The Hamilton Spectator
Liberals should look within, not to Schreiner
They can take inspiration from across the aisle
Among the gaggle of people who signed the letter urging Ontario Green leader Mike Schreiner to cross the floor and run for Ontario Liberal leader are many former big names within the party, including several ex-MPPs and a former deputy premier.
These are the people who led the OLP to two disastrous election defeats in a row. Do they still have the right to dictate the future of the party?
Sharan Kaur, a longtime Liberal and former OLP staffer, certainly does not think so and says that by signing the letter they are tipping the scales for Schreiner.
“If people want Mike Schreiner to run for the OLP, that’s great, that’s their prerogative,” says Kaur. “But to put your names behind the letter to get him to run as leader, you are essentially skewing the process.”
Kaur says many fellow Liberals have told her that the party insiders signing the letter sends a signal that the party machine wants Schreiner in charge.
“We shouldn’t be parachuting somebody into a leadership role and then claiming that it’s going to be a fair leadership battle, because it’s not,” says Kaur.
Andrew Perez is a consultant and a longtime OLP volunteer who is involved in the party’s rebuild. He says headlines about the Green leader suddenly becoming the Liberal leader will puzzle the majority of Ontarians who don’t closely follow politics.
“I don’t think it passes the smell test, especially for a party that’s been kicked into the penalty box two elections in a row and really needs to do some deep soul searching,” says Perez.
If the OLP has trouble looking within themselves, they can always look across the aisle for inspiration. The Progressive Conservatives have faced electoral oblivion twice in the last 36 years. In 1987 and 2003, they were routed by the OLP and consigned to spells in the “wilderness” of varying lengths, but they never needed a disgruntled centre-right blue Liberal, or a renegade MP from a fringe right-wing party to save it.
In 1995, PC leader Mike Harris rode his “Common Sense Revolution” to a victory that began eight years of PC governance. After 2003, it took the PCs 15 years to recover the top spot at Queen’s Park, and they did it with Doug Ford, a longtime conservative with bold rhetoric and ideas that were blunt, if not particularly sophisticated.
In both Harris’ and Ford’s case, they brought conservative ideas to the table that felt big, and came from inside the tent. Neither belonged to the PC’s previous leadership.
Schreiner aside, Nathan Erskine-Smith, Ted Hsu, and Yasir Naqvi are all seriously planning a run for OLP leader, and all come from the capital-L Liberal creed.
“I don’t agree with the tactic that’s being used here, because I think we need to start and look within and consider the three strong candidates from within our party, who are already signalling that they want to run for the leadership,” says Perez. “We need to look within, we need to establish what liberalism is in the province of Ontario in 2023.”
The OLP has failed to re-establish what it stands for over the past four and a half years. To survive let alone win, the party cannot afford to stop trying.
Perhaps OLP members can start by tuning out the people who have led them to the brink in the first place, unless they are content with more of the same.