Liberal Ontario veterans want green MPP Mike Schreiner to be their leader

Some veteran Ontario Liberals want Green leader Mike Schreiner to cross the floor and seek leadership of the Grits, but he’s not interested.

In an open letter to Schreiner to be published on Sunday, 39 liberal activists plead with the Guelph MPP to consider entering their undeclared leadership contest.

“We are a group of Ontario liberals who are deeply concerned about the state of politics in Ontario and more generally about the future of our province and our country,” reads the letter, signed by former cabinet ministers Deb Matthews, Greg Sorbara, Liz Sandals and John Milloy, as well as Kate Graham, who finished third in the 2020 Liberal leadership, MPP Lucille Collard (Ottawa-Vanier) and former leader Lyn McLeod.

“That is why we are taking this unprecedented step: to achieve outside our ranks to exhort you, leader of other party: join the Ontario Liberals and run for the leadership of our party,” he continues.

“Our party needs to rediscover a politics of purpose and principle…that’s why we’re writing to you.”

But Schreiner, 53, who had not seen the letter, reiterated that he is “not running for Liberal leader.”

I’ve heard rumors that there’s a letter out there. I can’t comment on a letter I haven’t seen,” he said in an interview Thursday with Star Queen’s Park columnist Martin Regg Cohn.

“I would say what i said in december: I have no plans to run for liberal leader and have not seen an argument to change my mind.

The unusual appeal comes despite the fact that at least four current Liberal MPs and MPs are actively campaigning to be leaders, generating interest across the province.

Mitzie Hunter, 51, (Scarborough-Guildwood) and Ted Hsu, 58, (Kingston and the Islands) MPs and Yasir Naqvi, 50, (Ottawa Centre) and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, 38, (Beaches-East York) MPs they are exploring leadership offers.

Hunter is a former education minister; Naqvi was attorney general and former president of the party; Hsu was a one-time MP, making the successful leap into provincial politics in the June 2 election; and Erskine-Smith is an up-and-comer in the Federal party.

The four are awaiting the deadlines and rules for the leadership race before officially launching the campaigns.

There are also some party stalwarts who are trying to include Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, a former Liberal MP, in the race.

The Liberals will hold their annual general meeting in Hamilton from March 3-5.

On Friday on Parliament Hill, Naqvi told reporters that “there is a group of volunteers who are helping me in this process, which is extremely important.”

A senior liberal, speaking confidentially to discuss the party’s deliberations, questioned the wisdom of publicly asking Schreiner to lead the Grits.

“Don’t these guys realize how much this undermines our party?” said the veteran liberal.

“It makes it seem like we don’t have any internal candidates, and once Schreiner says ‘no thanks,’ what then?”

After ruling Ontario from 2003 to 2018, under former prime ministers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, the Liberals have twice been voted out by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

They hold just eight seats in the 124-member legislature, falling short of the 12 MPP threshold for official party status, which would give them additional funding for staff and other resources.

That compares with 83 seats won by the Conservatives and 31 by the New Democrats, who actually finished third in the popular vote, slightly behind the Liberals.

Earlier this month, an autopsy of the Liberal campaign chronicled a series of problems, including a lack of cash and volunteers, inconsistent policies and an “unpopular” leader in Steven Del Duca.

With archives of Tonda MacCharles

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


The conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not endorse these views.

Leave a Comment