How Aislinn Clancy turned Kitchener Centre green
Aislinn Clancy achieved this with the same principles used by Green MP Mike Morrice
Aislinn Clancy has turned Kitchener into the Greenest city in Canada.
She steamrolled over her opponents, winning Thursday’s provincial byelection with more than 11,300 votes, about 5,000 more than the second-place New Democratic Party. She got about as many votes as the Liberal, New Democrat and Conservative candidates combined.
Now, Kitchener Centre is the only urban area in Canada with a Green MP and a Green MPP. Clancy achieved this with the same principles used by Mike Morrice.
Morrice, Kitchener Centre’s Green MP, won in 2021 because he listened more and talked less, built a strong sense of community in the campaign office with hundreds of volunteers, raised a lot of money, and wore out a whole lot of shoe leather getting to know the voters.
Clancy did the same in 2023 — and added homemade pizza.
“The campaign was about more than getting someone elected,” said Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario Green Party and Guelph’s MPP.
“It was about building community.”
Schreiner went door to door or made calls for Clancy every day during the campaign. He said there was pizza every day for the volunteers, made by Clancy’s husband, Ryan Fobel.
A gesture like that tells volunteers they are part of a family.
Volunteers Shiva Subramanian and Ashwin Annamalai, who are members of Yes In My Backyard, a group advocating for more higherdensity housing, said they were thrilled to be part of the campaign.
“I’m excited to see what Aislinn does,” Subramanian said. “She brings a lot of compassion and caring.”
Another volunteer, Scott Al
brecht, said that sense of community was a key part of the reason he volunteered for both Clancy and Morrice.
When he started working for Morrice, he noticed he was always greeted warmly when he arrived, and there was always something meaningful for him to do.
And when he was finished canvassing, asking voters what they cared about, he had the sense that “I just spent three hours feeling like I made a difference.”
By contrast, when he canvassed for another party, it felt “mechanical.”
“People want positivity,” said Albrecht, who said Clancy’s campaign was like Morrice’s.
“People want change, and not because they want to vote against something.”
A school social worker who was elected a year ago to re- present Ward 10 on Kitchener council, Clancy had volunteered for Morrice’s campaign and distinguished herself as a good listener there, Morrice said. She attracted crucial sup- port — 400 volunteers, $180,000 raised, 2,200 lawn signs — and went to each home in the riding at least once, just as Morrice did.
Morrice said he is pleased Clancy will be able to join him and Schreiner in doing politics differently and focusing on what people in the riding want, instead of on “corrosive” partisanship.
How does doing politics differently look?
It means finding allies in other parties to get something done. Or doing what you and your constituents think is right, even if you’re the only person voting that way.
For example, “I was the only MPP to vote against Doug Ford’s licence sticker gimmick,” said Schreiner, referring to the refund of the sticker fee that Ford sent all vehicle owners last year.
Schreiner said it didn’t make sense to him to take away funds that were badly needed for housing and health care. And Ford’s move disproportionately benefited wealthy people who have vehicles, he said.
Thursday’s election held a few other lessons for the riding.
The Progressive Conservatives came in third behind Clancy and the New Democrats. In previous recent elections, they have come in second. This is further proof that Kitchener Centre has moved to the left of the province as a whole. And frankly, it’s a relief that our voters didn’t reward a candidate who refused to be questioned by media, didn’t show up at debates, and lives 150 kilometres away from the riding.
Meanwhile, Liberal Kelly Steiss’s fourth-place showing was a sign that a candidate without a party leader is in a tough position. The new leader is to be announced on Saturday. It also shows that the Ontario Liberals — who were thrown out by voters in 2018 after a 15-year tenure — have a long way to go before they’re relevant again.
For the New Democrats, Thursday’s election was very bad news. Party leader Marit Stiles had said it was very important to hold onto this riding and build support as part of the New Democrats’ plan to defeat Ford in 2026.
But despite Debbie Chapman being a very good candidate, and despite the New Democrats having far greater resources than the Green party, Chapman came in a distant second on Thursday. Did internal party discord about handling discussion of the war in the Middle East, which erupted early in the campaign, have something to do with that? Or did progressive voters just want to try something new?
Kitchener Centre is building a new way of doing politics, both federally and provincially. It’s a fitting development for this community, which is known for its spirit of innovation. It will be really interesting to watch what happens next.
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited