Rookie legislator leaves Tory caucus over decisions affecting francophones

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TORONTO — 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 in parliament as an independent.

The rookie legislator, who represents a largely Franco-Ontarian riding, 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 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 the moves would not “contribute in any meaningful way” to the provincial belt-tightening.

The Canadian Press