November 29, 2018
November 29, 2018 2:07 PM EST
Tory MPP Amanda Simard addressed spoke to media at St. Isidore Recreation Centre about the proposed cuts to francophone institutions, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. (Ashley Fraser/Postmedia)
A Progressive Conservative legislator who publicly denounced Ontario’s decision to eliminate the independent office of the French-language services commissioner and a planned French-language university has left the Tory caucus.
In a letter to the Speaker of the legislature, Amanda Simard says her decision is effective immediately, and she will remain as an independent.
“I am no longer a member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus,” Simard wrote in the short letter sent Thursday. “I will continue to take my place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an Independent.”
The rookie legislator, who represents a largely Franco-Ontarian riding, broke ranks with Premier Doug Ford’s government over the two controversial decisions affecting about 600,000 francophones in the province.
Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, left, looks on as Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to media following his meeting with Quebec Premier Francois Legault at Queens Park in Toronto on Nov. 19, 2018. (The Canadian Press)
Simard said Wednesday that she was not satisfied by the government’s announcement late last week that it would create a commissioner position within the office of the provincial ombudsman, establish a Ministry of Francophone Affairs, and hire a senior policy adviser on francophone affairs in the premier’s office.
She said the “partial backtracking” was not enough.
Ford has said the measures regarding the commissioner and the university announced in the fall economic statement were necessary to bring down the province’s deficit, although he has not said how much would be saved.
He defended the moves again in the legislature Thursday, saying he had spoken to hundreds of Franco-Ontarians in the last few weeks and offered some concessions after hearing their concerns.
“They realize that our province was left in a bankruptcy state,” he said. “They realize they were being used as pawns, and that’s shameful to use Franco-Ontarians as pawns during the election.”
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Simard argued Wednesday that the government’s moves would not “contribute in any meaningful way” to the provincial belt-tightening.
Some opposition legislators praised Simard’s courage in standing up for her constituents.
“This young MPP has been through a very, very hard time. It took a lot of courage for her to stand up yesterday in the legislature, it’s taken a lot of courage for her to leave what is her political family and my heart goes out to her,” said Liberal legislator and former premier Kathleen Wynne.
“That situation is one that the government has brought upon itself because I don’t think anyone, including this young MPP Amanda Simard, expected that the government would declare war on the francophone population in Ontario.”
Asked whether the Liberals would try to recruit Simard, Wynne said neither she nor her colleagues have had that conversation with the newly independent legislator, but added they are open to those who want to work with them.
The Assemblee de la francophonie de l’Ontario, an organization representing Franco-Ontarians, said it respects Simard’s decision to sever ties with the government.
“Ms. Simard is a principled person who has a right to manage her political future. We thank her for being a friend of Ontario’s francophone community,” the group said on Twitter.
Simard, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, served as a city councillor in the community of Russell before joining the Tory roster under then-leader Patrick Brown. She holds a law degree from the University of Ottawa and previously worked on Parliament Hill as a policy adviser.
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