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.
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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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.
“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.
“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.
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.