With the federal election over, Ontario’s attention now turns to the provincial election slated for nine months. The circumstances seem favorable for Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party: Ontarians almost never elect the same party at the provincial and federal levels. A conjecture that does not however benefit the some 620,000 Francophones in the province, according to experts.
Premier Doug Ford’s popularity is staggering. In the early months of the pandemic, there was almost unanimous support for the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, but between June 2020 and 2021, his approval rating dropped by 20%, to 40%. It will now try to keep its 70 seats at Queen’s Park.
If Doug Ford wishes to remain in power, he will seek to “limit the damage”, thinks Aurélie Lacassagne, former professor of political science at Laurentian University. Nothing that can help Franco-Ontarians, she assesses: “Having a conciliatory policy vis-à-vis Franco-Ontarians is a very good way to lose the support of the anti-Francophone fringe of its community. electorate. “
Adopting guidelines for Francophones in Ontario will not help it satisfy its voters or win new ones, says Mme Lacassagne.
[Pour Doug Ford], having a conciliatory policy vis-à-vis Franco-Ontarians is a very good way to lose the support of the anti-Francophone fringe of your electorate.
The relationship between Franco-Ontarians and Progressive Conservatives is “more difficult historically”, also agrees Alanna Clark, a former member of the team of the Minister of Francophone Affairs, Caroline Mulroney.
Twenty years before abolishing the French language services commissioner and attempting to drop the project for a francophone university in Toronto, a Progressive Conservative government also announced the closure of Montfort Hospital, the only francophone teaching hospital in the region. province.
Franco-Ontarians therefore tend to vote for the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NPD) at the provincial level. However, these two parties are far from being in great shape a few months before the elections. Unless there is a change by June 2022, the NDP will still be led by Andrea Horwath, party leader since 2009, to whom “Ontarians have already said ‘no’ on a few occasions,” notes Ian Roberge, campus political scientist. Glendon of York University. “And the slope is steep for the Liberals,” adds the professor: the party lost 48 seats in the Ontario election of 2018.
On the other hand, a new Franco-Ontarian MP joined the Liberal caucus in January 2020: Amanda Simard, who had slammed the door in the face of the Progressive Conservatives two years earlier, in the wake of cuts to services in French. His predominantly bilingual riding in Eastern Ontario, Glengarry – Prescott – Russell, will be in the crosshairs of his former party, says Alanna Clark. The constituency had not been blue for almost twenty years before the defector’s election in 2018.
According to Ian Roberge, we should not expect to see the Prime Minister engage before the election in hot issues of the Francophonie, such as that of the transformation of the University of Sudbury – a small university that was part of Laurentian until the summer – in establishment by and for francophones.
“My instinct, without any proof, is that the government does not want another French-speaking university,” writes the professor by email. There are already two in the province: the University of French Ontario [UOF], which the government finally supported, and the Université de Hearst.
But the Prime Minister will be cautious in the coming months and avoid turning his back on Franco-Ontarians as he did in 2018, when he canceled the UOF project and abolished the Office of the French Language Commissioner. of Ontario, says former Liberal Minister Nathalie Des Rosiers.
The moment of a few weeks, the cause of Franco-Ontarians made headlines in Ontario and Quebec : the Prime Minister Francois Legault had even asked his counterpart to reconsider his decision. “They got burned with the UOF a few years ago and they probably don’t want to get caught again,” says Ian Roberge.
Franco-Ontarians are, however, awaiting news of other issues, such as the reform of the French Language Services Act. Minister Caroline Mulroney has promised to update this law, virtually unchanged since it was passed in 1989, before her term ends. His office says it is on schedule to get there, despite the delays caused by the pandemic. Caroline Mulroney will want to show Franco-Ontarians the work she did on the file during the election, thinks Alanna Clark.
There is already a consensus between the parties with regard to certain aspects of the law, thinks Nathalie Des Rosiers, such as the need to recognize that all of Ontario has duties towards the Francophone community. Organizations are asking the government to eliminate the system of “designated regions”, specific areas where government services are offered in French. The minister will be able “to protect these gains without disturbing her colleagues too much”, says Nathalie Des Rosiers. After all, Franco-Ontarians are not the target audience for Progressive Conservatives, says Mr.me Roses.
This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.