Ex-PC MPP Amanda Simard joins Ontario Liberals

A former Progressive Conservative MPP who left caucus over the Ford government's handling of French-language issues is joining the Liberals.

Amanda Simard, who represents the riding of Glengarry-Prescot-Russell as an independent, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon. Liberal Interim Leader John Fraser joined her to speak to reporters at Queen's Park.

Simard left the PC party in late 2018 after publicly opposing the government's plan to scrap the French-language commissioner's office and cut funding for a planned French-language university.

While the PCs eventually backtracked on several decisions, Simard chose to split with the party.

Her announcement comes one day before the deadline to register to be a delegate at the Liberals' upcoming leadership convention.

"This is the party that truly respects and understands the people of my riding, my community, and our province," Simard said.

"This is the party of the future."

Simard was first nominated to run for the Progressive Conservatives under former leader Patrick Brown. After he resigned from the party's top job and Ford rose to the leadership, Simard said many things changed. She said she became increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of the Tory party and the government.

"When I ran as the PC candidate, we gave Mr. Ford the benefit of the doubt," Simard said. "We didn't really know him. It's a completely different party. It's truly not what [people] signed up for."

Simard said she intends to "play a role" at the March 7 convention, but did not elaborate further on which candidate she will back.

With Simard joining their ranks, the Liberals will have six seats in the legislature — still short of the 12 needed to achieve official party status.

She was the first non-Liberal MPP for the Eastern Ontario riding with a considerable francophone population.

The most recent census indicated that 66 per cent of the people in her riding are able to conduct a conversation in both official languages