Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand and address budget 2013. I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for York Centre, a very hard-working member of our finance committee.
It is my pleasure to speak to budget 2013. At the outset, I will outline for observers some of the processes that occur with respect to the preparation of budgets.
As members of this place know, the finance committee, which I chair, starts its hearings going back even to the spring and summer prior to the presentation of the budget. We receive submissions. Typically we cut off submission dates in the summer and we prepare all those submissions for members; members then hear from witnesses from across the country in the fall. Last year, we heard about 800 submissions. The committee tried online submissions for the first time in its history; we received those submissions, and the members heard some oral testimony as well.
We present our report to Parliament in December of each year, so we presented our pre-budget report in December. The budget is typically presented in February or March of the following year. We then follow with two budget implementation acts, one that we expect this spring and one that will occur in the fall.
That is just to give people some context in terms of the actual budgetary process.
I highlight that because there are numerous recommendations that our committee suggested in December in the budget itself, and I will refer to them as I go through the positive aspects of this budget.
In terms of the overall budget plan, the government would continue its increase in transfers to the provinces for health care, education and social assistance. For health care, there would be 6% increases until 2017, and then it would be based on nominal GDP after 2017. It would increase support for provinces for education and social assistance at 3% per annum until 2017 as well.
With respect to transfers to persons, those would increase, as obviously more people are receiving seniors' benefits each and every year. Family benefits would also increase going forward. There is an excellent graph and accompanying figures in the budget that reflect that increase. In terms of transfers to provinces and to persons, these transfers would continue to increase, as they have since 2006.
The area of federal spending that the federal government more directly controls does not affect these areas. As members know, there was a program put in a place, a deficit reduction action plan, which examined about $70 billion of federal government spending, and it realized nearly 7% of savings, which is about 2% of what the federal government would spend over the course of the next few fiscal years.
That was very much based on a lot of the pre-budget recommendations we made. Recommendations numbers 2, 3 and 4 all asked us to maintain transfers for provinces and persons, to restrain our own federal government spending and to balance the budget in the medium term, which was echoed by many business groups and other organizations before the committee. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce strongly recommended that we continue to move toward a balanced budget in the medium term, so I am very pleased by that.
However, these organizations and other individuals before the committee also strongly recommended certain areas that did require investments and said that we ought to continue to make investments.
I will relay some of the stories, challenges and issues from my own riding of Edmonton—Leduc, including the southwest part of Edmonton, the city of Leduc, the town of Devon, the industrial heartland of Nisku south of Edmonton and the Edmonton International Airport. It is a very dynamic and diverse riding, but we have some very strong challenges.
The number one challenge that business people in that area raise with me is with respect to access to all types of labour, skilled and unskilled. I have taken visiting members of Parliament through my riding, especially through areas like Nisku where there are signs saying that if people are in one of six or seven listed professions, they should please stop in, because they need people.
I recall that when I took the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism into a company, Tenaris, in the riding, one of its shifts was not working. We asked why the shift was not up and running, and the plant manager simply said that the company did not have enough people to operate that shift, that if it had enough people the shift would be operating and the company would be producing more, paying more tax, supporting more services and employing more Canadians. They simply could not find enough people. That is on the skilled side.
PCL also has a huge centre in Nisku. It could use engineers, welders, boilermakers and all types of skilled trades. Hospitals, hotels and restaurants will say they need skilled and unskilled people. They are simply short-staffed.
One small business owner from the area with a restaurant chain and a drive-through service said at certain times he has to close down the drive-through, because people getting their lunch order would ask employees how much they were making an hour, and when they found out how much, they would give out business cards and say, “Call me tomorrow; we would like to hire you.”
This is the labour situation and the labour challenges we are finding in our area, which is why it is the number one issue raised with me. That is why I am very pleased by things like the Canada job grant, increased support for apprentices and acting on the disability report recommendations in the budget.
The reason I am such a big supporter of the Canada job grant is it actually engages employers and employees at a very direct level. A lot of the training done in the past by the provinces and the federal government has been valuable, but this is special in the sense that it engages employers and employees. It ensures that an employee is receiving training that will directly lead to a job and it matches employers and employees very directly. One of the common phrases used to describe our labour challenge today is “jobs without people and people without jobs”. That is a mismatch we have to address. That is exactly what the Canada job grant is trying to address.
I will refer again to our pre-budget report recommendations 8, 9 and 10 through 16, which all deal with the need to address this labour challenge and ways in which to do it. That is what this budget does.
Next is infrastructure. People often think a province like Alberta, which has seen relatively modest to strong growth over the last number of years, would not have a challenge with infrastructure. The reality is that we do, because when communities in southwest Edmonton or west Leduc or south Devon grow by 5% to 8% a year in the industrial sector, it puts a lot of challenges on our infrastructure.
The municipalities all asked for a long-term infrastructure plan. They worked with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, an excellent organization. The current President, Karen Leibovici, a city councillor from Edmonton, did an excellent job in negotiating with the government a 10-year plan in terms of addressing infrastructure needs going forward. Obviously this will start when the building Canada fund expires in 2014.
There are also things like renewing the P3 Canada fund, the new Canada building fund of $14 billion over 10 years, the community improvement fund at $32.2 billion over 10 years, and the gas fund tax payments and the GST rebate as well. With respect to the gas tax funding, municipalities say this is funding that they can count on and that they know is a certainty. They can then make investments and take out loans against the funding because they know it will be there. The fund can be used to access capital for the light rail transit developed in south Edmonton.
In relation to the P3 project, I am very pleased that there was a recent announcement on the light rail expansion in southeast Edmonton, in the constituency of the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. It is a very large P3 project between PPP Canada and the City of Edmonton. Both organizations should be applauded for their work in making this happen.
With respect to housing, again based on recommendations 52 and 53 in our pre-budget report, the housing investments over a long-term period were very good as well.
In terms of investments in manufacturing, I am very pleased that we have continued the accelerated capital cost allowance for the manufacturing sector. I am personally very proud of that, as this was in an industry committee report that we produced in February 2007. The finance minister included it in the budget of March 2007, and it has continued since that time. I am very pleased because of the investments in there.
There are also the investments in post-secondary education, based on recommendations 28 and 30 in pre-budget consultations. There is support for the federal research granting councils, for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, by working with excellent organizations like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, an excellent organization in terms of putting forward its recommendations for the budget.
The last point I will finish with is that we are following up on some of the recommendations we have been hearing at committee with respect to the charitable sector and encouraging Canadians to give more, following up on the member for Kitchener—Waterloo and all of his initiatives, and also with respect to increasing the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency to deal with tax evasion, something we are studying currently before the committee.
I encourage all members of this House to support the budget and I look forward to their questions.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise once again to encourage the House to support autism awareness, to support a world autism awareness day and to support Bill S-206, legislation raised by my colleague, Senator Munson, in the other place.
There are many reasons to raise awareness of this condition. In my opening comments I noted the benefits of early diagnosis, of proper surveillance and that autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, is the third most commonly reported chronic condition among children under the age of 4.
I also reminded the House of actions our Conservative government has already taken in this area. I praised the efforts of early diagnosis and early intervention and I asked that we not forget teens and adults with autism as we focus our attention on children.
In that speech, I also said though:
Individuals with autism and their families want what everyone wants, to fulfill their aspirations and flourish with the support of their family, friends and society as a whole. All too often, however, they and their families face the stigma and lack of understanding of the challenges they face and the support they need in order to reach their full potential.
To me, that is the most important benefit of establishing and recognizing world autism awareness day, breaking the stigma.
