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.