Monday, April 16, 2007
Will Liberals Broken Autism Promise Come Back to Haunt Them?
The Supreme Court of Canada has handed the autism football back to Ontario Premier and Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty turning down the Deskin Wynberg appeal without reasons but now handing parents of autistic children two SCC defeats and making it clear that Canadian courts will not provide effective Charter equality rights to their children. There are many assumptions built into such reasoning but it is hard to reconcile any real notion of equality rights with a deference that allows political decision makers to do as they wish with respect to some of the most vulnerable members of society. In any event now, in Ontario, it is back to Dalton McGuinty.
Will Mr. McGuinty be haunted by his broken election pledge to provide treatment to autistic children past the age of 6? The Standard suggests that it is one more example of failed leadership on the part of the Ontario Premier:
"During the 2003 provincial election, families with autistic children were acutely aware of the government’s policy and for them it was a hot button issue in the weeks leading up to the vote.
In a nutshell, they were incensed with the Ernie Eves Progressive Conservatives and a government practice that cut off funding for IBI therapy when a child turned six.
As the argument went, it was discriminatory, a violation of these children’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As it was, the issue was very political. The Tories had to defend their record. The NDP and the Liberals lined up to attack it.
On the campaign trail, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty was dropping promises across the province, endearing himself and his party to Ontario voters.
One of those promises was to extend government support of IBI therapy for autistic children past the age of six.
This is what the parents of autistic children wanted to hear.
They started to put their support behind McGuinty. They talked to their families, neighbours and friends and encouraged votes for the Liberal party.
The Liberals won the election, and then reneged on the promise.
Not only did McGuinty fail to meet the pledge, his government has spent an untold amount of taxpayer money (the government has refused freedom of information requests for the amount) defending its autism policy against the lawsuit from angered parents feeling, quite rightly, betrayed.
Put this one in the file with the Liberals’ 2003 campaign promise not to raise taxes. It should also put to rest any questions about why recent polls have McGuinty trailing PC Leader John Tory by 10 points when questions about leadership are asked."
Of course the Liberals have promised to require schools to provide ABA trained assistance by next school year a promise which would appear to be impossible to keep. And Lawyer Mary Eberts who represented the families in the unsuccessful Deskin Wyneberg case said that the people providing the ABA will not be trained:
"It needs to be in schools," Eberts said, dismissing the province's ABA plan as "a wishy-washy approach that’s offered by people with no training."
Can a leader who backs out of a promise to do the right thing by autistic children be trusted to lead a province? If he will betray the weak and vulnerable who can trust him?