Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown reads a story to 3-year-old Zoe Wilson and her mother Tanya at the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre, July 11, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

Brown Hits Liberals On Autism Funding

Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown hammered the Liberal government over its handling of funding for intensive therapy for children with autism.

At an election campaign-style stop at the Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas on Tuesday, Brown promised that if he is elected premier next year, he would make autism funding and services a priority. But he did not outline any specifics on how he would achieve that.

Brown also slammed the Wynne government over last year’s attempt to impose a controversial age limit for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy.

“Last spring, with 16,000 children with autism waiting for some form of treatment, the Liberals terminated the IBI treatment for those age five and above. IBI therapy is considered an effective and life changing treatment for many children. Thousands of Ontario families have waited for years for IBI treatment. But with one stroke of the pen the Liberals ripped away any hope they had,” said Brown.

The Liberals have since backed away from the age limit, introducing a new program for therapy funding in the province. The new autism funding program adds an additional $200-million to the $333-million the province previously committed over a five year period.

Brown claimed the Liberal’s decision to restore IBI therapy to all ages came only after intense pressure from the Ontario PCs.

“We listened and worked with parents, we fought day in and day out and I am very proud that we forced the government to do the right thing,” said Brown.

However, Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau maintains it was the government’s work with parents, support workers, and clinicians that led to the change.

“Patrick Brown has never done anything for children with autism or their families,” said Coteau in a written statement. “As an MP in the Harper government, he voted against a national strategy for autism that could have led to more co-ordinated service across the country. Now, he continues to mislead families and cause confusion. While Ontario is making the largest investment in autism services in the country, Patrick Brown is playing politics with families.”

A high-speed rail line that would link Toronto, London, and Windsor was among the other topics Brown touched on during his stop Tuesday. While he wouldn’t commit to the project if his party forms government next spring, he did cast doubts on the Liberals intentions to move forward with it.

“I do think it’s valuable, I do think it is a worthy goal and under this Liberal government it will never happen,” said Brown. “They are using it as a re-election tool, they are using it as a photo op not something that they actually have a plan to implement… when [Minister of Finance] Charles Sousa introduced their budget he mentioned all of their infrastructure projects for the next 14 or 15 years and this wasn’t even mentioned.”

In May, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the province was moving ahead with preliminary designs and a $15-million environmental assessment for high-speed rail. At that time she anticipated the Toronto to London corridor would be completed by 2025, while the London to Windsor line would be ready by 2031.

Brown visited London, Windsor, and Kingsville on Monday as part of a 20 riding tour. Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are also making campaign style stops across the province this summer, hoping to win over Ontarians ahead of the June 7, 2018 election.