Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A press release by NDP Leader, Andrea Horwath:

Horwath raises conflict questions over autism benchmarking review

QUEEN’S PARK – MPP Andrea Horwath says the McGuinty government must scrap the review of its controversial policy of benchmarking children with autism and start over with someone who is independent.

Through Freedom of Information, Horwath has uncovered problems with a Request for Proposals (RfP) and the subsequent contract issued to Dr. Louise LaRose by Ministry of Children and Youth Services in March, 2009.

“Oddly, this RfP was not broadly circulated nor posted on the MERX website, as is standard practice. After going through the F-O-I process, my office found the RfP was highly restrictive and invited one bid . . . a bid raising questions of conflicts of interest,” Horwath told the Legislature during Question Period. “How did such an important RfP become a sole source contract?”

LaRose requested more than $118,000 to conduct the review, but neglected to reference in her proposal document her previous work with the head of the Ministry’s panel on benchmarking. As well, LaRose works for CPRI, a children’s agency in London that is fully funded by the Ministry, a fact that puts her impartiality in question, Horwath said. Formerly LaRose was clinical director of the Thames Valley Children’s Centre and was responsible for discharging children from autism therapy.

“A contract valued at more than $118,000 on a subject as important as benchmarking children,
who might have their autism therapy terminated as a result, should be filled by the best and most qualified candidate,” Horwath said. “But there was no competition, no effort to expand the search and find someone who is absolutely independent of the government and the troubling decision to benchmark children with autism.”

With parents of children with autism who have lost their therapy watching in the Legislature today Horwath called on the Premier to order a new Request for Proposals to obtain an independent review of autism benchmarking in Ontario

Media contact: Sheila White 416-325-2777 or 416-902-0977

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