Doug Ford in a media scrum with journalistsDoug Ford is no superhero, and Ontario families who have been struggling for years to get appropriate treatment for their children living with autism are certainly not some imaginary rock.

Comments by Premier Doug Ford comparing children with autism to the fictional, strength-sapping kryptonite in the Superman comics, shows Ontario’s PC government is not only insensitive, but lacks any plan to put in place the public services that children with autism desperately need.

“Doug Ford is not Superman and his comments about children with autism being his kryptonite are an insult to all Ontarians,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “The real superheroes in this situation are the parents and activists pushing his government for more public services, the community and education workers who are doing their best to provide those services in what is currently a woefully underfunded system and the children with autism struggling to get the support they need to succeed.”

Ford’s comments were made after journalists pressed the Premier on reports that Lisa MacLeod, his Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, had threatened the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis if they did not support the PC Government’s controversial changes to Ontario’s Autism Program.

“The Ford government’s handling of services for children with autism is a disgrace,” said Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions and a former member of the Provincial Advisory Team for the Autism Pilot Project, “We have a Cabinet Minister bullying an important service provider, a Premier comparing children to fictional rocks and changes to the Ontario Autism Program that will mean even less publicly funded and publicly provided services that children with autism desperately need. The Premier needs to spare us the comic references and begin to listen to Ontario families”

Changes to Ontario’s Autism Program, announced by Minister MacLeod on February 7 have been widely criticized by parents, activist and labour organizations, like CUPE, which represents front-line workers providing services to children with autism in the community and in Ontario’s schools. CUPE Ontario has long advocated for regional, publicly-run centres to assess children with autism, needs-based funding for children with exceptionalities to ensure the necessary, public services in the community and proper funding to ensure a high-quality, inclusive and supportive education for all children.

“The recent changes to the Ontario Autism Program by the Ford government have continued the failed policy of the previous Liberal government,” said Hahn, “This PC government has done nothing to increase the funding for families, and has instead been promoting a direct-funding, privatized model of care for children with autism that has led to confusion and chaos,”

Premier Ford has been widely criticized for threatening the few public and not-for-profit services, including several calls for him to fire Minister MacLeod. Given today’s disgraceful comments, one can only expect that those calls to continue.