MacLeod Concerned for Personal Safety

Protesters hoping to get the ear of Ontario's social services minister at a protest on Thursday are out of luck.

Lisa MacLeod says she will not be attending the protest because she has received threats.

Parents of children with autism will be on the lawn of the legislature protesting a new program unveiled last month by MacLeod that they say will leave kids without access to the level of treatment they need.

While she didn't detail the nature of the threats, MacLeod says the tone of the debate has given her concerns about her personal safety.

The Financial Accountability Office also said Wednesday that it will investigate the budget for the autism program, after the Liberals raised concerns about the government's claims.

MacLeod has said the Progressive Conservative government increased the autism program budget to $321-million from $256-million, but the Liberals, who were previously in power, say their government had also budgeted the larger amount.

The new autism program gives families up to 140-thousand dollars to pay for treatment -- a maximum available only to the lowest income families whose child is in treatment from ages two to 18

Meanwhile, Ontario school principals say their staff lacks the necessary medical and professional training to deal with autistic children who could be spending more time in classrooms due to recent changes to government funding for therapy.

In a joint letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, three associations representing principals at Ontario's English, Catholic and French boards, say the changes announced last month will mean many students will be spending less time in therapy with trained professionals.

The groups said that if the necessary resources aren't made available to schools to trains staff and accommodate the students' needs by April 1st, the government should delay the program changes.


— With files from The Canadian Press