Toronto Coun. Doug Ford is firing back at politicians who have criticized his comments that a home which helps developmentally disabled youth in Etobicoke has “ruined” a neighbourhood.
"They can criticize all they want. They’re a bunch of armchair quarterbacks in my opinion," Ford told CBC News in a telephone interview on Sunday.
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A report by the Etobicoke Guardian has said that Ford organized a public meeting last Thursday, which centred on a facility run by the Griffin Centre, a non-profit, multi-service mental health agency.
According to that report, Ford said the facility, which the paper said is home to a handful of teens — including some with autism — should be relocated.
"You've ruined the community," Ford reportedly told the facility's staff.
"You can't destroy a community like this. People have worked 30 years for their home...My heart goes out to kids with autism. But no one told me they'd be leaving the house. If it comes down to it, I'll buy the house myself and resell it."
The councillor’s remarks were slammed by various politicians, including former federal Liberal leader Bob Rae, as well as mayoral contenders John Tory and Olivia Chow.
"This is the opposite of leadership on mental health. Doug Ford should be ashamed of himself — hurting not helping," Rae tweeted.
'What's their solution?'
Chow tweeted that "it's long past time the Fords showed everyone respect. Kids with autism deserve support not attacks from Doug Ford."
Tory released a statement saying the councillor’s comments "are deeply regrettable and from another age."
But Ford told CBC News that these critics are not offering any solutions.
"It’s easy to criticize, but what’s their solution?" he said.
Ford said local residents have a "long list" of issues with the facility, including noise complaints, concerns about the youth leaving the home without accompaniment and the frequent presence of police at the home.
"It’s just not a good scenario at all," Ford said.
Ford said he felt he had been misled on how the facility was going to operate.
"They said there was going to be a few autistic kids, people wouldn’t even notice anyone would be there. And that wasn't the case," said Ford.
A Griffin Centre spokesperson, Catia Valenti Mishaiel, told CBC News in an email that the organization was "disappointed" with Ford’s comments.
"We had several contacts with Mr. Ford prior to opening the residence and prior to the community meeting. We are shocked by his negative comments and lack of support," the spokesperson said.
On Sunday, Ford also said that he believed the root of the issues with the facility was the closure of a regional centre that had been shut down by the Liberal government.
Wynne, on the campaign trail Sunday, responded to Ford’s comments by pointing out that her government had $810 million set aside in her last budget for services for children and adults with developmental difficulties.
"Many of the people who would benefit from those services are people with autism," said Wynne.
The Liberal leader, who is in the midst of campaigning for the June 12 election, said that she was "very aware" of the regional centre that Ford referred to and that there had been "many discussions over the years" about it and its services.
But she quickly turned the conversation to support her government had intended to provide at the time the election was called.
"Had our budget passed, had the NDP and the Conservatives not decided to defeat our budget, we would already be implementing that budget and that $810 million would have begun to be spent," Wynne said, when speaking with reporters on Sunday.
"There has not been a government that has put as much focus and as much support in place for children with autism, right through to adults with autism."