In my research, I found a blog entry by Julie Cole, an entrepreneur and a mother of a child with autism, who shared how even everyday well-meaning comments can be hurtful. She prefaced by saying “If you’re curious about what common and harmless things you are saying that make my ears bleed, here goes:”.
One such comment came from expectant mothers, “All I want is a healthy baby”. I will share Ms. Cole's response. She said:
...It makes sense to me - health is the most important gift we can ask for. But, bring out my psycho sidekick self and you want to know what it hears? It hears that the very last thing you want is a child like mine. I know that’s not really what’s being said, but it’s what the little friend in my head is hearing!
Another very innocent comment that caused her pain was obviously meant as a compliment, “He's lucky to have you.” Once again, Ms. Cole's response is heartfelt and honest. She said:
The thing is, I’m lucky to have him. When I hear how fortunate he is to have me, it makes me feel like you see him as a burden. Please remember, I feel like I picked a four-leaf clover on the morning of his birth.
A four-leaf clover: I view each of my children and each of my nine grandchildren the same way, and I am sure all parents do.
The question is why Canadians would assume that other parents could view their child differently. That assumption is not based on Canadians' understanding of autism. That assumption is based on ignorance.
The recognition of world autism awareness day will increase our understanding, reduce our ignorance and lead to better outcomes for our society in general.
As Ms. Cole, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont and other parents of children with ASD would all attest, the diagnosis brings many challenges. My colleague has spoken about these eloquently in the House several times and again tonight.
I truly appreciate the greater understanding I have gained of ASD since being elected to represent the good people of Kitchener--Conestoga. I am especially grateful to the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for sharing his experience with me through debates in the House and especially for introducing me to his son Jaden.
I am grateful to people like Julie Cole, parents who are willing to speak from their heart publicly about their experiences to help break down the stigma surrounding autism spectrum disorders.
I humbly ask the House to stand with Canadians like these to promote awareness of autism and to formally designate April 2 of each year as world autism awareness day.
As I said yesterday in comments on another topic altogether, often the most important role members of the House can play is as leaders of conversation. Bill S-206 provides the House with the opportunity to lead a national conversation on a subject that desperately requires more dialogue.
I ask all hon. members to vote in favour of Bill S-206.
moved that Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this time today to speak to the issue of autism in light of Bill S-206, an act respecting world autism awareness day. It is good for us in the House to have the opportunity to discuss this health issue that affects people all over the world. This bill was tabled in the other place by Senator Munson and I am pleased to support the bill.
This government recognizes that autism spectrum disorders, referred to as autism or ASD, represent a serious health and social issue affecting many Canadian families and individuals from all walks of life. In just a few short decades so much has changed regarding our awareness and understanding of autism.
Regarding Bill S-211, the predecessor bill to Bill S-206, I stated in the House that when I joined the Waterloo County School Board as a trustee in 1978, one of our superintendents mentioned the word “autism”. To be honest, I had not even heard the word before that time. I certainly did not understand it. I remember how our officials grappled to address the needs of the children and their families who were facing the challenges of dealing with autism. Since that time, it is obvious that we have come a long way in addressing this issue, but that we also still have a long way to go.
Today, our government is pleased to have the opportunity to express our support for Bill S-206, an act respecting world autism awareness day. Since I have the honour of sponsoring the bill in the House of Commons and therefore being the first speaker, I will briefly review some of the very basic and elementary facts about autism.
Autism is a complex, life-long, neurobiological condition that is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Autism affects a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is characterized by repetitive behaviours and the need for strict routines. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Autism can impair the development of speech and an individual's ability to relate to people, making it hard for them to make friends and to be socially accepted.
Autism impacts the way individuals react to what is happening around them. They are often oversensitive to certain stimuli, such as noise or being touched, and they can have difficulty adapting to new situations or any activity out of the ordinary. For those with milder symptoms, they will appear like any other individual , but still often seem very socially awkward. They may have puzzling behaviours in otherwise normal situations making it difficult for others to understand or know how to react to them. I want to stress that no one person with autism is the same as another. Each has varying abilities, skills and needs like all of us. Each individual is unique and must be viewed, recognized and treated as such.
Right now we do not know how to prevent autism, nor is there a cure or any single treatment. This represents a significant challenge to health care providers, to families and to policy-makers. So, where are we on this issue? We find there are many important questions to be addressed. What are the best methods for a diagnosis? How many Canadians have autism? What are the causes of autism and how can we prevent it? Why are boys four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls? What are the best treatments and intervention? How can we best support individuals with ASD and their families?
Although there are many unknowns, I do not want to sound pessimistic. There has been much progress over the past decades. There have been many advances. As one example, we know that the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier the interventions can begin in order to maximize the benefits and outcomes. Diagnosing ASD is not easy because of the complexity of the condition and the range of the autism spectrum. There is no simple biomedical test. We need a team of specially trained professionals observing and assessing specific behaviours. These professionals will use a variety of different screening tools that assess development and the level of disability.
Currently, most children with autism are diagnosed within the first three years of life. However, we know that research is helping to improve the diagnostic tools such that some of the signs of autism can now be detected as early as 12 to 18 months of age. This makes it possible to intervene much earlier, thus leading to better outcomes.
Diagnosing autism is difficult when so much is still unknown about its causes. It is commonly believed that there are likely many causes including: environmental, biological and genetic factors.
Regarding treatment, it is commonly understood that there is no single intervention for all patients. Current interventions focus on specific aspects of the disability, such as developing communication and social skills. Research into this area continues and our understanding is increasing.
Current data indicates that autism is the third most commonly reported chronic condition among children under the age of four, after asthma or severe allergies and attention deficit disorder. However, these are the numbers diagnosed and reported, not numbers of children actually affected by autism. With so many unknowns, it is important to build on our knowledge and evidence about ASD. We can then apply this information to improve diagnosis and treatment and to raise awareness among Canadians. To ensure that we have sound scientific knowledge of ASD, the Government of Canada is focusing efforts on surveillance and on using the data to provide useful information to families and health care providers.
Let me provide a few more details. First, surveillance is the systematic collection of data about health conditions, disorders and illnesses in a population, including trends over time. Information from surveillance is used to inform and direct public health action. Establishing a surveillance system is not an easy task but it is an essential one if we are truly to understand the magnitude of any health issue. To be effective, surveillance must be built on a foundation of agreed-upon and achievable objectives. Case definitions, surveillance standards, data collection tools and a framework need to be developed to ensure that data collection, analysis and reporting provide reliable and timely information.
The standing committee on social affairs, science and technology from the other place recognized the importance of surveillance for autism diagnosis in its report entitled “The Enquiry on the Funding for the Treatment of Autism. Pay Now or Pay Later. Autism Families In Crisis”. That report called for a national surveillance of autism and recommended that key stakeholders be consulted.
This government is already taking action in this area. I am pleased to report that the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently consulting with provincial and territorial representatives to determine current priorities, practices, data availability and plans related to the surveillance of ASD and other developmental disorders. An expert advisory committee is being created to guide the development of this new surveillance system. The first meeting of this committee is scheduled for March 2012. This expert advisory committee will review the information collected from the provinces and territories to determine the best way to capture information on ASD across Canada. Over the next year, the Public Health Agency of Canada, through the expert advisory committee, will continue working with provincial and territorial partners, national stakeholders and experts in health, education and social community services to design, develop and implement pilot projects across the country. This will enhance national surveillance of autism and other developmental disorders in Canada.
This work will bring us that much closer to answering that most important question of how many. It will also go a long way to providing vital information to support policy and program development across the country. Knowing the magnitude of the problem and the issues around it will help governments and communities identify how best to direct resources to improve the lives of those living with autism. Over the next year, the Public Health Agency of Canada, working with the expert advisory committee, will develop a framework and national standards for surveillance and will identify pilot sites for a surveillance system. These activities build on previous investments by the federal government in the research and surveillance of autism. It is crucial work that will bring together key players to help overcome the challenges of autism in Canada.
