Green Leader Mike Schreiner now says he needs ‘time’ to think about joining the Liberals, but some call the plan ‘an insult’
Green Leader Mike Schreiner wants to hear what “people across Ontario think” before he considers crossing the floor to the Liberals to run for their leadership.
Despite reiterating he has “no ambition to lead any party other than the Ontario Green Party,” Schreiner on Monday said he needs “time” to ponder a controversial proposal from some veteran Liberals.
As first revealed by the Star on Saturday, 40 Liberals — including prominent former cabinet ministers Greg Sorbara and Deb Matthews — wrote a public letter urging him to defect and enter their undeclared leadership contest.
The push is being denounced by other Liberal party stalwarts as a misguided and gimmicky way to challenge Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in 2026.
But Schreiner called the missive “a serious letter from people who expressed concerns I share about the current government and the need for urgent action on the climate crisis.”
“They have reached out across party lines in a unique way in the spirit of doing politics differently. So, I’m going to ask people to give me time to think about their arguments,” he said.
“Most importantly, 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.”
The unusual appeal comes as MPPs Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood) and Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands) and MPs Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre) and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York) are exploring leadership bids.
Even though Schreiner had maintained he wasn’t interested, proponents believed the gambit would pay off and have launched an online campaign to collect more signatures.
“He is by far the most respected member of the legislature. He has led a political party for years. And his political views are remarkably similar to those of most Ontario Liberals,” Sorbara, a key architect of the Liberals’ 2003-2018 dynasty, said in an email to friends.
“As Liberal leader (Schreiner) will have a much larger audience to speak to and speak for. And he has the real potential to form a government in the foreseeable future. Those opportunities are not available to him as Green Party leader,” he wrote.
In a social media video, Erskine-Smith said the Liberals “need purpose and principle in our politics.”
“But we don’t need gimmicks, open letters, or Hail Marys. There is no substitute for hard work and grassroots engagement. We need serious leadership, for a change,” he said.
“As Liberals, we can work across party lines, do politics differently, and deliver the competence, compassion and integrity our democracy needs. I know it can be done because I’ve done it, just as I’ve seen other Liberals do it, too.”
A source close to Naqvi’s nascent campaign was more circumspect.
“Yasir isn’t fazed, he is focused on a robust and competitive race to build a stronger Ontario Liberal Party, so the more the merrier!” the insider said in an email.
“He has been meeting with as many grassroots Liberals across Ontario to talk about how we build a stronger party moving forward and defeat Doug Ford in 2026.”
In a video posted to his social media account, Hsu noted his lengthy dedication to the federal and provincial parties and pointed out that “being a Liberal” requires hard work — not quick fixes to complex problems.
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Influential Liberal Flavio Volpe called it “an incredibly amateurish move to ask the leader of a one-seat party to lead your party past the guy (Ford) who won 83 seats.”
“Let’s pick the only guy who did worse than us” in the last two elections, said Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.
“It’s an insult to the next generation of leaders who would take up that challenge,” he said.
Marcel Wieder, a long-time strategist who helped win three straight provincial elections between 2003 and 2011, panned the scheme as “a slap in the face to Liberals in the trenches.”
Wieder, president and chief advocate of Aurora Strategy Global, said the Schreiner pitch reminded him of other Liberal gambles that ended badly.
“The federal Liberals went with Stéphane Dion and the ‘Green Shift.’ Then they drafted Michael Ignatieff who had very little connection with the party,” he said referring to leaders who lost in 2008 and 2011 to prime minister Stephan Harper’s Conservatives.
“In both cases, it didn’t work out. Now these Liberals ignoring the past want to combine these two mistakes into one by trying to draft Mike Schreiner. If they are so enamoured with him, why don’t they quit the party and join the Greens to get him elected?”
Robert MacBain, a veteran strategist who has played a senior role in federal and provincial Liberal campaigns, said he was “quite taken aback” that smart political operatives would sign off on such a long shot.
“In doing so, they have done incalculable damage to the (Liberal) brand and publicly diminished the quartet running for leader. Mark this up as a big win for Doug Ford and (incoming NDP leader) Marit Stiles,” said MacBain, who contacted the Star to express his concerns.
The letter — which was also signed by former cabinet ministers John Milloy and Liz Sandals as well as MPP Lucille Collard (Ottawa-Vanier), 2020 leadership candidate Kate Graham and former leader Lyn McLeod — explained the thinking behind the proposal.
“Our party needs to rediscover a politics of purpose and principle … that’s why we’re turning to you.”
Prior to the letter’s release, Schreiner, who has led the Greens since 2009, dismissed the notion he would seek the helm of a rival party he has long publicly criticized.
“I would say what I said in December: I have no plans to run for Liberal leader and I haven’t seen an argument to change my mind,” he said Thursday.
The Liberals are holding their annual general meeting in Hamilton on March 3-5. Hunter, Hsu, Naqvi and Erskine-Smith are awaiting the timelines and rules for the leadership race before officially launching campaigns.
Some other Liberals are trying to draft Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, a former Grit MP, into the race.
The depth of the potential field has people from across the political spectrum scratching their heads about the courtship of Schreiner.
“I had a front-row seat to the nadir of the Ontario PC Party. Twice,” wrote Paul Rhodes, a long-time Tory strategist, on social media.
“Through those difficult times it never occurred to any of us that the party was such a talent wasteland that wooing the leader of another party was the best available option.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
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