Ontario political leaders pledge changes to autism program

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Three of Ontario's major political parties are proposing changes to the province's autism program, while criticizing a lack of help for families under the Progressive Conservative government.

The Tories tried to roll out a new autism program in 2019, with the aim of clearing the wait list, but scrapped it after it sparked outrage among parents because it was age-based rather than needs-based and capped funding at amounts too small to provide meaningful treatment for many.

Their new program is designed to be needs-based and with a doubled budget of $600 million a year, but the roll-out has been delayed, leaving tens of thousands of children still waiting for core services.

The NDP say they would change the program to ensure there are no funding caps, including those based on age, and are pledging to boost the program's budget by an additional $125 million by 2024-25.

The Liberals also say they would remove any age-based determinants from the program and implement a direct billing option.

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says he will always support the autism community, and he also wants to look into additional supports for adults with autism.

The Greens say they would boost funding for the autism program and establish an ``ultimate wait time benchmark'' for diagnosis and access to core services.