Ontario Votes 2014

Green Party leader hopes for breakthrough in Guelph

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he will consider the June 12 election a success for his party if he can manage to win just a single seat.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says the province could save more than $1 billion by merging school boards into a single system. (The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he will consider the June 12 election a success for his party if he can manage to win just a single seat.

His party is running candidates in all 107 ridings but Schreiner says a win in Guelph — where he is taking on Education Minister Liz Sandals — would help shape the debate at Queen's Park.

"I think it will change the conversation," Schreiner, 44, said Wednesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I think (MP) Elizabeth May has shown what a difference one Green voice can make, and I intend to be that voice for change at Queen's Park."

Listen to the interview

You can hear Matt Galloway's conversation with Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner by clicking here.

In 2011, May became the first Green Party candidate to capture a seat in the House of Commons, winning the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands by unseating Conservative Garry Lunn, who had held the riding for 14 years.

Schreiner is hoping for a similar upset in Guelph, though the odds of a Green Party breakthrough appear long. Ontario Greens' share of the popular vote dropped from eight per cent in 2007 to less than three per cent in 2011.

Still, Schreiner told host Matt Galloway he believes the Greens can grab a seat on June 12, pointing to Dufferin-Caledon and Parry Sound-Muskoka as other ridings where he feels the Greens have a fighting chance.

"We're telling folks if you're sick of politics as usual, check us out," he said.

Plan to merge school boards

The most controversial component of the Green Party platform is a plan to merge the Catholic school board and the public board, a move Schreiner says will save $1.6 billion a year in various administration costs.

"There's a lot of people concerned about the fairness of our education system and why we fund one religion at the exclusion of all others," he said. "There's persistent human rights concerns about our education system."

Another challenge for Schreiner is that his party has not been invited to take part in the televised June 3 leaders debate.

The party has a petition, pushing the broadcast consortium organizing the debate (which includes the CBC) to allow the Greens to take part. As of Wednesday, 7,254 people had signed the online petition.

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said the broadcast consortium was unanimous in deciding to invite leaders of the three parties with representation in the Ontario Legislature, "one of the key criteria in determining who should be included in the debate."

"It was a decision motivated by wanting to provide Ontarians with an opportunity to see the leaders who sit in the House debate the issues," Thompson said.