The leader of the Green Party of Ontario addressed delegates from across the province at Saturday’s party convention, but Mike Schreiner says the issues that fire up the party faithful are the same ones he hears at the doors in Guelph.
About 300 people packed a room at the Delta Conference Centre in Guelph Saturday for Schreiner’s keynote address for the three-day conference.
Most of the sessions and talks at the conference were aimed at Green Party members and prospective candidates in the upcoming election, but the keynote address was open to the public.
Schreiner said it was important to him that the doors be open for the keynote address.
“These are my neighbours. We wanted to make sure the convention was open to Green Party members and supporters from across the province, but also accessible to members of the community of Guelph,” Schreiner told GuelphToday.
Ard Van Leeuwen, president of the Green Party of Ontario, said this year’s conference attracted 250 delegates, about twice the number as in other years.
“We have about double the number of delegates, but I think we have more than double the amount of energy,” Van Leeuwen.
There’s a quiet confidence, said Van Leeuwen, that Schreiner has a chance to become the first elected Green Party member of provincial parliament in Ontario.
“It’s his second time around, which is always an advantage. People are much more familiar with him, they certainly know he is persistent because he’s not going away,” said Van Leeuwen.
In the 2014 election, Schreiner received just over 19 per cent of the vote in Guelph.
With no Liberal incumbent and 2014 Ontario PC candidate Anthony MacDonald not expected to run this year, Van Leeuwen said Schreiner has a clean slate.
The party expects to have candidates stand in every riding in Ontario and Van Leeuwen said the Greens are on pace to have a gender-balanced complement of candidates.
“We are on track, so far, to attain that goal,” said Van Leeuwen.
Steve Dyck, who ran for the Greens in the riding of Guelph in 2011, who has been to a number of party conventions, said he has never seen delegates so energized.
“Not like this,” said Dyck. “These people are really charged up.”
Dyck said Schreiner has been 'putting in the work' since the 2014 provincial election and notes the party leader regularly speaks about issues like the economy and health care — not just the environment.
Those issues are key to attracting new voters when door knocking during a campaign.
“We are planning on having a lot of one-on-one conversations with people,” said Dyck.
Schreiner told GuelphToday that the Green Party is poised to win the seat in Guelph.
“Right now, there is a lot of anger pointed toward the Liberals, and people are saying they need a time out,” he said.
During his speech, Schreiner highlighted what he said was billions of dollars of waste by the Liberal government, which is taking much-needed money away from health care and education.
“The scandals and mismanagement of this Liberal government have put our future at risk. Billions wasted on gas plants, hydro privatization schemes and election-buying gimmicks have cost us billions,” said Schreiner during his keynote.
In his address, Schreiner highlighted points from the party’s platform that focus on the economy, jobs, offering a living wage, fair taxes for local businesses, public transit, improving health care and ending racism and sexism in the province.
He also spoke of environmental issues, including a right to clean water and air.
Schreiner said climate scientists estimate there is 696 days left to reverse the trajectory of greenhouse gas emission before catastrophe ensues.
“I refuse to make intense ice storms and hurricanes, floods and droughts, fires and polar vortexes the new normal for my children. I refuse to allow that to happen without putting up a fight,” he said to applause.
Schreiner said in his address that he wants to change the political status quo in Queen’s Park and fundamentally change how politics is done in the province.
Immediately after his address, Schriener told GuelphToday that the issues that fired up the party faithful are the same ones he hears at the doors in his own riding.
“I think everything I talked about in my speech, in terms of doing things differently, the issues I prioritize — those are all issues that people in Guelph tell me are their priorities,” Schreiner told GuelphToday.
Asked about his newly-announced Liberal opponent Sly Castaldi, Schriener said, “I think the Liberals have nominated a good candidate who is a very valuable member of our community — and I have seen the Liberal machine eat up a lot of good people.”