Protestors rally against autism program cuts outside Ford's carbon tax announcement
As Premier Doug Ford railed against the federal carbon tax inside Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge Wednesday morning, a group of about 20 people rallied outside to protest recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Sharon Tees, a mother of two autistic children, was among the people who gathered on the corner of Saltsman Drive and Maple Grove Road.
"We're here protesting Ford's new OAP which isn't going to give anybody anything," Tees said.
"We've been on waitlist after waitlist ... I'm a single mom, I have to work full time to support my kids but my income is then going against me, so it's not fair. It's discriminating us on so many levels," she said.
Tina Mach has a six-year-old autistic son and works full-time as a nurse. She says with these new changes, she is planning to quit her job and become a full-time therapist at home for her son.
"I don't really want to do that because ... I really love my job. I want to be his mom, not his therapist," Mach said.
Neetu Mehan is a mother with an 11-year-old autistic son. She says he has been "thriving" because he was lucky enough to receive funding for therapy.
"I'm here because this is a human rights issue. These kids have every right to be learning in schools ... and most importantly, getting the therapy that they need at home," Mehan said.
Robin Purves-Smith is not a parent, but says he supports his friend's children.
"This is my first protest actually. I'm not usually one to be out protesting, but I feel pretty strongly that this is a bad policy change and it's a policy change that targets children," he said.
At the announcement, while answering questions from reporters, Amy Fee, the MPP for Kitchener South-Hespeler, said the recent changes to the program were made so "kids can get off the waitlist and get some help."
"We saw a waitlist with children who are five to six years old sitting on that waitlist, not knowing if they would ever be able to get off that waitlist before they turn 18 and get any funding if we did not do something," Fee said.
Fee said it's why Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod "decided to act and why she put this plan in place."