than we’re an open party. Like no one’s raining down on them, I’m not raining down these people because they suggested this,” Fraser said.
The Ontario Liberals, who governed Ontario for 15 years consecutively until 2018, were roundly defeated when Doug Ford won his first term as Ontario’s premier.
Under incumbent Kathleen Wynne, the Liberals lost official party status as Ford’s Progressive Conservatives swept to win 76 of the Ontario legislature’s 124 seats. At the next election, Steven Del Duca failed to win back official party status or his own riding, and yielded just seven seats in the process.
The parameters for the next Ontario Liberal leader — a position some want Schreiner to run for — have not been set.
A recent report recommended the party review its leadership process, something interim leader John Fraser has said the party will be doing.
Based on what it hears in these upcoming consultations, the party will propose constitutional amendments at its annual general meeting in March, and only after the process for the leadership vote is established will the party set about deciding on dates and rules of entry for leadership contenders, Fraser said.
It means the party is unlikely to have a new leader anytime soon.
Asked whether the letter could damage the party in the eyes of the public, Fraser said the Ontario Liberals are expected to pay off their election debt this year and is expecting hundreds to attend an annual general meeting in March.
“You don’t need to worry about us. We’re doing just fine,” Fraser said.
— with files from The Canadian Press