House of Commons Hansard #180 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Lauzon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her speech.

Everybody has a story; we all know someone who has a disability or someone with an autism spectrum disorder, or we know someone who cares for one of these individuals every day.

I am pleased that we are speaking openly about this today, because that did not happen even just a few years ago. My colleague gave some examples of the barriers people with autism face. That is what we want to improve. We want to improve the process, carry out research, and develop ways to help families. We agree that that has value.

Through public consultations held across Canada, we were able to learn more about most of the barriers facing people with autism, as well as people with disabilities. A simple doorway can be difficult to negotiate for someone in a wheelchair, and so can it be an obstacle for someone with a disability.

My question is very simple. Should we be thinking about all people with disabilities and include people with autism in the bill we want to develop?

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no point in duplicating the amazing work and consultation that already have happened.

Again, I encourage all members to read the documents. There has been a lot of work, with significant consultation. This process is building. Absolutely, we need to support people with disabilities, and we have a number of initiatives. I am always very proud of the work being done, especially done by our former colleague, Jim Flaherty, who was minister of finance. Every budget he ever tabled in the House recognized the challenges of parents of children living with disabilities. He made a profound difference in that area, which is one of his great legacies.

It is not either-or. This work has been done and it needs to continue to be built upon. I grow concerned when I hear the questions from the Liberals. They should read the document before they vote. They can see how much work has been done.

Let us continue to build on that very important foundation.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her consistent support in the House for a more inclusive society. This motion is really about that, a more inclusive Canada. I always try to stand up for that.

Is the member as frustrated as I am with the circuitous kind of answers we get from the government side? There is only a couple of words missing: “whole-of-government,” which I have not heard yet; and “re-profiling”. Once we hear those two, then we know the answer is not happening.

So far we have had merely vagueness and a bringing in of all kinds of other issues, other than the issue we are actually talking about, which is the strategy to get moving on autism and a national strategy. Is the member as frustrated as I am with this debate?

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, if every member of the Liberal government read the documents and had the free opportunity to vote, he or she could do nothing but vote for the motion. This motion would cost $19 million over five years. It would impact hundreds of thousands of Canadians in a positive way. What better way to spend $19 million than to help support communities, families, and children and adults living with ASD.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, many colleagues on both sides of the House are celebrating Vyshyvanka Day, which is a day when we wear beautiful clothing, originating from Ukrainian heritage, something of which we are all very proud.

Since the debate began, I have listened to the comments of opposition members, as well as my Liberal colleagues, on how they feel about this very important issue. It is important to start off by saying that we are all very much aware of autism spectrum disorder and the consequences of that on our society. I often hear members across the way, in particular, talk about the numbers, and that range from one in 68, to one in 70-something, to 500,000 children. Therefore, it is important to recognize there are different levels of autism spectrum disorder.

I am familiar with the issue in two ways. First, it is very much a family issue for me personally, as it is for the sponsor of the motion. Second, I come from the perspective of having been a health care critic in Manitoba. The overall expenditures of health care for that government continue to grow into the billions of dollars. I will talk to the importance of the different stakeholders, which include the provinces, territories, non-profit groups, and many others.

For those who may be listening, when we talk about autism, many people might be able to identify quite quickly some of the issues. When we talk about the large number of Canadians who are impacted, which is a significant percentage, one might be able to pick up on it in a relatively quick fashion. However, that is not the only situation, as many people with autism still have not been diagnosed. Therefore, we really do not know the number.

Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism. For example, many people speculate, and some believe, that Albert Eienstein had Asperger's. Dan Aykroyd has indicated he has Asperger's syndrome. Other individuals have talked about this. Because someone has autism, it does not mean he or she is completely dysfunctional. In fact, those people are just as lovable as individuals without Asperger's syndrome and can function fully in society in many different ways. We should also talk about that.

I am as proud of my family members as is the sponsor of the resolution when he talks about his son. I am very proud of the way my family members have been able to overcome some of the disadvantages of having autism. However, I also recognize that certain aspects of Asperger's syndrome will enable some individuals to excel. Some of the greatest musicians in the world have had some connection to Asperger's. I have heard some of their music.

Therefore, when we talk about this, I do not think we should try to apply one label that fits all. I will not accuse members of that, but it is important—

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Relevance is a very important part of the House. During question period, the government can refuse, successfully, not to answer a question. However, this is not question period; this is debate. The member needs to answer the question. Will the government provide the funding for autism, yes or no? He is not answering the question.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I believe the hon. member can wait until questions to ask that question. I would just like to remind the hon. member that what happens sometimes is people do tend to deviate, and I have had certain debates go in certain directions and then the hon. member often brings it back around and makes it relevant. I will leave that to the hon. parliamentary secretary. I am sure he appreciates all the members coaching him, but I will let him continue.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 18th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure how my talking about Asperger's syndrom and autism is not relevant to what we are debating today. We are talking about that very subject, and making reference to it. I cannot believe how the member opposite would not have recognized just how important this issue is. Before possibly answering what members might be posing to me at the end of my speech, it is important I share with them both my personal experience and the understanding I have of the issue. It is a wonderful motion that is creating a debate for a full day in the House.

I have heard a lot of wonderful things being said in support of the need for the government to do something on autism. The Minister of Health and the Government of Canada have been very progressive in pushing this issue forward. I could cite some specific examples if that helps members across the way. However, before I do that, it is important we recognize that the Government of Canada is engaging still with many other different groups to identify other potential opportunities for partnerships. It is also engaging with other departments to determine investments that can best help those with autism and their families. I think all of us would agree that the primary objective here should be how we help those families and those who are directly affected by autism.

We understand that the ministry is engaged on this issue. Opposition members have already made their decision, and that decision is supported by the New Democrats, and that is good for them. We know the fine work the Canadian Autism Partnership Project has done in the past. We recognize that. I have visited the website, as I am sure most members have. The organization has done a phenomenal job in consultations, reaching out, and trying to come back to the government with some proposals. In fact, the Minister of Health had the opportunity to review the issue that was presented and a decision was made in regard to it. The member across the way is asking us to rethink that decision.

However, it is important we all recognize this. Because the member opposite brings forward a motion, asking for an allocation of $19 million, does not mean the government has not taken this issue seriously. We take this issue just as seriously as the former government did.

The Minister of Health has been meeting with provincial jurisdictions. In fact, we have even achieved health care accords. I would suspect that a good part of the discussions that take place among the bureaucrats at both the provincial and national levels deal with issues like autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. All of these issues are very important for us to deal with. We are not just talking about $19 million. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars when we start to talk about dealing with issues such as autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other disabling and challenging issues our children and young adults have to face.

The Minister of Health has a broader responsibility to ensure we are, as much as possible, providing the necessary leadership to deal with these issues in a very tangible way. That is why the parliamentary secretary earlier talked about a couple of things, and I would like to highlight a few of those.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested $39 million over the past five years. That is a significant amount of money going toward health research. Also, in budget 2017, support for parents with disabled children was expanded to up to $2,769 per child in addition to the up to $2,300 as part of the revamped Canada child benefit program. There are also $5 billion that the government plans to invest in mental health for youth, which will, in fact, have an impact on young people diagnosed with ASD.

There are additional whole-of-government efforts that have taken place that support autism, including supports to families through improvements made to the child disability benefit in the Canada child benefit. Under the leadership of the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, federal accessibility legislation is currently being developed. Employment and Social Development Canada is investing $15 million in the ready, willing, and able initiative, RWA, currently being delivered through a partnership between the Canadian Association for Community Living and the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance.

They give the impression that the government is not moving forward on this issue, but that is just not the case. The Minister of Health has captured the essence of the issue and the bureaucracy within the Department of Health is taking the initiatives that are necessary and can actually make a difference.

I cannot say enough about the Canada autism partnership and what it has been able to accomplish to date. I applaud each and every person involved in that. The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance is a fantastic group that bridges every region of our country, I suspect, through the care and compassion it has demonstrated not only over the last couple of years but for decades of dealing with this very issue. I know that because it was a topic of many discussions in my former life as a member of the Manitoba legislative assembly and the health care critic in the province.

I posed a question to the member opposite regarding the need for co-operation, and I did it because of my understanding of how health care services are delivered. If I factor in my personal experience, as I am sure members across the way are aware, it is not just the departments of health in the different provinces having to come to the table on this very important issue. Members can check with the department of family services in the Province of Manitoba, for example, and I suspect they will find other sources of money and supports that are accessed in several departments in the different provinces. They will find that in some areas there are more progressive municipal governments that look at ways to provide support. That is not to mention the many non-profit organizations that deal with this particular issue in a very real and tangible way. Autism spectrum disorder is well established and well understood and, yes, there is room for us to move forward.

I expect the Government of Canada to do what it is doing today: investing real dollars, where it can, that are going to make a difference for those who have autism and, in particular, the families affected as a direct result of it. Where it can provide that direct delivery, I encourage and promote it. I would love to see more research done on it.

I really believe the single greatest thing that the Minister of Health can do on this particular issue is to ensure that she is working with the different stakeholders in trying to assist, and that there is some commonality between the different provinces, to take a look at our best practices in one province and maybe see how they could be incorporated into another province. Some members of this House have already drawn the conclusion that there is only one way to do that best, and that is through the Canadian autism partnership.

I have confidence in the Department of Health and this particular Minister of Health who has demonstrated a caring, compassionate heart when it comes to delivering on what Canadians believe is so important to them and part of our identity, and that is health care services. We have a minister who has been more proactive than the previous four or five health ministers under the Conservative administration, and that can be very easily demonstrated. I have more confidence in her ability to ensure this aspect of health care, the autism spectrum, is in fact being addressed.

When I see the type of budgetary initiatives that the government has in place or continues to support, and the type of other ministerial involvement, such as the one I made reference to in terms of sports and disability, I see that as encouragement. At the end of the day, I do not believe for a moment that there is a member inside this chamber who does not recognize the importance of the issue. I believe we all recognize that.

I choose to believe that at the end of the day, if we recognize that the Minister of Health—and I repeat what I said earlier—is still engaged with many different groups to identify other potential opportunities for partnerships and with other departments to determine where investments can best help those with autism and their families, that is something I believe is of critical importance.

If we are to move forward, I want this government to move forward in the right direction, so at the end of the day, we will ultimately see the best results we can see, with the finite amount of money that government has.

I disagree with members who say that it is 10¢ a day for this, or it is only $19 million. I can assure you that every one of the constituents I represent would argue that a million dollars is a lot of money. We could take that approach and say that this is a very good cause, which it is.

Do not quote me on it, but I suspect the Province of Manitoba spent somewhere between $6.5 billion and $7 billion on health care last year or the year before. Every dime of that, I would argue, is very important. We understand the importance of health care. We understand the importance of being there for our children and our families. This is a government that understands that, and if we look at the budgetary issues that we have presented to this chamber, we find there are numerous actions that have been taken in order to support our families.

I suspect that, as we continue to move forward, we will see more tangible actions that support the intent of what we are talking about today, and that is to try to deal with this disorder.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the point of view of my good friend from Winnipeg North. He is all over the map. It is the communities that are suffering. Families have issues. Families have major issues with the kids.

I attended a number of fundraisers. I have seen a number of their members of Parliament showing up for the picture ID to say “Hey, we are here with you; we are going to help you out.”

This is the time. The question is simple and short. It is 10¢ per Canadian per year. It is not much money. We can give the Prime Minister $250,000 for a private island. We can adjust it. It is not much to ask.

I am hoping at the end of the day that the member can tell us if he will support this issue or not. It is just a simple question, yes or no. Three million dollars is not a lot of money, $3.8 million for the entire country. It is not much to ask.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, nor is it much to ask that we recognize that the Minister of Health is engaged with this issue, and that in fact we are working with other stakeholders, dealing with this very important issue. Until we have made the ultimate determination, and we see that in different forms, voting against this particular motion does not mean, in any fashion whatsoever, that I do not recognize the valuable contributions that all those have made toward this particular issue, autism spectrum disorder.

Ultimately, what I want to see as a legislator is that good decisions are being made, and that at the end of the day we will see the best results we can, given the finite amount of money we have. That is something I believe is really important.

I look to the ongoing support from the department of health, and in fact this government, toward autism spectrum disorder.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go on, I just cannot get over how the hon. parliamentary secretary is always helped by people in the opposition. They must really like him to help him along and try to give him stuff to say, but I am sure he can answer all on his own.

Questions and comments.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was under the impression that 150-some Liberals got elected, but unfortunately we hear all too often from only one of them.

What I want to talk about today is that I was hoping in this debate we would find a way to get to yes: yes to support for people with autism, yes to support for their families and their support workers, and yes to supporting all those people who surround them with love and want to make sure they succeed.

The hon. member says it is a lot of money. No, I would say it is not a lot of money. What we are not spending now, we will spend later. What we are not spending in this way, we are spending in the wrong way. This is an investment in an inclusive Canada, something we would hope the government would support.

However, we have heard yet another one of those speeches that talks about consulting people, thinking about it, working on it later, and finally coming to a conclusion sometime over the distant horizon. When is the government actually going to take action to support people with autism and their families and make this a more inclusive Canada?

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure if the member across the way was listening to what I was talking about.

The government has actually taken many different actions that deal with autism spectrum disorder—

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am not sure there is a specific order that prevents the member from doing what he often does, but he accuses people who actually endured his speech of not listening to it.

I would appreciate it if he would give credit to the fact that my questions were based on what he had to say in this House, to which I listened very carefully, and I found no answers for those people who live with autism.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I believe that is a point of debate, not a point of order.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member was listening, he would have heard that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested $39 million in the past five years toward autism spectrum disorder; additionally, in the budget, support to parents with disabled children was expanded to up to $2,769 per child.

As opposed to reading all the things that I have already indicated, I can tell the member that, at the end of the day, once everything has been said and done, I choose to believe that on the issue of autism spectrum disorder, I care just as much as members on all sides of this House. I am hoping that the members across the way will recognize that, if we are going to continue to move forward on this issue, I choose to believe that the Minister of Health understands and has been meeting with the many different stakeholders and is developing a plan that would ultimately see the issues that we want to see being advanced and moving forward.

In time, I think we will see just that.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speculate on how much the member cares, but I can comment on what I have heard today. What I have heard today is one of the most mind-numbing and condescending speeches I have ever heard in the House. The member talks about the government being “progressive in pushing this issue forward”. That is demonstrably false, demonstrably untrue. The member talked about doing his research, that he knows about the organization, that he visited its website. Lots of people can visit the website.

The member says that the single greatest thing the minister can do is work with different stakeholders. Does the hon. member have any idea how much work went into this with the stakeholders? The member talks about research. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Stelios Georgiades, Stephen Scherer, Jonathan Weiss, some of the top researchers in the entire world were part of the autism spectrum disorders working group. There were seven incredible self-advocates as part of the team that put together this ask. The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance worked for two years on this to come up with a way that we could meaningfully help Canadian families living with autism. It is $3.8 million a year, and yes, I do believe that number is relevant. It is 10¢ per Canadian per year, an investment that would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with autism.

I will ask again. Will the hon. member be voting yes or no for this motion?

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, from my perspective, I believe that I have been fairly clear on how I stand on the issue of autism spectrum disorder. On a few occasions I have also recognized the many different stakeholders who have been involved in this. I appreciate the fact that the member made reference to specific names, but I would suggest that it goes far beyond those names. There are individuals in every region of the country who truly care about this and who had input. All those thousands who participated in the consultation also need to be appreciated and recognized. That is something which we have done.

We will continue to move forward as the government puts in the budget. We have talked about the implementation of potential legislation. The government is moving forward on this issue. That is something which I believe is important to see and have that debate today. Individuals who are watching can rest assured that the government is proactive on the file.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, is the member's point of view that government knows best in spite of the fact that the member who has gone out and done consultations, talked to parents, talked to experts in the field, self-advocates about what government should do to move forward? That is how the member came forward with this motion. Is it the view of the member for Winnipeg North that the government knows best? That is what I am hearing from him.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what I indicated is that the Minister of Health has done her homework on the issue. As she continues to be engaged with the many different stakeholders dealing with autism spectrum disorder, that will continue to take place over the coming weeks, months, and years as we try to advance the issue the best way we can in co-operation with the different stakeholders.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to let you know that I will be sharing my time with the member for Lethbridge.

On March 24, 2016, I was in the House of Commons along with pretty much everyone else. I was listening closely to my colleague from Edmonton—Wetaskiwin. It was during statements by members, when we have a minute to talk about a matter of personal interest, and my colleague's words were, by far, the most moving I have ever heard in the House of Commons or the National Assembly, where I sat for seven years.

What was so poignant about his remarks? My colleague told us about his son, Jaden, who was in the gallery at the time. With his trademark sensitivity and a full measure of the sincerity he demonstrates whenever he is invested in something, he shared his deep love for and great pride in his son despite the fact that Jaden has autism spectrum disorder.

His words truly moved me to tears. I shared his statement on Twitter and Facebook. Thousands more anglophones and francophones were also touched by what the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin said.

Here we are 14 months later speaking to this issue. We are being asked to vote on a motion to address a situation that we should not be in in the first place. Why did the current government have to slow the momentum built by the previous government to help research efforts and persons with autism spectrum disorder?

My comments will be two-pronged. Before getting to the financial and political aspects of the issue, let us first talk about autism. Everyone in Canada knows someone who knows someone who is dealing with autism. ASD was around 20 years ago, but we did not know much about it and had not yet given it a name. Today, it affects 1 in 65 children in Canada. That is half a million children who are affected by autism spectrum disorder. Multiply that number by 2, 3, 5, or 10 to get the number of people directly affected because every father, mother, grandfather, grandmother in this situation is affected. This serves as a reminder to those of us who are fortunate enough to be parents, like me and most people here I presume, that we are extremely lucky to have healthy children.

We need to deal with this situation in a positive and constructive way because the distinctive thing about autism is that no two cases are alike. Each case requires dozens or even hundreds of different measures. People with ASD will be dealing with this disorder their entire lives. ASD begins to manifest itself around the age of two. As my colleague from Edmonton—Wetaskiwin mentioned, in Quebec it takes two years to get an appointment and two more to get treatment. By then, the child is six years old, and it might be getting a bit late for treatment. It is never too late to do the right thing, but science has shown that the younger children are when they begin treatment, the better the results.

This is not about partisanship, political games, or seeking gains of any sort. We need to unite to help people in this situation. That is where we are in this debate.

A few years ago, spurred by the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, and with the support of the former prime minister and member for Calgary Heritage, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, as well as the then finance minister, the Honourable Joe Oliver, the previous government allocated monies to enable all Canadian autism organizations to work together and help each other out.

We know that health is a provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has a role to play. That role is to help with research, and to identify and discover best practices. The role of the federal government is to help all the groups trying to find solutions to ASD to work together, and exchange data and information in order to improve the lives of all Canadians affected by this disorder. I would like to point out that half a million Canadian children are affected. That is a lot of people.

That is why our government created the working group to go forward with this. To everyone's surprise, the current government turned down the group's modest request for funding.

When the budget was tabled, everyone expected the government to carry on with what the previous government started. After all, any government that sees something good happening has a duty to make sure it keeps happening even if it was started by people of a different political stripe. It is important to recognize everyone's work. However, to everyone's surprise, and as the finance critic, I know what I am talking about here, the current government said no to what is really a modest funding request.

The government cut $19 million over five years. That is $3.8 million per year or, as the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin put it, 10¢ per Canadian. That is not a lot. It is exactly 0.0001% of the budget. The budget is over $330 billion, and the government is cutting the $3.8 million that would have gone straight to helping those who help people with autism.

This is an unfortunate, sad, and utterly unacceptable decision. The way I see it, every expenditure is suspect and should be scrutinized. One is either a Conservative or one is not. To Conservatives, money well spent is worth every penny. Let me put that another way.

When it is useful, it is not expensive because it is used. They are important for people. This is the real issue with respect to today's debate. Why did the government decide to cancel the good support that the former government gave to families, to fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, who tried to work hard to support their children and grandchildren who have autism spectrum disorder?

The question today is crystal clear. Why did the government decide to cancel the necessary support? This is the main question. We are very sad to see that since the beginning of the debate, no one on the government side can answer this easy question.

We know that this government sometimes has a hard time giving straightforward answers. We saw this again last week, when the Prime Minister could not tell us how many times he met with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I have seen this regularly myself, too. I asked the Minister of Finance 24 times when Canada would return to a balanced budget, but never got an answer.

Let us be honest here. This is a humanitarian issue. This is in no way a partisan issue. We need to give our very best in order to help the most vulnerable among us. The federal government has a vital role to play across Canada. Yes, health is a provincial responsibility, but it is incumbent upon the Canadian federal government to unite the efforts of Canadians and all organizations from coast to coast to coast to allow Canadian parents to access the same services and come up with best practices to support people with autism spectrum disorder. The current government has stifled the efforts of the previous government.

With all my heart, I am appealing to the common sense of my colleagues opposite and to their sense of responsibility. I hope they will allow their government to help Canadians in need.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the government wants to spend money on everything in the world, but it seems unwilling to make a commitment to a reasonable organization that has spent money well in the past and wants to help children all across Canada who have autism.

I am wondering what my colleague thinks about that.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, when my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton asks questions, there is no sign of a political agenda. She is very concerned about social issues and very careful when she talks about them, especially this one, because we are talking about Canadian children.

Let me remind the House that the Liberal government always proudly says that it is the government of the family, that it spends billions of dollars on families, that it is very careful. Just a few days ago the minister from Quebec City said that I, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, should be proud because the 21,000 children in my riding will be happier because the government gave a lot of money to them. We are asking the government to keep the money for the people who need it, the people who are dealing with autism spectrum disorder. We are telling the government to keep it, keep it, keep it.

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum DisorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it astonishing right now that not one single Liberal member is standing up to ask a question on this member's fantastic speech. It is not really surprising, given the way the debate has gone today so far.

We have heard from those who stood up earlier today on the Liberal side a lot about the past Conservative investments in research and surveillance. Those are and have been really important in understanding autism and the needs of the autism community in Canada.

I would like to ask the member what he thinks the usefulness is of all that knowledge if we do not implement something as tangibly important as the Canadian autism partnership for Canadian families.