Mr. Speaker, I have ultimate faith in you that you will ensure that whatever remaining time I have in the second hour of debate on this issue you will give to me and I appreciate that.
It is a great opportunity to speak to the bill that is before us today.
As a former chief of staff to the minister of community and social services and our current Treasury Board president, I had the opportunity to participate in and help formulate the first preschool program in the province of Ontario. While this is an issue that impacts us on a nationwide basis, it certainly is a good feeling to have been able to contribute to a program that was the first to start here in Ontario.
I also want to speak to private member's Bill C-304, An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and to amend the Canada Health Act. This bill would extend provincial and territorial health care insurance to cover the cost of applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention treatment services for persons with autism spectrum disorders.
Let me say at the outset that I am understandably sympathetic to the concerns raised in this bill. Although services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders are important and they need to be dealt with, the Canada Health Act is the wrong instrument to achieve this objective. I would like to address the difficulty of reconciling the proposed bill with the fundamental purpose and intent of the Canada Health Act. In addition, passage of the bill would mean imposing on an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction.
The Canada Health Act is the cornerstone of the Canadian health care system. The aim of the act is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to medically necessary services without direct charges. This essential act is based on the government's commitment to a universal, accessible, comprehensive, portable and publicly administered health care system. The act protects the access of Canadians to health care by establishing criteria that the provinces and territories must meet to receive the full amount of federal cash contribution owed to them in respect of health care.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing discussion on this bill as we move forward in the second hour of debate.