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Former Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe has been appointed deputy leader of the provincial Green party.
Saxe held the non-partisan watchdog role from 2015 to 2019, and was frequently critical of the Ford government's environmental policies until the Progressive Conservatives eliminated her position. On Friday, Canada's National Observer reported that she will run for the Ontario Greens in the downtown Toronto riding of University-Rosedale in the next provincial election.
“When it comes to solving the biggest environmental challenges we face, there is no one more competent than (Saxe),” said party leader Mike Schreiner in a press release Monday.
“Her decision to run as a Green reflects how effective our party has been since securing our first seat at Queen’s Park.”
Schreiner, who was elected as the MPP for Guelph in 2018, is currently the only Green with a seat in the Ontario legislature. Saxe is the first Green candidate to be announced for the next election, scheduled for 2022, but the party said Monday that it intends to run a full slate of candidates.
“Now is the time for more Green voices at Queen’s Park. Doug Ford’s tenure has been marked by a relentless attack on Ontario’s environment,” Saxe said in the press release.
“He replaced climate action with greenwashing and consistently puts profit before people and planet. I preferred to be non-partisan, but I cannot stand aside any longer.”
No party has officially nominated a candidate for University-Rosedale yet — Saxe is running for the nomination uncontested, with a vote to be held Nov. 30 — but the riding is currently held by Jessica Bell, the NDP transit critic. The Greens picked up 5.4 per cent of the vote in University-Rosedale in the 2018 election.
As environmental commissioner, Saxe wrote 17 reports analyzing successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments' policies on energy, climate and the environment. Her last report, published in late 2018, found that the Ford government was allowing an “astonishing amount of pollution” into Ontario water systems.
“It is unbelievable that in 2018, the government allows this much filth into our lakes and rivers,” she said at the time.
The Ford government passed legislation weeks later that reduced the environmental commissioner's powers and merged the office with that of the auditor general, doing away with the jobs of Saxe and five staffers. (Jerry V. DeMarco, an experienced environmental policy expert, performs the environmental commissioner role in the auditor general's office.)
Meet the new deputy leader of the @OntarioGreens. Dianne Saxe was Ontario's environmental commissioner from 2015 until 2019, when the Ford government eliminated her position. #onpoli
Saxe currently practises environmental law at her firm, Saxe Facts, and hosts a podcast called Green Economy Heroes. She's also the chair of Toronto city council’s climate advisory committee.
The Greens now have two co-deputy leaders. Abhijeet Manay, who sits on the board of Mississauga non-profit iREAM and ran for the party in 2018, was elected deputy leader in September of that year.