A PC political staffer has resigned over the Ford government’s autism overhaul, calling the changes a “huge disappointment” and saying his advice against age-based funding was not heeded.
“In light of today’s announcement, I told my minister I did not feel I could continue in my role as legislative assistant,” said Bruce McIntosh, who joined PC MPP Amy Fee’s political staff when the Ford government was elected last spring.
McIntosh, the father of two teenagers with autism, is the former president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a parent advocacy group that has been pushing for more support for families.
Fee (Kitchener South—Hespeler) is parliamentary assistant for Lisa MacLeod, minister of children, community and social services, and the mother of two children with autism.
Fee spoke about her own family’s experiences during a Toronto news conference Wednesday where MacLeod announced the revamp.
Under changes aimed at clearing a therapy wait list of 23,000 kids, parents will be given the power to choose what services they want — but families will face a lifetime limit of $140,000 per child and high-earners will no longer be eligible.
“This is just a huge disappointment,” McIntosh said after watching MacLeod and Fee’s announcement and tendering his resignation just moments before.
“It’s taking the same amount of money and spreading it more thinly.”
And for children with severe needs, “this would pay for two years of therapy — that’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculously small.”
He said the Ford government heard from parents, but didn’t listen to them.
“This was a lock from the outset,” he said of the Progressive Conservative government’s plans.
When asked if Fee agrees with the government’s direction, he said he would not break confidentiality.
However, he added, “I will simply say that this government has very good caucus discipline.”
On Twitter Wednesday, MacLeod’s chief of staff Tim Porter said he met with the autism coalition several times in the lead-up to the announcement. He said the changes satisfy 14 of 19 demands the advocates made “that would keep them from protesting.”
“As for McIntosh — he was informed he could resign in December,” Porter wrote.
Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy