Rebel Progressive Conservative MPP Amanda Simard says she is being muzzled by her own party.
Simard (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), who has publicly criticized the Tories for scrapping the independent French-language watchdog and cancelling a new francophone university, was told Wednesday she would not be given a speaking slot for debate on a non-binding NDP motion protecting French services.
“I asked to speak on the motion today and the list was conveniently full, so there’s so much interest that there’s no space for me,” said the lone francophone Tory MPP.
“The people in charge of lining up the speakers told me that the list was full,” she said, noting the Liberals may try to help her by sharing their debate time.
“But I will try to speak.”
“She knows how this works. She’s been around for five or six months now and she knows how we work our speaking lists,” said Smith, adding Simard “can do whatever she wants.”
“She hasn’t really communicated that much. She hasn’t really been communicating what her wishes are and what her wants are,” he said.
“There’s been very little communication right now so I’m not exactly sure where Ms. Simard is going with all this. We’d love to talk to her. The door is always open.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who is tabling the motion, said it was “shocking” that Simard wouldn’t be allowed to speak.
“It’s absolutely disrespectful that the only francophone in the Conservative caucus is not allowed to speak on this important issue,” said Horwath.
“Once again, this government is showing a complete disrespect for Franco-Ontarians,” she said.
Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier) was frustrated after Conservative MPPs refused to allow her time to speak on the NDP motion.
“It certainly is shutting down and silencing the voices of Franco-Ontarians on an issue that is close to our heart,” Des Rosiers told reporters, saying the government is compounding its problems by limiting debate.
“If they don’t hear us, they’ll continue to make mistakes on Franco-Ontarian issues.”
Smith said the Liberals didn’t win enough seats for official party status in the legislature, which would have guaranteed speaking time.
The Grits have seven MPPs, one shy of official standing in the house, though the Tories are soon raising the threshold from eight to 12.
As the Star first revealed last week, there have been discussions with Simard about crossing the floor to join the Liberals.
Mulroney, for her part, said she has not spoken to her parliamentary assistant for days.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie