“This is the party that truly respects and understands the people of my riding, my community, and our province. This is the party of the future,” Simard told reporters at Queen’s Park Thursday afternoon.
“I want to be part of the renewal process as the party rebuilds, modernizes and prepares for the years and generations to come. We’re building a party that will offer the people of Ontario a clear alternative to this government at the next election.”
Simard, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, left the Ontario PC caucus in November 2018 after she publicly denounced the government’s plans to eliminate a planned French-language university and the independent office of the French-language services commissioner.
The government has since backtracked on some of its plans, proposing in September to build a French-language university in the province. It did, however, merge the French-language services commissioner into the Ontario Ombudsman’s office.
Simard sat as an independent MPP since that time. She said she used her time to reflect on what she wanted to do next.
When asked about constituents who voted for her because she was a member of the Ontario PC Party and ran under the party platform, Simard said there was a shift in the party’s direction by Ford compared to when she first signed on as a candidate.
“We gave Mr. Ford the benefit of the doubt. We really didn’t know him … he came two months or so before the election,” she said.
ROUND UP: Ontario Liberal Party leadership race
“It’s a completely different party and I feel that the support, what I’m hearing locally, is it’s truly not what they signed up for.”
Simard said she intends to “play a role” in the upcoming Liberal leadership race, adding she met with some of the candidates. However, she didn’t announce her preferred choice for the leadership.
Interim Ontario Liberal Party Leader John Fraser praised Simard’s stance on Francophone rights.
“She stood up when it would have been easy not to. Any day of the week, that’s the kind of member Ontario Liberals want and we’re proud to have her here,” he said.
Fraser was asked about reports some members of the local Liberal riding association were upset with Simard becoming the Liberal MPP for the area. He said he had conversations with members of the association and that he made it known for a year that Simard would be welcomed into the party.
“When you go through an election campaign and your competitor comes to your side, it takes a while to heal those things and that’s what we have to take the time to do. Amanda has taken the time to make the decision and she’s going to have to take the time to heal those wounds,” Fraser said.
He added that under Ontario Liberal Party rules, Simard would not have to face a party nomination contest going into the next provincial election.
– With files from the Canadian Press