By Kate Belmore
GreenPAC endorsed Mike Schreiner in the 2018 Ontario election because of his lifelong commitment to the environment. Mike was one of five MPPs (from all parties) our supporters helped elect in Ontario. One year later, we’re sitting down with Mike to talk about his journey to politics and what he’s been up to since his election.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Congratulations on making history last year by becoming the first Green MPP in Ontario. Tell me a little bit about your journey to politics.
Mike: It actually started when I was very young, growing up on my family’s farm. I remember driving around on a tractor and out of sheer boredom I would pretend to give political speeches. Years later, after a long career in promoting Ontario farmers and being a champion for local food, I saw the Green Party emerging and felt inspired to engage in electoral politics. I volunteered for the Green Party, I ran in a by-election for the Green Party, and then ultimately people talked me into becoming leader.
Since being elected, you’ve introduced Bill 71 to protect water, which received unanimous support from all parties in the second reading vote. What’s your secret to getting parties to work together to support environmental legislation?
Mike: We deliberately designed a bill that would appeal to everyone in the legislature. It’s modelled after past Conservative legislation (the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act), which we thought would appeal to Conservative MPPs. We thought NDP and Liberal members would also be on board because it was about water protection. And I spent a lot of time reaching out to members of all parties, telling them how this legislation reflected their values and how it was good for Ontarians. The fact that members from all three parties spoke up to support the bill – and that it received unanimous support – is a testament to how important protecting water is to all members of the legislature.
You mentioned that you reached out to members of all parties, have you had the chance to work with other GreenPAC-endorsed MPPs?
Mike: Yes, I’ve worked with all of them. To gain support for Bill 71 I reached out specifically to Minster Jones, partly because the legislation I was putting forward protected water in her riding as well as mine, but also because I knew she was endorsed by GreenPAC. Nathalie Des Rosiers and I are seatmates and we talk every day about environmental issues and climate action. And I’m always reaching out to MPP Tabuns and Bell about a number of environmental issues, whether it’s about climate change, water protection, or land preservation. I reach out to GreenPAC-endorsed MPPs when I want to work across party lines to put forward good legislation and good ideas.
This cross-partisan push for stronger environmental legislation like Bill 71, that’s what we hope will keep happening. On our side, what can we do to support your efforts at Queen’s Park?
You had a reception recently that brought together MPPs from all parties and people from a variety of environmental backgrounds. We need more of these conversations to happen. We need events and meetings where members of all four parties talk about how we can work together to champion environmental issues and build a set of values at Queen’s Park.