Finally, we cannot underestimate the power of scientific evidence when it is translated into useful information for raising awareness and taking action. Much effort is being focused on early diagnosis and early intervention for children. While this is a laudable and right thing to do, we must not forget the teens and adults with autism. While many adults with this condition lead successful lives, others will need ongoing support. This latter group needs our special attention, as little is known about the best ways to support them and their families. By working with our partners to raise awareness of what it is like to live with autism, we can support the adolescents and adults of today and tomorrow to reach their full potential and take their place in our communities.
Individuals with autism and their families want what everyone wants, to fulfill their aspirations and flourish with the support of their family, friends and society as a whole. All too often, however, they and their families face the stigma and lack of understanding of the challenges they face and the support they need in order to reach their full potential.
Families can feel that they are on their own. They might not know which way to turn or where to seek the best advice. However, through their personal advocacy efforts, individuals affected by autism and their families have shown us how resilient they are. People affected by this condition can and do succeed with the right support. It is important that these individuals and their families know that the federal government is working with its partners and other stakeholders to support the autism community by enhancing the evidence base and increasing awareness.
Many times over the last six years since I have served here in Parliament, and again today, my friend and colleague, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont has shared his very personal journey with this House. He has demonstrated how a family deals effectively with the enormous challenges faced by those dealing with autism. It has been a real honour, not only for me and my colleagues on this side of the House but for all members, to have met Jaden, to see the fantastic enjoyment that he gets from life and to experience the joy that he gives to each of us as members.
I am amazed at the perseverance and tenacity that is needed by every family and community that deals with autism on a daily basis. It is clear that we need to do all that we can to raise awareness and work toward effective support and solutions. Through public dialogue on autism spectrum disorder, and through our support for activities to increase knowledge, we are helping to increase awareness not only of the challenges faced by those with autism and their families, but also of the potential of these individuals.
I am grateful for the opportunity today to speak on autism and to share the ongoing work that is taking place to support Canadians.
moved for leave to introduce Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce Bill S-206, an act respecting world autism awareness day.
I think all of us in the House have met or have had personal contact with those who are struggling with autism. We are very much aware of our colleague, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, who has done such an incredible job of raising the awareness, understanding, acceptance and desire to help people and families struggling with autism. I am continually amazed at the perseverance and tenacity demonstrated by every family and community that has to deal with autism on a daily basis.
We need to do all we can to raise awareness, to work toward effective solutions and to finding ways to support them.
Mr. Speaker, this weekend members of the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Association of Edmonton learned that their imam, Mr. Al-Atar, was detained without charges in Saudi Arabia.
The member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont went with his son to meet with this community and its leader to hear their concerns and relayed these to the minister's office directly.
Today we are happy to learn that Mr. Al-Atar has been released by Saudi authorities.
At the risk of repeating good news, could the Minister of State please tell the House how the government quickly reacted to learning of Mr. Al-Atar's detention and ultimately assisted in obtaining his release?
Madam Speaker, please note that I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
As this is my first time rising in the House since the election, let me start with some thanks. First, I would like to thank my constituents of Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for giving me the honour of serving them once again.
I thank my wife Debi and my kids, Jaden and Jenae. I love them and their understanding of the importance of this job that keeps me away from them and away from home 130 nights a year. When we started six years ago, we said this would be our family adventure, and it has been a wonderful one, not always easy, but wonderful, nonetheless.
To my staff in Edmonton and Ottawa, my re-election is really a vote of approval for the service that we perform together for our constituents. I would like to thank them for their hard work in that regard.
