Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Mike Schreiner says “Canada needs Annamie Paul’s voice in Ottawa.”

The Green Party of Ontario leader, who’s been campaigning with his embattled federal counterpart this summer, says he will continue at her side when an election is called.

He called her party’s squabbling “unfortunate.”

Unlike Paul, Schreiner is no green politician. He’s headed his party since 2009 and the Guelph MPP is a first-term parliamentarian in the provincial legislature with three years under his belt.

The same may be said of Matt Richter who is carrying the GPO colours in Parry Sound-Muskoka for a fifth consecutive election come June 2, 2021.

Schreiner has no chance of forming government and Richter has slightly better chances of taking a seat along with him in Toronto.

Yet both know of what they say and do.

So if you’re on the hustings talking housing, what better place to talk about a national crisis than at the heart of it.

In Muskoka where affordable housing for the permanent population is the antithesis of an annual cottage country seasonal sales boom.

Masked MPP Mike Schreiner is greeted by Green candidate Matt Richer who takes cover after speaking first without his mask at the Lion’s Pavilion at the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst yesterday morning.

The Greens know well how opposition best works: provoke government to enact legislation it wants.

New Democrats know best how to work it. They’ve made a career of it affecting change.

Beg, borrow or steal their ideas, neither cares not. As long as the result is their result.

Schreiner and Richter were inside out at the Lion’s Pavilion at the Muskoka Wharf Tuesday preaching to the converted — 25 supporters seated spread out beneath a green canopy.

But what happens when the warm-up act becomes the main act when the headliner is 30 minutes late?

You get more intimacy than a half-empty hall.

A chance for a candid candidate to go off script while staying on message.

With ease Richter eased in to the discussion by acknowledging the Indigenous grounds of the meeting and the latest unmarked residential school gravesite in B.C.

He said he was “moved” and “heartened” Canada Day weekend to hear motorists honk horns as he and other First Nations supporters waved orange ribbons over Hwy. 11 in Huntsville.

The Riverside elementary school teacher said he is “energized and excited” about his perennial run the next 10 months.

He talked about “appropriate development to overcome the burden of provincial policies” on appropriate housing.

And “best practices” not “biases” in government strategies.

The “sprawl” threatening the rural lifestyle of Muskoka.

“Nobody wants that.”

He advocated the “15-minute neighbourhood” that touts life, work, leisure and existence within short travel distance that leave behind a low carbon imprint.

And that will make Muskoka “a great place to live.”

A spread-out gathering of 25 Green supporters heard how the GPO plans to help house Ontarians as part of their recently launched $23.5 billion election strategy for the June 2 provincial election.

It’s among the three pillars of the Greens’ plan for “connected, affordable and sustainable” communities.

Cleanup hitter Schreiner said he wants “government back in the (housing) game” to help with home ownership, affordable living and a green recovery he called part of a “circular economy” that includes “carbon border solutions.”

Schreiner said the GPO’s recently launched $23.5 billion Housing Strategy for Building Livable and Affordable Communities, claims it is “doable.”

And he has some public support for the ambitious goals of building a 100,000 new affordable units, supporting renters and pathways to home ownership. And reducing speculation to put homes for people first.

Schreiner said that would create hundreds of thousand of jobs, save energy and money, while addressing the climate crisis by reducing emissions.

He told the small gathering that Premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government is needlessly spending $6 billion to subsidize large energy-guzzling home owners at the expense of policies that put people in homes at rates they can afford.

His plan includes a return in a big way to home renovation credits.

That’s where he said Tories can steal from his plan and use it at their own will to everyone’s green advantage.

Schreiner said the Greens are not just electric cars, buses and trains.”

The NDP says it’s the Greens who have stolen from their playbook.

A spokesperson said they released Ontario’s strongest and most comprehensive housing plan in the province’s history several months ago.

“We were pleased to see Mr. Schreiner get on board with many of the commitments from that plan. We are working hard to form government in 2022, and hope that all parties will support the housing plan we’ve laid out — because it will help people buy their first home, help make a home more affordable for renters, and more.”

In Woodstock Wednesday, leader Andrea Horwath, said she is committed to launching one of the world’s largest building retrofit programs — a program which will create about 100,000 jobs, add roughly $15.2 billion to Ontario’s economy, and save people money every month.
“The climate crisis is the greatest threat our world faces, but with how we respond to that crisis, we can create an incredible opportunity,” said Horwath. “Tackling the climate emergency is an opportunity to create skilled, well-paying, jobs — lifelong careers for people. With the NDP’s building retrofit program alone, we’ll create 100,000 permanent jobs by 2030, and get Ontario on track to be net zero by 2050.

In a Q&A with by-invitation-only guests Schreiner and Richter said the party has put on hold its previously announced plans to “integrate” school boards.

Richter, the party’s education critic, said the timing is not right now with so many other priorities.

Two young women question Mike Schreiner and Matt Richter about Green party issues in Gravenhurst.


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