Ontario PC legislator working to reverse premier’s moves on Francophone issues 

PC MPP Amanda Simard, second row right, is seen seated amongst fellow MPP's and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, as the legislature sits inside Queens Park in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — A member of Premier Doug Ford‘s caucus who criticized Ontario’s decision to cancel a planned French-language university and scrap the independent office of the French-language services commissioner says she’s still pushing the government to reverse course on the moves.

Amanda Simard, who represents the largely Franco-Ontarian riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell in eastern Ontario, said Tuesday that she continues to support the Progressive Conservative government’s general direction but not its decisions on those two issues.

READ MORE: Ontario government announces new French commissioner job amid outcry over cuts

Simard broke ranks with her party last week by publicly criticizing the university cancellation and the consolidation of the province’s French-language services commissioner with the ombudsman’s office.

Simard says she was not consulted on either decision before they were announced in Ontario’s fall economic update last week.

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‘Deeply disappointing’: Singh on Ford canceling French University – Nov 22, 2018

The decisions have drawn criticism from across the country, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

Simard acknowledged that by speaking out, she has “pushed the limits” when it comes to her relationship with her own party, but she said her constituents were upset by the government’s moves.

READ MORE: Amanda Simard, Ontario PC MPP, speaks out against Doug Ford government’s French services cuts

“I’m just doing what I was elected to do and so right now I support our plan in general,” she said. “It’s just those two measures I don’t agree with.”

Simard estimated that her riding is 70 per cent Franco-Ontarian and for that reason she should have been consulted before the government made the changes.

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READ MORE: Franco Ontarians say legal challenge possible in fight against government cuts

“Of course, I’ve been pretty vocal that I didn’t appreciate that I didn’t know about those two decisions before the fall economic update,” she said. “So I feel there’s a lot of work to be done right now.”

Both Ford and the minister responsible for francophone affairs, Caroline Mulroney, have said the measures announced last week were necessary to bring down the province’s deficit, although they did not say how much would be saved.

READ MORE: Quebec premier says he asked Doug Ford to reconsider cuts to French services

On Friday, the government said it was creating the position of French-Language Services Commissioner within the provincial ombudsman’s office, and seeking to turn the office of francophone affairs into a ministry. That came after it had said earlier in the week that it was transferring the commissioner’s mandate to Ontario’s ombudsman.

The government also said Ford’s office will hire a senior policy adviser on francophone affairs. No changes were announced in regard to the university.

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