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‘Think big! There is strength in numbers’ OPSEU’s president tells parents at rally about autism cuts

Ottawa – A strong message was delivered Friday to the doorstep of Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod: the Ford government must reverse course on its destructive program cuts.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, parents of children with autism and frontline professionals who work at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, joined a rally outside MacLeod’s constituency office. 

Thomas, OPSEU local 474 President Shawn Reid and Ottawa parent Nicole Taylor were invited inside to meet MacLeod’s constituency office staff who agreed to receive a written submission on how to undo the damage.

“This is a big win for the families,” said Thomas, who emerged from the meeting to boisterous applause. “Hopefully we’re on the road to finding a solution that will come from the people who know best: parents and frontline staff.”

Thomas says it’s now up to MacLeod to make good on her promise to consult with parents and frontline health professionals.

“We will be watching closely to make sure this so-called consultation doesn’t turn out to be an attempt to cool down the pressure in the media that the government is facing over this issue,” said Thomas. “So far the minister is more concerned with pleasing Premier Doug Ford and his backroom cronies than helping Ontario families.”

The rally followed MacLeod’s announcement on Thursday that the Ford government would extend funding for public autism services by six months. “The government is going to have do better than that,” Thomas said.

“Six months isn’t going to cut it,” Thomas said. “These treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars every year. The financial hardship they’ll have to endure by being pushed into private treatment programs is staggering.”

Thomas says there is a ray of light for the families of children with autism, but they have to keep up the pressure. “We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us to turn this government around, which is why we have to think big and continue to show solidarity, because there is strength in numbers and we’re all Together to Win.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931