QUEEN’S PARK—NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath and the NDP MPPs joined parents and families to take questions about Doug Ford’s callous cuts to autism supports to Queen’s Park Tuesday.
Horwath, joined by families across Ontario, called for the Conservative minister responsible for the cuts, Lisa MacLeod, to be removed from cabinet after making a desperate situation so much worse for families of children living with autism — Ford and MacLeod refused, defending their heartless and short-sighted move.
“Families are desperate. They’re facing deep cuts to funding and services that help their kids reach their full potential,” said Horwath. “For thousands more that have languished on waiting lists, Conservative cuts mean their children will never get the support and resources that they have waited so long for. Rather than listening to and supporting these families, Minister MacLeod has doubled down on these cuts and threatened service providers that do not fall into line. People deserve so much more from their government.”
Earlier this month, the Conservatives announced an overhaul of the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) that included capping funding for children under six at just $20,000 and imposing a lifetime funding limit of just $140,000 until a child turns 18. Families with high needs children can spend up to $70,000 annually for intensive behavioral therapies.
NDP Children and Youth critic Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) said MacLeod should resign for hurting the children she’s supposed to be caring for, while NDP MPP Rima Berns-McGown (Beaches-East York) raised concerns from Toronto families during question period Tuesday.
“Michele and her five-year-old son Elliot are on the waitlist for autism services. The family has cashed in their RRSPs and borrowed to afford Elliot’s nine hours per week of ABA therapy – therapy that has been transformative for him. Michele said her family would rather wait and then receive appropriate funding than have to make do with the pittance that the new program would give them,” said Berns-McGown.
“Kristen’s family spends $1,000 a week on their son Ryan, who has severe autism and requires four hours per day of behavior therapy. The family burned through their line of credit before Ryan received funds from the OAP. That therapy has changed his life, enabling him to communicate and develop critical social skills. Ryan’s family has funding until June – after which everything, including his development, will go on pause. Their funding under the new program is so little as to be useless.”
“Why is this government digging in and continuing to move forward with a one-size-fits-all approach, against all evidence and the advice of parents and service providers that makes life worse for children with autism and their families?” asked Berns-McGown.