TORONTO — As Ontario's premier took his seat in the legislature for question period Thursday morning, hundreds of protesters outside chanted "Doug Ford's a liar."
During last spring's election campaign, Ford promised parents of children with autism that they wouldn't have to protest on the front lawn of Queen's Park once he was elected.
On Thursday, parents protested both outside on the front lawn and inside the legislature. About a dozen parents were kicked out or left the galleries after disrupting question period.
"I respect you, Speaker, but this is wrong," one woman shouted after she was told by the Speaker of the House that she was not allowed to shout at the MPPs.
"Give them the support they need, you stupid liar," another person shouted at Minister of Social Services Lisa MacLeod, after she repeated a talking point about how much her government supports the thousands of children who she said "were languishing" on a waiting list under the former Liberal government.
Ford's Progressive Conservative government, and MacLeod in particular, have been taking heat for weeks over their changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP).
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MacLeod announced in February that her government would get kids off the waiting list and into treatment by capping the amount of funding a family gets based on their income and their child's ageParents of children on the severe end of the autism spectrum say that they will be denied the therapy they need, which can cost more than $80,000 a year.
MacLeod told reporters on Wednesday that she wouldn't attend the parents' protest because she feared for her safety. She did not make herself available to answer journalists' questions on Thursday.
In a sombre moment during question period, interim Liberal leader John Fraser asked the premier if he would go outside and greet the demonstrators.
"There are hundreds of people here, families who have come a long way. They've come a long way to express their genuine concern," Fraser said.
"Premier, will you join them on the front lawn right after question period?"
Ford asked MacLeod to answer on his behalf.
She said Fraser "has a great deal of audacity" to ask such a question after working for the former Liberal government. Liberals changed their version of the OAP after sustained protests.
Listen to us, Lisa!
Katherine Muir, a mother of five, shouted at MacLeod on her way out of the public gallery.
"Listen to us, Lisa!"
Her five-year-old, Elliott, needs 21 hours of intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) every week, which costs about $70,000 a year. The PC plan will give her and her husband about $5,000 towards that cost, she told HuffPost Canada.
Before starting IBI, Elliott could not talk or go to the bathroom by himself.
"He's been there for a year, and he's a different kid," Muir said.
"What bothers me the most is that this is his health care... . And now I have to remortgage my house, take out a line of credit. I have to do something ridiculous because this government has decided to fail everyone."
Muir said she wasn't surprised that MacLeod stuck to a script in the legislature on Thursday.
She's been watching question period regularly since the government announced its program. She watches while she folds laundry, so that she can throw socks at the TV when she gets upset.
In person, she couldn't throw a sock. A security guard told her she could shout something as long as she was on her way out.
"I was angry, and I was upset, and I was furious, and I just couldn't take it anymore."
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