Ottawa-area MPP leaves Tory caucus over decisions affecting francophones

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 the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, broke ranks with Premier Doug Ford's government over the two controversial decisions affecting about 600,000 francophones in the province.

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.

Simard argued Wednesday that the moves would not "contribute in any meaningful way" to the provincial belt-tightening.

The premier said he had listened to concerns about the changes and already offered some concessions.

Simard served as a city councillor in 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.