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A Progressive Conservative MPP who broke ranks with her government over changes to French-language services in Ontario is calling on Premier Doug Ford to reverse course while acknowledging she has “pushed the limits” by speaking out against her own party.

Amanda Simard, the only franco-Ontarian in Mr. Ford’s caucus, returned to Queen’s Park for the first time on Tuesday since criticizing her government’s decision to cancel plans for a francophone university and cut the office of the French-language watchdog and merge it with the provincial Ombudsman. During Question Period, Ms. Simard didn’t applaud or give standing ovations to government ministers – as her caucus colleagues did – but applauded a question about French services from the NDP.

Ms. Simard’s public criticisms sparked talk in Tory circles, first reported in the Toronto Star, that she may be defecting to the Liberals, although interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said Tuesday he hasn’t spoken to her about switching parties. Ms. Simard told reporters she remains a member of the PC caucus for now, but added that her focus is on representing her constituents.

“I’m asking the Premier and the government to reverse their decisions. And so I’m just doing what I was elected to do,” Ms. Simard told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Ms. Simard spoke out about the French-language changes, announced in the government’s fall fiscal update earlier this month, on social media and during a Sunday appearance on the popular Quebec TV show, Tout le Monde en Parle. She also held a public meeting in her Ottawa-area riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, a district that is 70-per-cent francophone and that has traditionally elected Liberals.

“People were very upset, and they were concerned, and so I’m very happy that I listened to them, and I’m bringing their message to Queen’s Park this week. And so we’re really going to try to get this done this week,” she said.

When asked if she fears repercussions for speaking out, Ms. Simard said: “I do think that I pushed the limits,” but added, “I don’t think that I should worry about that when I’m just trying to do my job.”

Ms. Simard also spoke with government House Leader Todd Smith after Question Period on Tuesday. Mr. Smith said the two had a “good conversation,” but didn’t elaborate. “Not everybody agrees all the time,” he said. When asked if Ms. Simard is thinking about crossing the floor, Mr. Smith replied: “No.”

Ms. Simard told reporters that she supports her government’s plan and “general direction,” but doesn’t agree with the two measures affecting francophones in the province. She said she wasn’t consulted about the changes.

Following significant outcry from the franco-Ontarian community, the PC government retreated somewhat last Friday by announcing it would amend its fiscal bill to create a French-language services commissioner position under the auspices of the Ombudsman’s office. Mr. Ford also officially installed Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney as the Minister of Francophone Affairs, and pledged to hire a senior policy adviser for francophone affairs. But plans for a francophone university, which Mr. Ford had promised to keep during the election campaign, were not resurrected.

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