MP Amanda Simard leaves the PC caucus after being frustrated by cuts to French language services


Rookie MP Amanda Simard says she is leaving the PC Ontario caucus to sit as an independent just days after publicly denouncing her party’s cuts to French-language services.

Simard’s decision was announced in a letter sent to the Speaker of the House Thursday morning.

“I want to inform you that as of now, I am no longer a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus. I will continue to occupy my place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an independent, ”the letter read.

Ford government sources told CTV News Toronto that Simard left caucus before she was about to be kicked out.

At a caucus meeting on Thursday, sources said a number of PC MPs said Simard should leave caucus, citing his vote against the government’s Fall Economic Statement during its second reading in the Legislative Assembly.

Since the Fall Economic Statement is a budget bill that allocates spending, voting against means a vote of no confidence in the government, a hostile thing for a government member to do.

Sources said Premier Ford was “ready to listen” to MPPs’ concerns about Simard, but she herself left caucus before they could take action.

Simard, who represents the predominantly Franco-Ontarian riding of Glengarry-Prescott Russell, criticized the Ford government’s decision to abolish the independent office of the French Language Services Commissioner and a French-language university project.

In a backlash, the province later reversed its decision to eliminate the commissioner’s office, offering to hire a commissioner within the provincial ombudsman’s office. The government also promised to create a ministry of francophone affairs and to employ a senior policy adviser on francophone issues.

“The government’s proposals since this initial announcement represent one step forward but three steps back. If we make this kind of concession, there will be nothing left in a few years, ”Simard told the Legislative Assembly in French earlier this week.

“Franco-Ontarians are not asking for additional rights or services, we are asking that the existing protections and entities remain in place,” she continued, speaking in English.

The Prime Minister argues the cuts were necessary to reduce the deficit, but Ford did not say how much money would be saved. On Wednesday, Simard said the move would “not significantly contribute” to deficit reduction.

When iPolitics reporter Marieke Walsh asked Ford if Simard had warned him of his departure, the Prime Minister replied, “No.

“I’m just looking forward to a strong squad and a great squad that we have and we’re more united than we’ve ever been. Never, ”Ford said Thursday.

“We stay together. We are united. Solid. Solid. United.”

Later Thursday morning, Ford’s office issued a statement calling Simard’s departure “unfortunate.”

“We wish Amanda Simard the best of luck as she sits as an Independent. It is regrettable that she chose not to work in the government in the service of her constituents, ”the statement said.

“We are disappointed that she chose to vote against the Fall Economic Statement, which will help restore confidence and accountability in Ontario’s finances. carbon tax and helped open Ontario for business.

Acting Liberal Leader John Fraser applauded Simard for his “courage.”

“Mrs. Simard did something very courageous this morning. What she said was:” What my party is doing to my community, the Franco-Ontarians … is wrong. And it’s so wrong that I’m going to leave my family, my party, which is like my family, ”Fraser said.

“It takes a lot of courage. I know all of us on the opposition side, the Greens, the Liberals and the NDP welcome him to that side.

The NDP, meanwhile, continued to grill the Prime Minister on cuts in French.

“They are a founding people of this country,” MPP John Vantof said in the house. “It’s more than a broken promise.”

Ford upheld his party’s decision, saying his government “strengthens the role of the French language services commissioner under the ombudsman”.

“We have a fantastic new Minister of Francophone Affairs, a wonderful person, Caroline Mulroney. I couldn’t ask for a better representative, ”he added.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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