Toronto city councillor Doug Ford has re-affirmed his stance against a group home in a west Etobicoke neighbourhood, saying the home’s presence has dropped property values and become a “nightmare” for locals.
The Ward 2 councillor said he was misled when representatives from the Griffin Centre proposed putting a home for the developmentally disabled, including those with autism, in the neighbourhood. In the two months since the Griffin Centre opened, Ford said residents have reported constant visits from police, EMS and fire, repeated car break-ins and late-night screaming at the house. He also said Griffin Centre patients have been leaving the home unsupervised, contrary to what he was told before the facility moved in.
“They said they would have a few kids with autism and they wouldn’t leave the house unsupervised, and my heart goes out to families that have children with autism and I wanted to try to help,” Ford told CP24 in a telephone interview on Sunday.
“If somebody told me this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have OK’d it.”
Ford also said the group home has driven property values in the region down by $150,000 “overnight.”
Ford was responding to earlier comments he allegedly made that were reported in an Etobicoke community newspaper. Ford was quoted in the Etobicoke Guardian as telling members of the Griffin Centre that they’d “ruined the community,” during a meeting on Friday.
“People have worked 30 years for their home,” he allegedly said. “My heart goes out to kids with autism. But no one told me they’d be leaving the house. If it comes down to it, I’ll buy the house myself and resell it.”
The alleged comments sparked an uproar on social media, with many accusing Ford of discriminating against those with autism. Even former Liberal MP Bob Rae got in on it.
This is the opposite of leadership on mental health. Doug Ford should be ashamed of himself - hurting not helping http://t.co/og7L3wYiT5— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) May 17, 2014
Interesting, Doug Ford worried about cops called to group home for children of autism, but cop calls to Rob's house no biggie. #TOpoli— J. Marc Gowette (@Boomchukalaka) May 18, 2014
.My heart goes out to kids with autism but they are ruining our community. Doug Ford, you don't have a heart, Sir! #TOpoli— Water Lily (@lilihip) May 17, 2014
Ford dismissed Rae’s Twitter comments in his interview with CP24, saying: “Maybe we should put the house beside his house because I know he lives in an absolutely gorgeous area.”
Ford also lashed out at the Ontario Liberals, blaming Leader Kathleen Wynne, who was not premier at the time, for closing the Thistletown Regional Health Centre in 2012.
“Since she has closed that down, they had dispersed these folks throughout the west end,” he said. “Where’s the money from the Liberal government for the facility that they closed down?”
Former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government began redistributing patients from the Thistletown Regional Health Centre in 2012 ahead of its eventual closure, which happened last March. That’s when five patients moved into the Griffin Centre.
Wynne did not directly address Ford's comments on Sunday, but she did say her last budget before the election would have allocated $810 million over three years to help those with developmental disabilities. She blamed the Progressive Conservatives and NDP for rejecting the budget and triggering a provincial election.
A representative from the Griffin Centre said the organization is disappointed with Ford’s comments.
“We had several contacts with Mr. Ford prior to opening the residence and prior to the community meeting,” the representative said in a statement. “We are shocked by his negative comments and lack of support.
“We will continue to work at building a positive relationship with neighbours and answer any questions or concerns they may have.”
But Ford said he was misled, and the Ontario Liberals are to blame for the situation.
“Anyone who wants to criticize, I’d be more than happy to take their address,” Ford said. “We’ll put the house right next door to them and we’ll see how they like it.”