Some veteran Ontario Liberals want Green Leader Mike Schreiner to cross the floor and seek the leadership of the Grits — but he’s not interested.
In an open letter to Schreiner to be released 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 broadly, about the future of our province and our country,” says 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 ex-leader Lyn McLeod.
“That is why we are taking this unprecedented step — to reach outside our ranks to urge you, the leader of another party — to join the Ontario Liberals and run for our party’s leadership,” it continues.
“Our party needs to rediscover a politics of purpose and principle … that’s why we’re turning to you.”
But Schreiner, 53, who hadn’t seen the missive, reiterated he is “not running for Liberal leader.”
“I’ve heard rumours 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 I haven’t seen an argument to change my mind.”
The unusual appeal comes even though at least four current Liberal MPPs and MPs are actively campaigning to be leader — generating interest across the province.
MPPs Mitzie Hunter, 51, (Scarborough-Guildwood) and Ted Hsu, 58, (Kingston and the Islands) and MPs Yasir Naqvi, 50, (Ottawa Centre) and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, 38, (Beaches-East York) are exploring leadership bids.
Hunter is a former education minister; Naqvi was attorney general and a past party president; Hsu is a one-time MP who made the successful jump to provincial politics in the June 2 election; and Erskine-Smith is an up-and-comer in the federal party.
All four are awaiting the timelines and rules for the leadership race before officially kicking off campaigns.
There are also some party stalwarts trying to draft Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, a former Liberal MP, into the contest.
The Liberals are holding their annual general meeting in Hamilton on March 3-5.
On Friday on Parliament Hill, Naqvi told reporters “there are a group of volunteers who are helping me in this process, which is extremely important.”
One senior Liberal, speaking confidentially in order to discuss party deliberations, questioned the wisdom of publicly asking Schreiner to lead the Grits.
“Don’t these guys realize how much this undermines our party?” the veteran Liberal said.
“It makes it look like we don’t have any candidates from inside — and once Schreiner says ‘no thanks,’ then what?”
After governing Ontario from 2003 to 2018 — under former premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne — the Liberals have twice been wiped out in elections by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.
They only hold eight seats in the 124-member legislature, below the 12-MPP threshold for official party status, which would give them additional funding for staff and other resources.
That compares to the 83 seats won by the Conservatives and the 31 by the New Democrats, who actually finished third in the popular vote, slightly behind the Liberals.
Earlier this month, a Liberal campaign post-mortem recounted a slew of problems, including a lack of cash and volunteers, incoherent policies, and an “unpopular” leader in Steven Del Duca.
How about a Green-Liberal coalition?