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A Message From Mike on Autism Wednesday, 21 February 2007

To Whom It May Concern,

Tonight, I will vote on a Private Member’s Bill titled “An Act to provide for the development of a national strategy for the treatment of autism and amend the Canada Health Act.”

I have a son with autism.  I have heard from countless other parents of children with autism, virtually all of whom are wholeheartedly encouraging me and my colleagues in all parties to support this bill.  There is nobody who wants to help these families more than I do.  Nobody.

If I were to vote to support Bill C-304, some parents of children with autism would be very happy with me; my colleagues who disagree with me would support me because of my unique family experience; my constituents would applaud my compassion and sympathize with me; and there seemingly would be no downside.

The problem is this.  Bill C-304 is bad legislation.  It proposes an ad hoc amendment to the Canada Health Act that changes the entire meaning of the document.  It would set a precedent that would eventually undermine the entire Canadian health care system when taken to its logical extension.

If this Bill were to pass, autism would be the one and only disorder or disease named in the Canada Health Act.  Cancer is not named.  Neither is diabetes or cardiovascular disease.  Why autism and not these?  Why not Down Syndrome?  Why not Schizophrenia?

Under the Canada Health Act, the provinces are clearly responsible for decisions on which medical treatments they will fund.  If we are to maintain the integrity of the Act, only the provinces can make those decisions.

In my opinion, it is completely unacceptable for any province not to fund Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) for those who need it.  If voters feel as strongly as I do about this, they must let their provincial governments know and then hold them accountable at election time.

The sad thing is that Shawn Murphy, the Liberal Member of Parliament who is sponsoring this Bill, knows all of this.  He has been in Parliament since 2000 and would never have supported this piece of legislation when he was in government.

What he apparently doesn’t understand is that this is not an appropriate “wedge issue” to exploit for political gain.  These are real people, with real challenges, who are absolutely desperate for real solutions.  This Private Member’s Bill gives false hope to families who deserve so much more than to be treated as pawns in some political game.

On a more positive note, in 2006 Mr. Murphy’s Liberal colleague, Andy Scott introduced a Private Member’s Motion, M-172, on a national strategy for autism.  To his credit, Mr. Scott designed his motion not to divide the House, but to build consensus among members of all parties.  Mr. Scott’s carefully considered motion chose to focus on areas within the federal realm, and the Government (and the vast majority of members of the House) agreed with him – with a few minor amendments.

When I first saw Mr. Murphy’s Private Member’s Bill I suggested to him that perhaps he might consider changing his course and introduce something that would build on what was done by Mr. Scott rather than play politics.  Mr. Murphy’s actions obviously demonstrate that he is not focused on helping families dealing with autism.  My sincere hope is that every other Member of Parliament will put the interest of these families ahead of their own political ambition.

Personally, I am determined to fulfill my commitment to families dealing with autism as stated in my maiden speech in the House of Commons, “that I will do everything that I can do to promote action to the full extent that the federal government can play a role within its area of authority.”

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this statement, the easy decision for me would be to vote in favour of this legislation.  However, I was not elected to make the easy decisions.  I was elected to make the right decisions, and in this case the right decision is to vote against Bill C-304.


Mike Lake, MP
Edmonton – Mill Woods – Beaumont

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Mike Lake - Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin