Can Merrilee Fullerton fix the autism file taken over from predecessor's Todd Smith and Lisa MacLeod?

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but when it comes to the Ford government’s handling of the autism program, again and again, they make unenforced errors and break their promises.

Case in point is their rollout of the newly designed “needs based” Ontario Autism Program. The government hasn’t met any of its dates for its implementation of Core Services, and there’s little reason to believe they’ll meet their latest commitments.

Initially when MPP Todd Smith replaced Lisa MacLeod as the minister in charge of the autism program in June 2019, he committed to having a needs-based program in place by…

Minister Todd Smith delivering his autism program update February 3, 2021

It has been over a month since Minister Todd Smith delivered his February 2021 update on the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). In it he revealed what his pilot program will look like for 600 kids and what he is doing in the interim for everyone else, however there were many details missing. No further details have emerged since then, leaving many in the autism community on edge and wondering what will happen next.

The lack of urgency from this government to fix the program is alarming when there’s so many in the community in crisis. It is also disconcerting to…

Doug Ford answering questions on autism during the 2018 leaders debate

The February 3 Ontario Autism Program (OAP) announcement turned out to be a more of a publicity stunt, a way for Minister Todd Smith to get out in front of the two year anniversary of Lisa MacLeod’s introduction to Childhood Budgets on February 6, 2019 that sparked outrage from parents. The truth is that Smith continues to not deliver on his promises, instead he has in effect implemented Lisa MacLeod’s Childhood Budgets scheme with yet another extension of the interim solution.

As of January 2021, the Ontario government’s monthly OAP numbers has 40,231 children with invitations issued for childhood budgets…

Minister Todd Smith delivering his February 3 2021 Autism Program update

Those that tuned into the Government of Ontario’s live stream of Minister Todd Smith’s autism program announcement on February 3 were left baffled as the live stream came into an in-progress press announcement. 2 minutes later there were no further questions and the live stream ended.

The timing of this announcement cannot be understated as it falls 3 days from the 2 year anniversary of Lisa MacLeod’s Ontario Autism Program overhaul to a financial supplement “Childhood Budget” program. The autism community is been waiting 2 years to fix this mess and get a needs-based program, instead they received a convoluted…

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith

New details have emerged on how the new Ontario Autism Program will be structured and it has many in the autism community alarmed. Social media attention to a call for applications for the Ontario Autism Program Independent Intake Organization have left many to speculate that the program is returning to it’s problematic benchmarking days. Here’s my attempt to breakdown what we know and don’t know about the design of the new OAP’s Core Services.

Care Coordinators and a way to evaluate needs is not a new development

  1. The Ontario Autism Advisory Panel Report recommended Care Coordinators and a process to forecast needs:

A standardized clinically-informed process developed by discipline-specific clinicians and researchers with…

FAO Autism Report published July 21, 2020

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has published their financial review on autism services. You can read the whole report here. Here are my 10 initial thoughts when reading the report:

  1. $608M wasn’t actually spent on services in FY19/20, more like $337M plus $97M in liabilities for the money doled out as childhood budgets (CBs). The $97M in CBs received does not mean the money was spent on services last FY as you have one year to spend the money or return it.

Children, Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith


After posting this article on the morning of July 17, hours later the Ministry tweeted that they revised their monthly numbers. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The ministry sent me a message in response to this article to check out their revision.

The revision was due to double counting 4,497 one-time funding invitations. This error impacts the analysis in the original article below. More to come on that.

Minister’s Smith oversight of the Ontario Autism Program has resulted in a 21% decline of children receiving services under the legacy ABA program

The latest Ontario Autism Program monthly numbers published on the Ontario government website featured some statistics that made me say hmm.

I always appreciate when Patrick Monaghan revises the government’s “in service” figures to separate out the number of children receiving Childhood Budgets versus those legacy OAP children still in service via behavioral service plan extensions. As you can see, the number of children remaining in service is dropping each month:

From July 2019 to January 2020 the number of children in service has dropped by 2,141, or a 21% reduction.

This is a significant uptick in service reduction…

MPP Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

At Todd Smith’s December 17th news conference, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announced that his ministry would not make good on it’s promise to have a needs-based autism program live by April 2020. Instead Smith announced that the “core services” that children of autism need will not be available until sometime in 2021.

With that news, it’s likely that at least 2 full fiscal year budgets will have passed without any children moving off the waitlist and into needs-based services.

The 2019–20 and 2020–21 program budgets are $600M each, so with $1.2B …

2019 — a year of turmoil for the Ontario autism community

As 2019 comes to an end, I can’t help but shake my head thinking about the utter mess the Ford government has made of the autism file. The latest nonsense is that the government has failed to deliver upon its self-imposed April 2020 deadline to have a needs-based autism program in place. Instead the program will be delayed until sometime into 2021.

In his December 17th press conference, Minister Todd Smith blamed the delay on the vast and complex recommendations of his autism advisory panel recommendations report, noting that the report omitted important implementation specifics.

“Complexity” is now the culprit…

Scott Corbett

Political Scientist turned IT professional serving Canadians in the public service. Father of 2 incredible boys on the autism spectrum.

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