The new MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell has been given some extra responsibility. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has named Amanda Simard as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs. The actual minister is Caroline Mulroney, whose principal role in cabinet is Attorney General, a major responsibility as the top official in charge of administrating the province’s justice system.
When it comes to francophone affairs, Simard says, “I basically have to know the portfolio just as well as the minister.” Simard is a former Russell Township councillor who won the riding on June 7 for the Progressive Conservatives. Parliamentary Assistants, or PA’s as they’re commonly called around Queen’s Park, are MPPs who assist ministers on legislative and committee activities, act on behalf of the minister in the legislature when she/he is absent, work on special projects, and travel on the minister’s behalf to communities across the province.
The Ministry of Francophone Affairs acts as a liaison between the government and Ontario’s francophone residents, and their various cultural organizations. It also has a role in the administration of French-language institutions like the TFO public television station and school boards.
“It’s great for our francophone community,” Simard said about Caroline Mulroney’s role as minister responsible for francophone affairs. Mulroney, the daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, grew up in the mostly anglophone Montreal suburb of Westmount and is fully bilingual. She is a corporate lawyer by profession and was recruited by former Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown as the candidate for York Simcoe, near Toronto. Mulroney won the seat in the June 7 election after running in the race to replace Brown as leader.
Amanda Simard was born and raised in Russell Township and said she has been an active member of the francophone community her whole life.
“We want to make sure Franco-Ontarians get the same services as all Ontarians,” she said, emphasizing that the biggest need is ensuring Franco-Ontarians can access health care and justice services in French. Simard said she is reviewing the French Language Services Act, the law that requires provincially-regulated institutions to provide services in French in municipalities where 10 per cent or more of the population claims French as their first language. All of the municipalities in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell riding are in this category; the 2011 census figures show 64 per cent of United Counties of Prescott and Russell residents are francophone.
Simard said the Ford government will continue efforts started by the former Liberal government to encourage francophone immigration to Ontario and to establish a French-language university. As for local issues, she wants to work on ensuring unilingual senior citizens can access public services in French, and on future for College d’Alfred. Simard said she is currently spending a lot of time meeting with local mayors and community stakeholders to get a better understanding of issues and establish connections in communities across the riding.
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