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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.

Topics

Bank ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to ask a couple of questions of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who has spent 15 minutes outlining a multi-point plan on how Canada should change its focus in Afghanistan, away from what his party got us into in the first place in the aggressive search and kill counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar.

Next, unbelievably, his party gave the Conservative government enough votes to ram through an extension on a mission with nine months still to go, adding two more years to that mission. Those members did this without a proper evaluation of what was happening with the mission, without an opportunity for us to even begin to consult Canadians, let alone have a fully informed, thorough, responsible debate before being pushed into a vote on very short notice.

Mr. Speaker, I assume that you will be as liberal in the interpretation of the rules of relevancy as your predecessor in the chair this afternoon. We are here this afternoon to deal with Bill C-37, An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters, but since the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca was given the opportunity to speak for 15 uninterrupted minutes about his views on Afghanistan, I assume it is in order for me to ask him a question on this extremely important topic.

It took me a minute to realize that we were debating Afghanistan, so I did not hear in full the first couple of points in his five point plan on how to get us out of the Kandahar quagmire and finally address the horror of what is happening to our troops in the current flawed mission.

I want to ask him about a subject that came up in the foreign affairs committee yesterday of which he will be aware, I am sure. The Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP confirmed and informed the committee that 34,700 Iraqi police had been trained by Canadian RCMP officers over the last couple of years. This raised in the minds of everyone at committee, I think, the question of how many Afghan police, particularly in Kandahar, had been trained over the same period, because of course we are not supposed to be in Iraq although it is a very important thing for there to be training for the Iraqi police.

Given the fact that our commitment is supposed to be dealing with the insecurity in Kandahar, and given that many people feel that problems with the under-policing, the under-qualified policing and the insufficient numbers of police are at least as much or perhaps more of a threat to the security of the citizens of Kandahar, the question of interest, of course, is how many have been trained by Canada in Kandahar? I have to say that I almost fell off my chair when the Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP confirmed there had been 150.

I want to invite the member to address this question. Where does the issue of training the Afghani police fit into the member's five point plan for getting out of the Kandahar quagmire?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member asked four large questions, really, and I will try to go through them briefly.

The first is on the Iraqi police. RCMP officers train Iraqi recruits in Jordan. I have had a chance to visit them and I want to say on the record that the RCMP officers are doing an absolutely outstanding job in training the Iraqi police. They are doing a magnificent job. Wherever the RCMP has gone, and I have seen their work in Sierra Leone, their work deserves medals, quite frankly. The work of the RCMP is outstanding.

Second, on the issue of the 3D approach, we sent our troops to Afghanistan because al-Qaeda was there. It was not an aggressive search and destroy mission, as the hon. member mentioned. It was a balanced mission in a number of ways.

Yes, our troops engage in combat and we are very proud of the fact that they do an outstanding job within their combat role, but that is one of their roles. Unfortunately, the milk of human kindness does not flow through the veins of some of the people who are trying to kill Afghan civilians and, indeed, our troops. Our troops are trying to protect them, as the member knows, and to provide security. They are doing a great job in that respect.

However, they are also there, and we sent them there, to engage in something called a provincial reconstruction team, of which our forces are an integral part. They are making a difference on the ground in terms of providing small amounts of money, in being able to give people the basic infrastructure they require on the ground and in building roads, drilling boreholes and a number of other things. Quite frankly, our troops are the only ones who can do that in these areas of great insecurity.

Third, on the issue of the vote, I am glad the member brought this up. I was utterly disgusted by what the Prime Minister did. He used our troops as a shameless tool to try to divide my caucus. It had nothing to do with the mission in Afghanistan. It was a political decision and a political tool to use our troops shamelessly. Why do I say that? Because the decision to extend the mission into Afghanistan has nothing to do with what the House says. It is an executive decision. In the Prime Minister's speech, he very clearly said, “I am going to extend this mission for a year regardless of what the House says”.

That is what the Prime Minister said. He should be utterly ashamed of using our troops as a political tool because no decision of the House can ever be more important than when we have to put our troops' lives on the line, when our troops can possibly be killed. As for the fact that the Prime Minister did this, he should be utterly disgusted with himself.

Fourth, to answer the member's question of what my plan is with respect to Afghanistan, it involves the following points.

Number one, we have to train the Afghan police. The Germans are responsible for that. The government could have asked our NATO allies to contribute to their training, equipment and pay. They are being paid only $70 a month right now. As a result, they have become as much of a problem on the ground as the Taliban, because they are engaging in thuggish activity, quite frankly just to be able to put food on the table in many cases.

Number two, the development component, the amount of money that Afghanistan receives on a per capita basis, is among the lowest of any post-reconstruction situation we have seen in the last 30 years.

Number three, we need a loya jirga to bring in the groups that have been disarticulated from the decision making process and were excluded from the Bonn agreement. They need to come to the table. A loya jirga is a way of doing that.

Number four, we need to be able to deal with the insurgency coming from Pakistan and other areas. We need a regional summit on the area.

Last, the poppy crop is going to destroy Afghanistan unless we affect the poppy crop. To destroy the poppy crop would be a huge mistake, because we would be destroying the only source of income people have. One of the solutions is to destroy the poppy crop and pay the farmers or use the poppy crop to produce legal, medically used narcotics and provide a domestic industry for the people of Afghanistan.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the former Liberal government sent troops into the southern part of Afghanistan for an operation called Operation Enduring Freedom, there was no debate in the House. There was no vote. There was no analysis of the cost. There was no reporting back to the House of Commons. There was no discussion whatsoever with the Canadian public.

There absolutely has to be some accounting for why billions of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan. There was absolutely no debate here in the House of Commons provided by the former government.

How can the member talk about democracy when there was not even a vote last summer in the House when troops were sent to southern Afghanistan, into Kandahar?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will know that the clock has run out but I will allow a short moment if he will keep an eye on the Chair.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will be very brief.

I have two things to say. First, the member was not in the House at that time so perhaps she is not aware that ample discussions took place in the defence committee and in other committees, including foreign affairs, and this House did have take note debates on the issue.

Lastly, the member should know that this is an executive decision on the part of a prime minister, which is why the vote that took place to extend the mission was so reprehensible. The decision had already been made and it was a political tool, not an effective tool to inform the public or allow this House to have effective input on an exceedingly important decision.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I just want it recorded that we on this side said no to the motion but I am not sure if the Speaker heard us.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is it agreed that the motion carry on division?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, as reported, without amendment, from the committee.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to speak today on behalf of the government to Bill C-12.

Local and provincial authorities handle some 90% of emergencies in Canada. Most of the time, these emergencies requires no direct involvement of the federal government but, in some cases, the Government of Canada must be ready to respond.

I will take this opportunity to commend those first responders at the local, municipal and provincial level who put their lives on the line to protect all of us in Canada and are so often the very first on the scene. When some people are running the other way to get away, they are running toward the trouble. We do want to acknowledge those first responders at this moment.

Keeping our community safe and our country secure is a priority for Canada's new government. In that regard, we have introduced a number of pieces of legislation, both in the area of justice and in public safety, to do exactly that. I should note that many members in the House, including opposition members, were elected with a mandate to take steps to provide greater public safety for all Canadians.

It is because of that mandate we received from Canadians and because of the need to keep Canadians safe, communities safe and our country secure, that this government is determined to strengthen its capacity to prepare, mitigate, respond to and recover from catastrophic events.

We have seen, unfortunately, all too often, numerous examples of those catastrophic events. They can strike at any time without warning. We need to be prepared for it.

I am speaking today to Bill C-12 because it is legislation that would create the emergency management act.

I would like to speak to how the bill addresses the need for governments from all jurisdictions to work closely together on emergency management. In particular, I want to address the relationship of the federal Government of Canada to local authorities, such as municipalities.

First, however, let me put the proposed legislation into some context. The proposed emergency management act would strengthen the foundation for the role of federal authorities emergency management to meet the evolving risks of the 21st century.

Given our country's rugged landscape and diverse climate, Canadians have always lived with the threat of natural disaster. In spring, we fight rising waters that flood our homes. In summer, we fight fires that ravage our forests. In winter, we fight storms that paralyze transportation and power systems in communities.

Today, Canadians face threats that go far beyond natural disasters. New and emerging diseases, such as avian and pandemic human influenza, may cause great harm to our families, communities and economy.

For example, by one estimate, the outbreak of SARS in 2003 cost Ontario and, in particular, the city of Toronto, and this figure is staggering, $1 billion. To say the least, we must stay vigilant to the threat of a new pandemic.

In this age of technology there are other so-called viruses that are transmitted by information technologies. Our critical infrastructure, our very ability to respond to emergencies depends on reliable computer networks. We must be better prepared to protect them from mischief or even terrorism.

I will also take this time to note that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, brought home the reality of an entirely new category of a human made threat. While terrorists did not directly target Canada on that terrible day, Canadians did die and the growing threat of global terrorism means that we must be ready for the unspeakable.

It is true that Canada does have legislation in place to respond to emergencies. The Emergency Preparedness Act outlines the roles for the Minister of Public Safety and other federal ministers. It provided for federal-provincial cooperation, which is so important, and it established the basis for post-disaster financial assistance to the provinces.

However, all of this, in light of the new reality that we face in Canada, is not enough to address the scope of risks existing for Canadians today. I outlined some of those risks already.

The proposed legislation would build a more comprehensive framework to protect our citizens, as well as that of private and public property and critical infrastructure.

I want to speak a little about the federal role. I already mentioned some of the role of local authorities, such as municipalities, but while those local authorities and municipalities are the first responder, the provinces and the Government of Canada often play an important role in coordinating a comprehensive response to emergencies.

I draw the attention of the House to the distinction between the title of the existing and the proposed legislation. In the past it was sufficient to prepare for emergencies. No longer. The proposed act recognizes that we must do much more in order to manage emergencies. The proposed emergency management act seeks to the strengthen the capacity of the Government of Canada to prevent, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in our country.

It recognizes that we face an ever-changing risk environment. To manage emergencies in this context requires a collective and concerted approach involving all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental organizations or NGOs.

In an emergency, Canadians must look after there personal needs as best they can. If they need help they look toward government. In such a crisis, Canadians do not care what level of government responds, they simply want help and they want it fast.

Local governments are the first responders. Provincial and territorial governments are hard on their heels. If an emergency moves beyond their capacities, those governments turn to the Government of Canada for assistance, and we do respond.

I will give an example. Members may recall how the Government of Canada helped coordinate Canada's response during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and again in September of that year during the severe flooding in Stephenville, Newfoundland.

In the case of Stephenville, Canada's Government Operations Centre coordinated the response of no less than eight different federal departments. This ranged from the deployment of helicopters by the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard to the provision of 200 beds for evacuees by the Public Health Agency.

Any federal response to emergency must be harmonized with the work of other jurisdictions and stakeholders. It must respond to the real needs and expectations of our citizens. It must make the situation better, not worse. I think that is a goal we can all agree with.

The goal of emergencies management in the proposed act recognizes and promotes greater collaboration with all levels of government, as well as with NGOs, as I already mentioned, the private sector and the public at large. All of these different groups have a role to play in managing an emergency.

It is vital then that our emergency management plans accomplish two goals: to clarify the role and responsibilities of ministers within the Government of Canada, and to promote greater collaboration with other levels of government and other stakeholders. The proposed legislation would help achieve these two goals.

Specifically, through this proposed act, the Government of Canada would establish policies in respect of emergency management at the federal level. It would promote a common approach to emergency management with other jurisdictions, including shared standards and good practices.

It is worth noting that in our consultations for this bill, the provinces and territories welcomed the proposed enhancements as a way to clarify roles and responsibilities, and that is so important.

I want to talk a bit about existing ties with municipalities. This bill would enhance the Government of Canada's relationship with local governments, such as municipalities, in emergency management.

The relationship between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories too often overshadows our relationship with local government. Allow me to elaborate on how we work with local government and how the proposed legislation would enhance that work and enhance collaboration.

The Government of Canada recognizes that municipalities are an integral part of any emergency response. Local police, firefighters and paramedics are always first on the scene. I already commended them at the start of my speech on the role they play in keeping all Canadians safe.

To support the role of first responders, the Government of Canada established the joint emergency preparedness program, JEPP. Through this program the Government of Canada works with the provinces and territories to help municipalities improve their ability to respond to an emergency.

Funds are available for items such as generators, communications equipment and emergency vehicles. When appropriate, the Government of Canada has been pursuing co-location agreements where all three levels of government coordinate their approach to emergency management. To that end, we have already set up joint emergency operation centres in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.

The Canadian Cyber Institute Response Centre has set up a framework for cooperation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments. A cyber triage unit has been established to assess the nature of incidents and to coordinate responses more effectively.

The goal of these initiatives is to enhance information sharing to keep everyone in the loop so that we can respond to an emergency in a coherent fashion.

The proposed emergency management act reinforces that this kind of seamless cooperation is vital. It would help to ensure the federal response to an emergency is harmonized and coordinated with other jurisdictions, and as I noted earlier, it would also lay the foundation for a comprehensive emergency management system that recognizes the key elements of mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

I want to talk a bit about building ties within communities and in a community. The Government of Canada wants to work with the provinces and municipalities and other entities to help develop consensus on emergency management. This bill recognizes that a common approach to emergency management can enhance effectiveness, not just within all levels of government, but also in the community at large.

Since the nature of emergencies is constantly in flux, the proposed legislation does not attempt to define what constitutes an emergency management activity. The bill in this way is broad and flexible in its approach, leaving room for innovation and the building of community consensus. Indeed, the Government of Canada relies on the expertise, experience and creativity of Canadian citizens to help strengthen its approach to emergency management.

Over the past few years, the Government of Canada has held town hall meetings to solicit ideas on various initiatives. The Government of Canada drew on the valuable input from the private sector and from other stakeholders at these meetings to enhance Bill C-12, and we will continue to engage Canadians on these issues.

It is important that the Government of Canada collaborate with the provinces and territories, private sector owners and operators and the NGO community to strengthen critical infrastructure. It is especially important as the private sector owns and operates over 85% of Canada's critical infrastructure.

When we look at that figure, it is especially clear that this is a multi-jurisdictional approach and it has to involve the private sector. No single jurisdiction has the expertise or the human and financial resources to manage the kinds of emergencies we may face in the 21st century. We know those emergencies can be varied. They can come at any time and the emphasis here is on being ready to manage those emergencies.

We need to work together. We need to develop coherent strategies that will enable us to harmonize our approaches. The proposed legislation provides the framework to achieve this goal.

As I already mentioned, the threats to Canadians continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. Canada's new government is committed to ensuring that it is able to manage these threats and respond to them to the best of its ability. Bill C-12 is a vital piece of legislation that would strengthen the federal role in emergency management and enhance our ability to cooperate with other jurisdictions, including municipalities.

By reinforcing an all hazards approach to emergency management, the proposed legislation will contribute to the safety and the security of all Canadians. In speaking with Canadians and hearing from Canadians from coast to coast, safety and security is a major priority for them. That is why I am pleased that our Minister of Public Safety has been working tirelessly in this regard to promote safety for Canadians. He has brought forward a number of initiatives, including this one, that will make our streets and our communities safer. I have to take this opportunity as well to commend the Minister of Justice for his work on making our communities safer.

Working together in the areas of justice and public safety, we can make communities safer in all regards, whether that be in the criminal sphere or in the sphere of preventing crime in the sphere of managing emergencies and being prepared for emergencies.

That is why I am very pleased on behalf of my constituents to speak to Bill C-12. I urge all members of the House to join with me in support of the proposed emergencies management act.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House would agree, I think you would see the clock as being at 5:30 p.m.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism ActPrivate Members' Business

December 7th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to start off the second reading debate on this bill. Bill C-304 acknowledges the seriousness of this issue in this country. It clearly enunciates that we are talking about a health issue.

