Liberal Leadership election 2020; Our questions.

The Autism Society, Newfoundland and Labrador (ASNL), recently invited both candidates for leadership of the Liberal Party, Mr. John Abbott and Dr. Andrew Furey, to provide written answers to these questions.

Both questions relate to matters of policy and practice for which ASNL regularly receives questions and concerns from those in the ASD community.

ASNL sincerely thanks both candidates for responding to our questions.

  1. If you become leader, how will you change implementation of early intervention (ABA and JASPER):
    a) so families are not suddenly forced to become employers with responsibility for hiring, scheduling, paying the therapist, etc.?
    b) so parents are not forced to choose between a career or having their child receive needed therapy?

Mr. John Abbott

It is important that families have the resources necessary to provide adequate care and services for their loved ones with ASD. I will work with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador to determine the needs and appropriate solutions to the problems currently experienced with implementation of early intervention (ABA and JASPER).

From my own experience as a Chief Executive Officer of a not-for-profit organization, I see an opportunity here for the ASNL to expand its member benefits to manage the recruitment of therapy workers on behalf of families.  This would reduce the burden on families that have no or little experience in this area.

Eliminating barriers to employment is a key element of my economic recovery plan. The cost of providing support services in order to help parents continue to work and further their careers is a worthwhile investment on many levels.

Dr. Andrew Furey

Early intervention has an important role to play in the lives of those with Autism and their loved ones. We are quite fortunate to have made great progress in this province when it comes to ABA and JASPER, and to be considered a leader in this country when it comes to JASPER in particular.

We want to continue that work, understanding that it must remain informed by the Autism Action Plan, in conjunction with the Autism Action Council. All stakeholders, including of course the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, have been working hard to create and implement short, medium, and long-term actions to improve care and we are committed to continuing that.


  1. Using family income as a criterion for accessing government-funded respite is denying care to many people with ASD. How and when will you remove this barrier to desperately needed care? 

Mr. John Abbott

If individuals with ASD are unable to get respite care due to income levels, this has to change. No one should be denied access to important care on the basis of income. The economic situation in this province has changed dramatically and what was once affordable for families may not be affordable any longer. I commit to reviewing the criterion for accessing government-funded respite so that all families have access to this needed service.

Dr. Andrew Furey

We understand that families should be spared any undue burdens wherever possible. We also understand that there are many dedicated respite workers playing an important role in the overall care of people with ASD, and offering their families and caregivers much-needed relief when needed. We are certainly open to discussing this and any other concerns with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, and other stakeholders. We also acknowledge and appreciate the thoughtful, collaborative work contained within the Autism Action Plan and will work to ensure it is on schedule, as best it can be, in these challenging times.