QUEEN’S PARK—Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East and the former minister responsible for the autism file, released the following statement on changes to the Ontario Autism Program:
For over six months, parents had their lives thrown upside-down by Premier Doug Ford’s misguided and flawed changes to the Ontario Autism Program. Ford artificially froze the wait list to induce a sense of crisis, parents were attacked as ‘professional protestors’ and service providers were allegedly threatened with ‘four long years’ if they refused to support the flawed changes.
Now, at long last, the government appears to finally be reversing course, at least in part.
These changes will take months to implement, and the harms already done cannot simply be undone. For instance, hundreds of service providers have already lost their jobs. It will take time to restore the system, and I worry that children will continue to languish on waitlists as the damage from Ford’s flawed approach is rectified.
The government’s plan to put more resources into supporting children with autism in the school system is a step in the right direction, however that cannot be realized effectively until the government understands that their increases to class sizes and cuts to education funding are counterproductive to this goal. Their approach to education tells us that the government still doesn’t understand what is needed to make this program a success.
What is sadly still lacking is an apology from the Premier to Ontario’s autism community. The frustration, anxiety and hurt brought about by this government’s hostile and insensitive treatment of parents and children with autism over the past year will not be forgotten. Today’s retreat and reset by the Conservatives is a result of the commitment and perseverance of the autism community, and it is that community, not the government, that deserves the credit for these changes.”