An Ottawa-area mom says her MPP expressed concerns about the government's autism program but said she can't be seen publicly disagreeing with her Progressive Conservative colleagues.
Lacey Corrigan, whose six-year-old son Carter has autism, told HuffPost Canada that she has twice met with Goldie Ghamari about the government's controversial new autism program.
The Richmond, Ont. mother-of-three brought videos of Carter in therapy to the second meeting to show Ghamari the profoundly positive effect applied behaviour analysis (ABA) has had on him.
"She stopped me. She said, 'You don't have to convince me on this issue. I am on your side,'" Corrigan said.
The PC government announced last month it would reorganize the province's autism funding program to get thousands of children off a waiting list, but parents say the model will deny high-needs kids the support they require.
Right now, Carter gets 32 hours a week of government-funded therapy. It costs twice as much as Corrigan earns in a month.
Come April 1, her family will qualify for about $4,700 a year in funding, Corrigan said, but they don't know when they will see that money. And it wouldn't even cover one month of therapy.
Corrigan and her partner are considering moving to another province, selling their house, or giving up one of their jobs to support Carter.
And now she feels "betrayed" by her MPP.
Corrigan says Ghamari told her she agreed the changes need to be reassessed, and that she's raised concerns in private caucus meetings but must toe the party line in public.
Ghamari did not respond to HuffPost's multiple requests for an interview.
MPP said she would appeal to minister
At their first meeting, Ghamari agreed to write a letter on her behalf to Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, whose ministry is tasked with funding autism supports.
Corrigan went to the second meeting to approve the letter, but says she was surprised at how it was worded.
"She had added a couple things about me being understanding that the Liberal government left them a bankrupt system and that I knew that there was no more money to be given, that I knew this was going to be the system that was implemented," Corrigan said.
"I asked Goldie to take that out because it wasn't my views or my opinions."
Ghamari agreed, she said.
"She said to me, 'It is literally my job to be your voice.'"
Corrigan went home and posted about the letter and her experience with Ghamari in a Facebook group for families of people with autism.
"I left there hopeful. I made the post on Facebook thinking that maybe other parents could feel the hope that I felt."
That night, she got a friend request on Facebook from what appeared to be Ghamari's personal account.
"I wasn't really comfortable accepting," Corrigan said.
Then she received Facebook messages from Ghamari, asking her to delete or edit her post.
"I would appreciate it if you made some changes because your comments are not entirely accurate," reads one of the messages provided to HuffPost. "I never said that I disagreed with the changes."
Corrigan then got an email with the same request.
"What I said to you is that, based on your personal experiences, if you think there is anything we can do to improve on our current plan, I would be happy to bring that to the Minister's attention by writing a personal letter on your behalf and handing it to her directly, set up a meeting to discuss it with her on your behalf, and also invite her to come visit one of your son's ABA therapy sessions, if she has the time," Ghamari's email, which Corrigan also provided to HuffPost, said.
Corrigan didn't answer the Facebook messages, but she sent Ghamari an email response.
"I apologize if you don't like MY post on social media. But I won't apologize for posting it," she wrote back. "Nothing I wrote there was untrue ... Thanks for saying the right things in our meeting today, and I'd appreciate you considering standing for those words and opinions."
More from HuffPost Canada:
Now, Corrigan is worried Ghamari will never send the letter she wrote to MacLeod.
"I had so much hope coming out of there that day and then it was just taken away. It's like I was talking to two different people."
Corrigan said the government needs to change its program, because it will pay more to support Carter in the long-run if he never learns to be independent.
"He's going to end up on disability or, God forbid, in a group home," she said.
"This isn't just an autism community issue. This is a province-wide issue. It affects every single person, whether they realize it or not."
Earlier on HuffPost: