Ed the Sock dips toe into Ontario Autism Program debate with parody of PC social media campaign

A photo of Ed the Sock in front of fridges at a local convenience store.
A photo of Ed the Sock in front of fridges at a local convenience store. @EdtheSock / Twitter

Steven Kerzner, known by most Canadians for his character Ed the Sock, is using social media to target the provincial government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program.

On Sunday, Kerzner posted a photo of Ed the Sock on Twitter showing the puppet at a local convenience store with a caption that read, in part: “Stopped by my local convenience store. There weren’t any people there jonesing for beer, which is surprising cuz @fordnation @OntarioPCParty is wasting $1 billion to get beer in corner stores but won’t help #autism families w/ needed funding.”

The tweet mocks dozens of social media posts by PC MPPs, who shared pictures of themselves last month at local stores to promote the government’s plans to increase access to beer and wine.

READ MORE: Ontario PC MPPs sent to neighbourhood fridges with tweet templates in hand, leaked e-mail reveals

When reached by Global News on Monday, Kerzner said: “The identically staged pics of Ford’s caucus standing in their ‘local’ convenience store makes his MPPs the ‘prop’ in ‘propaganda’. Same with them at the gas pumps.”

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Kerzner said he posted the tweet to flip the script on the PCs.

“I took the picture because it’s taking back social media from the idiots, one post at a time. I figured pictures of ordinary people in corner stores would be passed by, but when you see an angry puppet in front of a cooler, you stop and look,” said Kerzner.

“Turning the tables on Ford’s obviously staged pictures is great satire, and that’s another cause I support wholeheartedly.”

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As of Tuesday morning, the post had been retweeted nearly 1,000 times and liked just under 2,500 times.

WATCH (May 27, 2019): Ontario PC government announces plans to end agreement with The Beer Store

Ontario PC government announces plans to end agreement with The Beer Store
Ontario PC government announces plans to end agreement with The Beer Store

As Global News first reported earlier this month, Premier Doug Ford’s office directed MPPs to “go out to a neighbourhood convenience store to showcase it as a potential future location for Ontarians to buy beer and wine.”

In an email to the PC caucus, Laryssa Waler, the premier’s executive director of communications, suggested tweet templates, key messaging and photo backdrops.

The social media campaign began in tandem with a battle between The Beer Store and the provincial government over ripping up a 10-year contract. Nullifying the contract could cost the government hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.

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Others picked up on the tweet by Kerzner, posting similar photos with them in shops questioning the government’s plan for autism support.

Olivia Ng, a behaviour analyst who works with children with autism, also posted a tweet parodying the PC’s beer store campaign.

Ng told Global News on Monday: “The campaign was to bring attention to Doug Ford and Minister Lisa MacLeod’s senseless Ontario Autism Program policy. Autism services in Ontario (are) being gutted, contrary to what the government is claiming. The PC beer campaign was pure propaganda on an issue that nobody asked for.”

On Monday, ErinoakKids, a centre in the Greater Toronto Area that provides treatment, rehabilitation and support services to children with autism spectrum disorder, announced that it has handed out 291 layoff notices to staff.

Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod has vigorously defended the province’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program, saying the government intends to listen to parents and rid the wait list of tens of thousands of children.

“Let’s be clear, there is no cut in funding to the OAP. We are committed to needs-based supports for children and youth with autism,” Derek Rowland, MacLeod’s press secretary, told Global News in a statement. “Recently, we appointed an expert panel to advise us how best to spend an additional $300 million in autism supports. With 23,000 children coming off of the wait list over the next 18 months, providers will see an influx of families looking for a wide range of service and supports.”

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READ MORE: Autism treatment centre hands out 291 layoff notices amid changes to Ontario autism services

While formal consultations with parents are ongoing, Ng believes social media should continue to be utilized.

“The pressure from parents and advocates is, indeed, working,” said Ng.

Kerzner also agrees and said he will continue to use the character of Ed the Sock to take on the provincial government.

“Ford’s clown car has already backpedalled on some cuts to autism programs so the social media awareness is gaining traction because it’s using what works with modern attention spans — very few words, lots of emotion. If they could reduce the message to a GIF or meme, even better,” said Kerzner.

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