Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, held a Provincial election on June 2nd. The Conservatives maintained a majority government, the social democratic NDP lost seats but continued as the official opposition and the Liberals failed to elect enough members to gain official party status.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner was re-elected in his Guelph riding and no other Green Party member won a seat. The disappointing results for the NDP and the Liberals resulted in both of their leaders stepping down. Nonetheless, Schreiner remains, as Green supporters have reason for optimism.
The Green Party increased its share of the popular vote throughout the province to six percent, up from 4.6 percent in the last Provincial election in 2018. Furthermore, the Party made a strong push in the riding of Parry Sound Muskoka to elect Matt Richter as the second Green MPP. Although he won an impressive 40 percent of the vote, up from 20 percent in 2018, he fell just short, losing to the conservative candidate by about 2,000 of the approximately 45,000 votes cast. The riding has returned a conservative in each of the eight provincial elections since it was established in 1999.
The Green Party in Ontario still has a long way to go to win the twelve seats required to achieve official party status, with the funding advantages that this brings. Nonetheless, the growth in support for the Ontario Greens is a positive development following the challenges of the federal election in 2021. In that contest, while Elizabeth May held her seat in BC and Mike Morrice became the first Green to win in Ontario, support for the Party was down substantially across the country from the previous federal election of 2019. The Greens won 6.55 percent of the popular vote across Canada in 2019 and only 2.33 percent in 2021.
Although the Party was not able to make a significant breakthrough in Ontario, Schreiner remains optimistic. In his election night speech, he referred to “a great Green wave building across the Province.” He congratulated Conservative Premier Doug Ford on his re-election and pledged to work across party lines to advance Green priorities.
The Party is attempting to gain acceptance for a wide range of initiatives that show that it is concerned with more than just the environment. These priorities include mental health, reconciliation with Indigenous communities, elder care, education reform and workers’ rights.
However, the biggest challenge for the Greens will likely be something squarely within the environmental domain, which the Party is most known for. As he noted on election night, Schreiner wants to stop the plan of Premier Ford to build a new highway in the greenbelt north of Toronto. He challenged the Premier, “to consider the financial, economic, and climate implications of paving over the places we love, the farmland that feeds us and the nature that protects us.” With only one voice in the Legislature, it is hoped that the environmental credibility of the Party will assist in gaining support for the opposition to this controversial plan, that the Green Party describes as “paving over paradise.”