The only Green MP who isn’t Elizabeth May is ruling out a bid for the party’s federal leadership, turning his focus to the needs of his Kitchener Centre riding.
Mike Morrice, 37, emerged victorious on an election night that saw a sharp decline in Green Party support, resulting in the resignation of party leader Annamie Paul.
For Morrice, who battled a bout of cancer during his initial run in 2019, the victory is a “profound responsibility.” Morrice finished in second place in the 2019 federal election, garnering 26 per cent of the vote, while the Liberals’ Raj Saini reclaimed the seat he first won in 2015. Saini, who made headlines during the recent campaign for allegations of sexual harassment, dropped out of the race two weeks before election day. That helped give Morrice a path to victory, though he still had to overcome a tight race with NDP candidate Beisan Zubi.
Morrice found himself in the spotlight on election night. He was awake until about 4 a.m. watching the results — and back up by 6 a.m. for his first round of television and radio interviews.
Morrice to focus on housing, climate action
While Morrice and May’s Green Party make up less than one per cent of representation in the House of Commons, Morrice isn’t thinking of himself as one of two, but one of 338. He plans to work to influence federal decision-making with Green policies.
When he launched his campaign this time around, Morrice relied on the advice of Ontario Green leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner, who told him to ask questions from a place of curiosity. Don’t waste your efforts shaming other candidates to score political points, Schreiner counselled.
Morrice, who says he isn’t naive about the political system in Canada, believes hyper-partisanship is making it harder to achieve compromise among parties.
In the 2019 campaign, Morrice’s team managed to knock on nearly all of the 45,000 doors in Kitchener Centre. But in 2021 the campaign was much different, with public health guidelines limiting canvassing opportunities.
“Everything we heard in 2019 was only made worse more recently,” Morrice said, highlighting the growing unaffordability of safe, secure and affordable housing not just in his district or province, but across the country.
Morrice is focused on taking more ambitious action federally to combat the climate crisis. His and his party’s goal is ambitious: to cut emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2030.
What’s needed on Parliament Hill, Morrice says, is more listening to scientists, Indigenous leaders, and young people; to have more honest conversations about the kinds of solutions we need for meaningful change.
Housing is another big priority for Morrice. What he calls “housing unaffordability” in his Kitchener Centre riding extends from those who are unhoused or in housing precarity, to young people who can’t afford to move out and seniors living on a fixed income unable to pay exorbitant rent increases.
Morrice points to investments in co-operative housing and vacancy taxes as possible solutions.
Morrice respects Paul’s resignation
Shortly after Green Party leader Annamie Paul failed to secure a seat in Parliament, finishing a distant fourth in Toronto Centre, she announced she was stepping down. Morrice says he respects her decision.
“As the first Black Jewish leader elected to [lead] a federal party, I really appreciate how her presence on the national stage has inspired others to get involved,” Morrice said, noting Paul faced barriers on the campaign trail he never would have.
Paul, who called her time as Green Party leader the worst time in her life, made the decision to resign in the wake of the news that the party was launching a leadership review. In her resignation speech, Paul summarized her leadership:
“What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head and leave a lot of shards of glass that I was going to have to crawl over throughout my time as a leader, and when I arrived at (the leaders’ debate during the campaign), I had crawled over that glass, I was spitting up blood, but I was determined to be there.”
The infighting among the Greens continued over the weekend, as former leader Elizabeth May penned an op-ed for the Toronto Star slamming Paul’s tenure as leader. May said Paul might have believed the role of party leader was more like a that of a CEO in business than leader of a party which prides itself on its non-authoritarian appraoch to governance. Rather than representing the objectives of her party at-large, May wrote, Paul “controlled many key decisions in a non-transparent campaign working group.” Paul disputes many of the claims May made.
Morrice is the only Green MP who never served as party leader but he doesn’t plan to seek a promotion any time soon.
“I just feel it’s so important that my focus remains where it should be,” Morrice says, “which is being a respectful advocate on the priorities of my neighbors.”
Morrice, who grew up in Montreal, is an avid cyclist. He hopes to find a constituency office he can bike to, and a schedule that might allow him to squeeze in his usual Tuesday evening game of hockey. The balance, he explains, is necessary because politicians have to be at their best to better serve their constituents.