In an utterly unsurprising result, Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner was acclaimed by unanimous vote as the Green candidate for Guelph in next spring's provincial election. Schreiner becomes the first candidate of any party to be named in advanced of next year's campaign, and from the sounds of the Green Party gathering at Riverside Park Sunday, they intend to make a dent in the province's political culture when the votes are counted June 7.
Addressing the crowd of 100-plus people, Schreiner focused on his accomplishments through advocacy, and then asked supporters to imagine what we could do with a seat at Queens Park. "A party without a seat can accomplish so much more by mobilizing people power," Schreiner said. "Let's take back our government and we will continue to engage and mobilize to make this province a better place for you, the people of Ontario."
Although Schriener said that the electoral platform of his party will be "people, planet and prosperity" and not "greed and exploitation", his speech dealt directly with bread and butter issues like support for local food and economies, and highlighted his efforts in reforming political donations in Ontario.
"We can build and create a government that puts people first, we can fight for strong local resilient economies, and we can have the courage to take on the problems of our generation," Schreiner said.
Schreiner promised a campaign with an "incredible amount" of hard work, and added that the work would be starting immediately. He mentioned the Dolime Quarry, the water taking permit for which will come up for renewal this fall. The quarry, Schreiner said, threatens 25 per cent of the City of Guelph's drinking water, and he thinks about that every time he turns on the tap. Waiting till June to deal with this, he said, is not good enough.
More broadly, Schreiner pledged that he will "never compromise my honesty or integrity just to get elected," and that he heard the wags say that the Green Party is "too honest to ever get elected," which the Green Party leader took exception with. "If that’s what’s preventing us from getting elected that I don’t want to be elected," he said.
Schreiner and Guelph Greens were joined by a special guest for the occasion in the form of Adam Olsen, the Member of the Legislative Assembly from the British Columbia riding of Saanich North and the Islands. Olsen is one of three Green Party MLAs holding the balance of power in B.C., and obviously the feeling here in Ontario is that our own provincial Green Party has a similar opportunity for a breakthrough.
"We ran a campaign built on trust, and there’s been a lack of trust in politicians in B.C. and across Canada for the last number of years," said Olsen. "We have seen a growing gap between those that have and those that don’t. We've see a hallowing out of our education system, and the healthcare system. We were told we have the best economic system, but it was clear on the streets of downtown Vancouver that people were being left behind. We knew it was time for a change and a change people could count on."
Olsen's advice was to take time to build a platform, and then build momentum for it as the other parties wait for the writ to drop before revealing all their policy ideas at once. He also advised to ignore any debate about strategic voting or vote splitting.
"The minute you enter that [debate], you enter their space," Olsen explained. "If you have a strong platform, you don’t have to worry about vote splitting, and every time vote splitting, or this message, comes up, go back to what your platform says. Bring it back to your turf by replacing the fear-based argument with the hope-driven message."
Mostly though, Olsen advised Guelph Greens to stand on principle. "That will be what sets the Green Party apart from the others here in Ontario," he said. "The platform that I ran on, it was very clear that it was founded by our principles, and everything that we believe in, and it was courageous. It made it so easy to run for the B.C. Green Party."