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3 rallies planned Friday to protest changes to Ontario autism program

Last Updated Feb 15, 2019 at 11:02 am EDT

Three separate rallies against the province’s new autism funding model will be held across the province on Friday.

Protesters will gather outside PC constituency offices in Milton, Mississauga, and Kitchener.

Advocates say while the new funding model may cut down wait times, it would result in most parents obtaining only a fraction of previous funding.

Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod announced the funding change last week, saying it would ensure that 23,000 kids currently on the wait list will get treatment.

The funding is dependent on age, with families receiving a maximum of $140,000 for a child in treatment from the ages of two to 18, but advocates say intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 per year.

MacLeod came under fire this week after telling the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysts that it would be a long four years for them if they did not publicly support the changes. She apologized for the remarks late Thursday night after Premier Doug Ford was peppered with questions about the remark at a press event.

Ford said he wouldn’t be asking MacLeod to quit cabinet, calling her an “absolute all-star.”

“I would never ever — I want to repeat that — ever ask Lisa to resign. She’s done an incredible job and let’s just make sure it’s factual,” Ford said after an unrelated announcement.

The Milton rally started at 10 a.m., while the Mississauga and Kitchener demonstrations are expected to be held over the noon hour.

With files from The Canadian Press