Ontario’s Green Party is tapping into COVID-19 frustration because it hopes to achieve an edge over the Progressive Conservatives in Parry Sound-Muskoka and double the party’s seat count within the provincial legislature.
Mike Schreiner, who led the Green Party to a historic single-seat presence at Queen’s Park in 2018, has made 4 trips to the riding through the election campaign driven by positive polling numbers, an absence of an incumbent candidate and a Liberal candidate who was booted off of the ballot.
That set of circumstances could serve because the pathway for Green candidate Matt Richter whose support within the riding has grown over the course of 4 election campaigns, increasing his vote share from 12 per cent in 2007 to twenty per cent in 2018 — some extent Schreiner emphasized during one other visit to the region on Wednesday.
“We all know that Matt Richter within the 2018 election finished actually barely higher than I did within the 2014 election in Guelph,” Schreiner told reporters. “We all know what happened in Guelph in 2018. And we consider we’re well positioned for that to occur in Parry Sound Muskoka in 2022.”
Schreiner’s most up-to-date 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 loads of positive feedback from voters on this riding,” Schreiner said. “This riding relies on so many small businesses, they usually appreciate the incontrovertible fact that the Ontario Greens consistently throughout the pandemic was standing up for small businesses.”
Ford’s record on environmental issues also plays a giant role within the Green push for support, with Schreiner pledging to make sure 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 could be historic for the party, it might do little to enhance its position within the legislature. Currently a political party requires a minimum of 12 seats so as to be official status within the legislature and to receive a spending and research budget.
Schreiner, nevertheless, 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 now have shown how effective we could be at Queens Park or with one Green MPP. We all know we could be even simpler with two or three Green MPPS and we wish to make use of that influence to enhance people’s lives.”
Schreiner also faces a formidable challenger in Graydon Smith, the mayor of Bracebridge, who often received praise from Doug Ford through the pandemic and has campaigned on his behalf over the past few weeks.
Still, the Green Party is hoping voters have the appetite not just for change in party, but in political style as well.
“I believe there are plenty of voters — not only conservative voters, but voters across the political spectrum — who are only on the lookout for honesty and authenticity in politics,” Schreiner said.
It’s a pitch that the Green Party will try and hammer home in the ultimate week of the election campaign.