The bill has three provisions. We are asking the Minister of Health , acknowledging of course that this involves primarily provincial jurisdictions, to convene immediately a meeting with the 10 provincial and territorial health ministers to discuss this very issue. We are asking that the minister table before the end of 2007 a national strategy on the treatment of autism. We are also asking that the Canada Health Act be amended as follows:

Section 2 of the Canada Health Act is renumbered as subsection 2(1) and is amended by adding the following:

(2) For the purposes of this Act, services that are medically necessary or required under this Act include Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) for persons suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Members will conclude from my remarks that the overarching issue I want to make in this debate is that we are talking about a health issue and that the treatment modalities that I refer to be made available to all residents of Canada pursuant to the provisions of the Canada Health Act.

Again, if it is a health issue, I would urge and ask all members in the House to support it. If members feel on the other hand it is not a health issue, then of course the bill is flawed and it is not worthy of support.

Bill C-304 does not stand alone. There is a whole array of extremely important bills and motions on this extremely important topic. I would suggest the debate is raging.

A similar bill was tabled by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, Bill C-210. Motion No. 172 introduced by the member for Fredericton calls for a national strategy. It calls for standards, surveillance, and research. That passed on December 5, 2006 with support from all four parties.

Ongoing as we speak are the hearings at the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology dealing with the funding of autism. I have seen the blues. There are very extensive hearings going on now. I expect sometime early in the new year there will be a report from that Senate committee.

There are numerous court cases that have been decided and there are numerous court cases being litigated as we speak right across this country.

I believe that colleagues on both sides of the House know, acknowledge and appreciate the seriousness of this issue.

I should point out also that the polling that has been done indicates that 84% of all residents of Canada support the concept that these treatment modalities should be financed under the provincial health care programs. About 84% of the constituents that we represent support the general thrust of this bill.

I am not an expert on the subject, but I do want to point out for the record that autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disorder. It affects people's ability to communicate, form relationships and react to their environments. It is caused by a neurological disorder that impedes normal brain development in the areas that affect social interaction and communication skills. It is a spectrum disorder.

The severity of the symptoms differs widely. Many people with ASD are perfectly capable of leading happy, healthy lives as functional members of society and require no treatment whatsoever. On the other hand, many people require very extensive treatment.

Within this spectrum, we include disorders such as pervasive development disorder, Rett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and child development disorder.

Tremendous changes are going on in society. At one time, going back 20 or 25 years ago, this was thought to be an extremely rare condition. I believe the numbers were 1 in 10,000. Now the most recent statistics that I have been given estimate that 1 in 167 children are affected by ASD. It affects four times as many boys as girls and is pervasive across all ethnicities and classes. We do not know the cause of the syndrome.

There is no definitive cure, however, in recent years a number of treatments have become available that can make a dramatic difference in the severity of the symptoms experienced by people with ASD. It is important to note that just as ASD affects individuals, in a vast array of ways, there is an extremely large range of support that is necessary for people affected by ASD. Some will need intensive help and constant supervision to get through the day, while others might simply need help with specific communication and social interaction skills.

The point I am making here today with this bill is effective treatment modalities exist.

The symptoms of ASD generally manifest themselves within the first three years of a child's life. It has been shown that when ASD is diagnosed early and the specific individual needs of the child are assessed and addressed, children with ASD can grow to exhibit much fewer or no symptoms.

There are two vital characteristics of this treatment, early diagnosis and consistent, long term care. We refer to these treatments as applied behavioural analysis and intensive behavioural intervention. These treatments include speech and language therapy. More important, ABA and IBI are designed to teach a child with autism a whole new way of learning. The treatment teaches them how to break down a task into its smallest components, and through constant, intensive reinforcement, to apply this method of thinking to everyday life as well as complex tasks.

Due to the intensity and time span of this treatment and the fact that it is almost exclusively conducted in a one on one environment, the treatment is costly; it is not cheap. When ABA or IBI are successfully applied, the changes in a child can be dramatic. There are stark differences as to the availability of this treatment across Canada. Some provinces offer it fairly generously. Some provinces include it in the social services or welfare envelope and it is means tested. We definitely have a two tier, or what I would perhaps better classify, a 13 tier health care system when we talk about the treatment of autism.

Again, it depends entirely on what province that particular child happens to be born in, and in some instances, the regions within the provinces where that child happens to live. For example, in Alberta, children have full access to treatment. In Ontario they have access up to a certain and I would argue arbitrary age at which time treatment is cut off. In other provinces, as I have stated, it is in the social services envelope. It is means tested and it is just not available in any way, shape or form the way it should be under our Canada Health Act.

As we go forward and we debate this bill, we as a society are judged on how we treat the most vulnerable among us. We owe it to all Canadians, all families dealing with this particular issue.

I realize that somebody will state that it is a provincial issue, but again we have the Canada Health Act. I realize we cannot dictate to the provincial health ministers, but we can come forward with a national strategy. We have to discuss it and debate it with the provincial ministers and we have to eventually amend the Canada Health Act so these children, these individuals, these families, can get the treatment that they deserve.

There is a national strategy with respect to cancer, diabetes and drugs. Why can we not have one for autism?

Again, I mention that it will not be cheap. It will cost a lot of money and the Government of Canada would have to pay its fair share. That will be one of the arguments from the provincial government. If they are being asked to do this, the federal government is going to have to pay its fair share.

However, on the other side of the coin, there are substantial and numerous benefits. A lot of individuals are not diagnosed early and do not receive the treatment to which they are entitled. They end up being institutionalized at considerable expense to society. The families have to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars treating these children with no reimbursement. The quality of life of the families suffers and, most important and tragic, the quality of life of the affected individuals suffers dramatically. We are judged on how we treat the most vulnerable among us, whether it is the disabled, sick, old, the infirm or people with autism.

I know people will say that it is a jurisdictional issue. I think I have dealt with that already. People will say that it costs money. Yes, it costs money, but cancer costs money, heart disease costs money, diabetes costs money. These are health issues. I go back to my original statement. If it is a health issue, let us move forward and deal with it. If it is not a health issue, let us put it to bed.

In conclusion, I ask every member of the House to do the right thing on this issue. I ask that we all show leadership. I ask members to vote for this bill and move forward on this issue as soon as possible.

National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member will be happy that the health minister has announced that he will be having a national symposium in 2007 on the issue of autism.

The member talked about specific diseases like diabetes and cancer, but the Canada Health does not mention any of those specifics. It deals with five broad principles, of which I am sure the member is aware. In opening up the Canada Health Act for autism, how many other diseases, ailments and other things would the member like to add and what would the process be to do that?

His party, my party and other parties have all said they will not amend the Canada Health Act. Is the member suggesting that his party is looking to break its promise on amending the Canada Health Act?

Finally, the member talked about health being a jurisdictional issue, and it is. Why have some provinces decided to classify autism under another name or category? Would the effort not be better served to lobby provinces to include autism as a health issue?

Those are the questions. Though I appreciate the intent of the member, logic dictates that the efforts, though well intentioned, may be misplaced. Could the members answer those questions?

National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member across for his interest in this issue. I appreciate that the minister has announced he is having a national symposium in 2007, but that is just one step in this continuum on which we are working.

The member talked about the diseases of diabetes and cancer not being mentioned in the Canada Health Act. He is quite right. However, if I am diagnosed with cancer tomorrow and I go for treatment, that treatment is paid for under Canada Health Act. If I have diabetes, I can go to the hospital or a doctor, I can get treatment for that diabetes and that is paid for by the Canadian Health Act.

However, if my child had autism, in most provinces in Canada I would be told to pound sand, that I must pay for it myself. If it cost $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, I must go out and raise the money, sell my assets and pay for it myself. That is totally wrong.

Again, we come back to this debate. I ask members who follow me to speak to ask themselves if this is a health issue. If it is, we should deal with it. If it is not a health issue, the bill is flawed.

The member across talked about parties saying they were not going to amend the Canada Health Act. That is a decision for every member of Parliament to tell the Canadian people whether they are prepared to amend the Canada Health Act. For people watching this debate, I am prepared to amend the it, as I stated. I do not know how many people out there are prepared to amend it. However, if a majority of the people in the House say they are prepared to amend the it, then the Canada Health Act will be amended.