News this week that Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Amanda Simard, who represents the heavily Francophone riding (66 percent of her Ottawa-east riding are comfortable in both official languages) of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, had resigned from the Tory caucus over cuts to Francophone services and would sit as an independent in the legislature hit the newswire like a thunderclap. Premier Ford scrambled to contain the damage and repeatedly reiterated that his party remains united and strong.
MPPs crossing the floor to sit as an independent, or even joining other parties in the legislature are nothing new, but usually the reasons tend to be somewhat more prosaic, such as the elevation to a seat on the governing cabinet or other “unoffered” inducement. But crossing from a seat on the government side, and taking the considerable loss of both input into the ruling party, the prestige of being the assistant to the Minister of Francophone Affairs, not to mention the financial hit that comes along with losing a position is far more unusual.
But we would suggest that the actions of this rookie MPP, coming on the heels of the urgings of numerous colleagues to swallow her objections and remain in the Progressive Conservative fold to fight from within give hope for the future of democracy in this country.
In an age (for ages) where most MPPs toe the party line come heck or high water to preserve a supposed influence or hold onto power and prestige no matter how their party’s actions impact their constituents, Ms. Simard is a breath of fresh air.
There is hope that the people we elect to government will act with courage and integrity in how they see the best interests of the people who elected them being put forward.
In the aftermath of Ms. Simard’s actions, Doug Ford’s “Government of the People” has backtracked on at least some of its announced cuts to Francophone services, so one might well consider that her sacrifice was not entirely in vain. Actions in government do have consequences and, despite the steady concentration of power in the premier’s office (and prime minister’s office in the case of the federal government), a determined back bencher can still influence the winds of change blowing through the halls of power for the better.
It will, of course, remain to be seen how her constituents themselves feel about her courageous act when they pass judgment in three and a half years from now.
Although anarchy and chaos are hardly virtues to be encouraged in government, one cannot help but think that the public weal would be well served if more MPPs were to have the courage and determination to stand up for what they believe.