Maverick Progressive Conservative MPP Amanda Simard is not backing down.
“I’m asking the premier and the government to reverse their decisions,” she said on her first day back at Queen’s Park after breaking ranks over cuts to French-language services.
But Simard has not yet decided whether she will defect to another party or sit as an independent in protest.
“Right now, I am doing what I was elected to do — which is representing my constituents,” she told reporters outside the legislative dining room, as her PC colleagues attended a caucus meeting.
“So I had to say something on two measures that I did not agree with,” she said, referring to the scrapping of an independent French-language watchdog and the cancellation of a new francophone university.
“I feel that when decisions are being made about francophone issues — and I have a riding that is 70 per cent francophone — that I should be consulted because I am the only Franco-Ontarian in the caucus,” she said.
“So, of course, I’ve been pretty vocal … that I didn’t know about those two decisions before the fall economic statement.”
Simard said while she supports the government’s plan “in general … it’s just those two measures I don’t agree with.”
The rookie MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell — which stretches to the Quebec border — initially posted her protest on Facebook, and on Sunday held a public meeting and appeared on a popular Quebec talk show.
At the meeting with about 300 constituents, “people were very upset and they were concerned, so I am very happy that I listened to them. And I am bringing their message to Queen’s Park this week and so we’re really going to try to get this done this week.”
Asked if she were worried about repercussions for speaking out, she said: “Right now, I don’t think that I should worry about that when I’m just trying to do my job.”
Simard remains parliamentary assistant to Francophone Affairs Minister Caroline Mulroney.
Mulroney, who has defended the government’s changes, told reporters she has “not discussed any of these matters” with Simard.
“I’m glad that she’s back,” she also said. “We have a lot of work to do … the more the merrier to do that.”
Government House Leader Todd Smith said he chatted with Simard after Tuesday’s question period and she is “absolutely” welcome to remain in the Tory caucus.
“She seems like she’s happy to be back,” Smith said before she met with reporters.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she will be watching to see if Simard supports an NDP motion Wednesday on the reinstatement of plans to build the university as well as reinstate the commissioner.
“I give her a lot of respect for standing up for the francophone community. I invite her to vote with us,” said Horwath.
During an NDP question on the issue, Simard clapped. She also sat on her hands when other Tories were giving ministers ovations after answering questions.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Simard has a big choice to make about her future.
“If people feel comfortable and we share the same values I’m open to talking to anybody. These are really important decisions in peoples’ lives. It’s a big change. It’s a bit like leaving your family,” he added. “You just don’t do these things overnight.”
Her defection to the seven-member Liberal caucus would be significant because the threshold for official party status in the legislature is eight MPPs.
As disclosed by the Star on Friday, the Tories are raising that bar to 12 MPPs because they fear several of their members may bolt.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy