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Politics Politics Briefing: Ontario tries to make amends on autism file

Good morning,

One of the most contentious files for the Ontario government this year was a plan to reduce its funding for autism services. Now, after months of backlash from families and advocates, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are reversing course.

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced this morning that the Ontario government would commit a $600-million budget to providing services to children with autism based on their needs. This is a pivot from the plan announced in February, which would have allocated a set amount per child based on their age.

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The Globe’s Caroline Alphonso broke the news of the policy reset.

“We have listened,” Mr. Smith said at a news conference this morning. “And we have learned...We didn’t get the redesign right the first time.”

For months, families had been telling the provincial government that the policy change would result in huge bills for services that the families would be unable to pay and treatment centres began to lay off workers.

“On the one hand, this is welcome news," Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, told The Globe. "On the other hand, it didn’t have to be like this. We have just lost a year and families have gone through an incredible amount of pain and anxiety and suffering.”

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Brad Blair has filed a wrongful dismissal grievance against the Ontario government after the Progressive Conservative cabinet terminated his appointment as deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

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Two Saudi sisters who are hiding from their family in safe houses in Istanbul are appealing to the Canadian government to give them safe haven. “Our family was always beating us, and the law in Saudi Arabia doesn’t protect us,” Dalal al-Showaiki told The Globe and Mail.

External consultants hired to assess Via Rail’s proposal to build high-frequency rail between Toronto and Quebec City found that there wasn’t as much of a business case to be made for much of the Quebec portion of the line, according to internal documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

SNC-Lavalin is cancelling its bids to work on a number of infrastructure projects across Canada, including public transit lines in Vancouver and Edmonton, as part of a realignment of the Quebec company’s corporate strategy.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank says an internal memo ranking journalists as being either “positive” or “negative” in their coverage was just an exercise in communications strategy.

The federal government is announcing a pilot project to encourage hospitals to buy more Canadian-made medical technology.

The largest caucus in the Senate is the Independent Senators Group, which the Hill Times reports could be in danger of breaking up after the next election.

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Green Leader Elizabeth May, whose party is doing better in elections and polls than ever before, says she’s disappointed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environmental policies. "I believed Justin Trudeau in 2015,” she told the Globe in a lengthy interview. “I thought he would be a climate leader. I was wrong.”

And comedian Tom Green, back home in Ottawa for some time this summer, held a picnic at Major’s Hill Park on the weekend, which was seen as a way to keep people talking about the controversial addition to the Château Laurier.

Marilyn Slett (The Globe and Mail) on marine pollution: “Canada’s marine liability laws are older, at least in spirit, than the ships that first brought European explorers to the shores of Heiltsuk territory in the late 1700s. Marine liability law was first codified during the reign of King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. At the core of this law is the idea that it is in the public interest to limit the liability of individual ship owners. Whether the public interest is still served by modern-day shipping companies receiving liability protection is a debate worth having.”

David P. Silcox (The Globe and Mail) on the Arctic: “The Arctic is in many ways the soul of Canada. If you aren’t thinking about it now, you will no doubt think about it soon. This soul is threatened both by climate change and a shifting geopolitical landscape. The Arctic is under siege, and will serve as the stage for one of the most fascinating and high-stakes diplomatic battles in the coming years.”

Paul Wells (Maclean’s) on the government’s private calls to two ex-ambassadors to China: “The PMO and Chrystia Freeland’s office were left, not really to deny any part of [David] Mulroney’s account, but to couch it in the most anodyne terms. Nobody was forbidding Mulroney from speaking, they insisted, and I’m sure it’s true. He can say what he likes. They just hoped he’d get a second opinion. The way Michael Wernick hoped Jody Wilson-Raybould would get a second opinion—or a third, or a sixteenth, or however many it took until she finally guessed the right answer—on SNC’s eligibility for a deferred prosecution agreement.”

Ottawa Citizen editorial board on what the calls amount to: “Beijing can’t order Canada to muzzle critics. But plainly, our government prefers not to have uppity former diplomats insulting China.”

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Niall Ferguson (The Globe and Mail) on Boris Johnson and Brexit: “This is not May, 1940. France is not collapsing as the Wehrmacht sweeps westward. We don’t need to evacuate beaches of our army or brace ourselves for invasion or blitz. Nevertheless, the new Prime Minister finds himself between more rocks and hard places than a lost hiker in the Cuillin hills of Skye.”

Sylvia Stead, The Globe’s Public Editor, on reporting on polls: “You can expect much more federal election campaign coverage in the coming weeks and with it, regular opinion polling, which is all done to help you decide. But guidelines for reporting on polls are needed so the importance of these surveys isn’t inflated or misinterpreted.”

Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on polling in the summer time: “Matter or not, summer or not, there will always be an impulse to measure and understand what society is thinking. There may be squabbling over what scientific polls say. But without them, we are left with more ham-handed attempts, such as those truly dyspeptic hamburger polls at one’s local diner.”

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