Andrew Scheer says he has "expressed his concerns" to Ontario's premier about the cancellation of a planned French-language university — but he has not asked Doug Ford to reverse the decision.
The federal Conservative leader told a news conference on Sunday that be brought up the issue with Ford at this weekend's Progressive Conservative convention in Toronto, but that ultimately the decision is the premier's to make.
"It's up to Mr. Ford to manage those types of things," Scheer said. "I told him as prime minister in 2019 I would absolutely work with premiers across the country to ensure that French-language services are not affected by any kinds of changes."
Ford's government announced it would scrap plans for the university on Thursday in its first fiscal update since taking office over the summer. The government did not immediately say how much money the move would save.
Plans for the school were announced by the previous Liberal government in 2017. It would have been the first French-only university in the province, which is home to 600,000 francophones, and was set to be located in southwestern Ontario.
It would have been governed "by and for francophones."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Ford's move at a news conference in Papua New Guinea on Sunday as he closed out an international summit, saying he was "deeply disappointed" by it.
"The protection of official language minorities across our country, the protection of the French language across our country is something that's extremely important to me and my government," he said.
Trudeau also noted that Melanie Joly, the federal government's minister of official languages, had requested a meeting with the Ontario government. Joly also lambasted Ford's decision, first in the Toronto Star and then on Twitter.
"Scheer and Ford’s Conservatives should know that Francophones cannot and will not be shortchanged," she tweeted Saturday night.
Scheer, who will have to fight for francophone votes in the polls next year, insisted that if his party forms government he would not make similar decisions.
"My support for the official languages is unwavering," Scheer said, adding that his position on francophone issues has been both "clear and strong."
He suggested the Liberals were trying to politicize something that had nothing to do with him.
"People in the next federal election will be voting on federal issues, and people in provincial elections are voting on provincial issues," he said.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press