Premier Doug Ford says he had no idea Cambridge MPP would vote against own party

Premier Doug Ford says he had no idea Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was planning to vote against her own party's bill to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the legislature. Karahalios was kicked out of the party Tuesday evening.

Even if caucus disagrees, 'at the end of the day, you come out united,' Ford says

Premier Doug Ford says he was unaware Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios had any problems with a government bill to extend or amend some COVID-19 emergency orders. Karahalios was kicked out of the party Tuesday evening after she voted against the bill. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford says he had no idea Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was going to vote against the Progressive Conservative's Bill 195.

The bill, which allows the provincial government to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the legislature, passed third reading Tuesday.

Karahalios called the legislation an "unnecessary overreach on our parliamentary democracy." Karahalios was kicked out of the Conservative party caucus Tuesday evening after voting against the bill.

Karahalios says she heard from constituents who didn't want her to vote in favour of the bill. 

"When you tell me I'm not able to vote on something you've taken away the voices of all of those individuals who voted [for me]," Karahalios told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo Tuesday night. 

On Wednesday, Ford called the legislation "critical" to protect people and said it is also "fully transparent."

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'Not a word'

Ford said he saw Karahalios two days last week during stops he made in Waterloo region and said she never indicated to him she had a problem with the bill.

"I get along great with her. I was with her for two days. Not a word was mentioned to me, which I find ironic," Ford said.

PC Government House Leader Paul Calandra said he also had no indication from Karahalios that she wanted to vote against the bill.

He said Bill 195 was similar to a budget bill, meaning all MPPs were expected to vote along party lines.

Karahalios told CBC News on Wednesday afternoon she had tried to speak to the premier, several times. She says the tours in Waterloo region were busy but during a tour on July 14 "when I was able to get a split second with him, I said, I need to have a phone call with you. It's quite urgent. He said, 'No problem, I'll call you tonight.' And I waited for that phone call," she said.

She says she also told Ford's staff she need to speak with him and also emailed her request, mentioning amendments she wanted to see in Bill 195. 

Karahalios said as the parliamentary assistant to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, who tabled the bill, she had hoped Ford would have made the time to talk to her. 

"I was hopeful that I would have had more of a say in this legislation," she said. "No discussion was had. There was no opportunity for me to have that face-to-face with him or even just a phone call."

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios is seen here speaking at a panel on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition in June 2019. She was ejected from the Progressive Conservative party after she voted against a PC bill on Tuesday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'You come out united'

The move to expel Karahalios was criticized by both the NDP and the Green Party of Ontario.

Gilles Bisson, the NDP's house leader, congratulated Karahalios on her "principled stand."

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said MPPs "should not be punished for thinking freely or representing the views of their constituents. This says a lot about how freedom of speech is received in the Ford government."

Ford said he's had heated conversations with members of PC caucus before and he has disagreed with people. He said if anyone has problems, every PC MPP has his phone number and they can call him.

But, he added, "at the end of the day, you come out united."

"You get into politics, you're part of a team, you move forward as a team and that's what we're doing," he said.

Calandra said he is ready if Karahalios wants to reach out, but said it wouldn't be his or Ford's decision to allow her back into the party.

"This is a decision that the full caucus will make. If Ms. Karahalios indicates at some point in time in the future that she would like to return to the Progressive Conservative caucus that is something that we would bring to the caucus and allow a vote from the full caucus on," Calandra said.

Karahalios says she while she gets along with her former PC colleagues, she's not sure she wants to return to the party just yet.

"I'm not there yet. I don't know if I'll be there or when I'll be there. I think there are some changes that need to be had," she said, adding she wants the party to allow MPPs to make up their own minds on how to vote more often.

"I campaigned on free votes. The only whipped vote would be the budget vote. And that hasn't occurred," she said. "If I'm to represent my constituents properly, which, I take my job extremely seriously, then I need to be able to vote the way that they want me to vote and the way that they need me to vote."

For the time-being Karahalios says she will sit as an independent.

With files from the Lorenda Reddekopp, Jackie Sharkey