Glengarry-Prescott and Russell Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Amanda Simard announced on Thursday afternoon that she is joining the Ontario Liberal Party.

The announcement was made by Simard with Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser at the legislature in Toronto.

Simard was elected as a Progressive Conservative (PC) in June 2018 but left the PC caucus in November of that year in protest of changes and cuts to French-language government services made by Premier Doug Ford’s administration.

In an interview on Friday, she said that she was transparent from the time that she left the PC party that the Liberal party aligned with her values.  However, she wanted to take time to reflect on exactly where her political home in the legislature should be.  During the past year, she worked with other Liberal MPP’s and said she got a better understanding of the party and its culture.

Simard describes herself as a centrist with fiscally responsible, but socially progressive political values.  She thinks social conservatives have taken over the PC’s and that Premier Doug Ford’s government has no plans for education and climate change.

“It’s not me that changed, it’s that party,” Simard said.

The new Liberal MPP plans to participate in the party’s leadership convention which takes place in March and help with upcoming by-election campaigns in the Ottawa area.

“I made the move now because I want to be part of the renewal process,” Simard said.

As an MPP, Simard is automatically an ex-officio delegate who gets to vote at the convention.  However, she has not yet endorsed any of the six candidates seeking the leadership, which will be decided at a convention in Mississauga on March 6 and 7.  Simard said she is impressed with all of them and will work happily with whoever wins.

With the addition of Simard, there are now six MPP’s in the Liberal caucus.  The minimum number of seats required for official party status in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is 12 seats.  The number had been eight, but it was increased to 12 seats by the PC government.

Even though the Ontario Liberals lost the last election, Simard believes the party has support among Ontario residents.  “On the ground, the Liberal brand is alive and well,” she said.

Riding association rejects

Even though Simard is now a Liberal MPP, the Glengarry-Prescott and Russell Provincial Liberal Association (GPRPLA) is not impressed.

In a news release published on Saturday, the association stated it found out Simard had joined the Liberal caucus through a press release and was not notified separately.  The 12-member association executive unanimously rejected Simard’s appointment to the caucus.

Jean Marc-Lalonde, who served as the Liberal MPP for the district from 1995 to 2011 and is a member of the GPRPLA executive, stated that while the party is rebuilding, it is important to listen to all party members, especially in rural areas.  He said that the unilateral appointment of Simard by the party does not support that need.

“We particularly deplore the fact that this decision was made in Toronto by senior Ontario Liberal Party officials, without any local consultation or even notice to the GPRPLA,” said Lalonde.

He said that the association expects the next party leader to commit to an open nomination process for the local candidate in the 2022 provincial election, rather than simply appointing Simard to the position.