Finally, I thank my volunteers. Of course, I cannot name them all, but I know I would not be here without them. They are like an extended family to us and we are truly blessed by their incredible efforts and support. In particular, I would like to publicly acknowledge my campaign co-managers, Bill Witzke and Leigh Johnston, who literally put in countless hours and ran a fantastic campaign.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, I welcome the opportunity to outline the government's agenda to support Canadian business, foster innovation and promote competitiveness.
Budget 2011 continues to focus on the task at hand, shepherding our country through the global economic recovery, while at the same time continuing to lay the foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth.
In the context of the current global economic rebalancing, Canada has stood out among nations as a pillar of economic strength. To date, we have successfully navigated through global economic turbulence, thanks to timely, temporary and targeted interventions.
In response to the global recession, Canada's economic action plan provided $60 billion in extraordinary stimulus to support jobs and growth. The results speak for themselves: first, seven straight quarters of economic growth. For those of us on this side of the House the most important statistic is this: Canada has created nearly 540,000 net new jobs since July 2009. That speaks to the strength of our economy, the ingenuity of Canada's small and medium size enterprise sector, and the strong economic record of our government.
In the last election, our party said that we would focus on the economy, as we have done in the past and as we will continue to do in the future. That is what Canadians expect of us and that is what this budget delivers. In particular, the budget takes key steps to help businesses, including the thousands of small businesses across the country that are so fundamental to Canada's economy. For example, we are providing $20 million over two years to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to help young entrepreneurs become the leaders of tomorrow.
To make it easier for all entrepreneurs to determine the government licences and permits they need, we have also announced measures to upgrade the BizPaL service and expand online capabilities. As we make it easier for Canadians to start new businesses and to build those businesses, we will continue to see new jobs and growth in the Canadian economy.
I would now like to focus on two additional priority areas where we can support jobs and growth, the digital economy strategy and research and development.
Supporting jobs and growth means giving workers and businesses the tools they need to succeed in a competitive global economy, tools which include digital technologies. These technologies power activities in all areas of the economy, from manufacturing and transportation to advanced telecommunications and web-based services. They also provide a platform for all sectors to become more innovative and productive.
This is about setting the stage for the economy of tomorrow, and our plan announces a suite of initiatives that will contribute to this strategy.
Our government is doing its part by announcing measures that will ensure that Canada provides world class infrastructure and a competitive framework to encourage the private sector to create and adopt new information and communications technologies.
Additional initiatives will help Canada develop the digital workforce of tomorrow and create Canada's next generation of digital content by providing $80 million in new funding over three years through the industrial research assistance program to help small and medium size businesses accelerate their adoption of key information and communications technologies through collaborative projects with colleges; $60 million over the next three years to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy; and $100 million per year to the Canada media fund for investments in the creation of digital content across multiple platforms.
Our government has also committed to reintroduce and seek passage of copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and users. The copyright modernization act would bring Canada in line with advances in technology and international standards, as well as provide a framework that is forward-looking, flexible and technologically neutral.
Overall, these measures will help ensure that by 2020 Canada's economy is leading edge, driven by innovation, boosting productivity and sustaining high levels of prosperity.
I am proud that our government is taking the steps necessary to foster long-term growth in the economy and providing young Canadians with as many opportunities to succeed as possible.
Beyond the digital economy, the global economy depends increasingly on knowledge and innovation. In order to be a global leader, Canada must attract and develop talented people, increase our capacity for world-leading research and development and promote education and skills development. Our government measures will help strengthen Canada's leadership position by supporting international research collaboration and world-class research centres in Canada.
Specifically, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan announces new resources to support leading edge research, to improve commercialization and support the adoption of new technologies in the marketplace, including: investing an additional $37 million per year to support the three federal granting research councils and providing an additional $10 million per year for the indirect costs program to support costs such as those related to operating and maintaining research facilities; investing $53.5 million over five years to support the creation of 10 new Canada excellence research chairs; investing $4 million over three years to support the construction of a cyclotron for the production of medical isotopes at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute; and providing $50 million over five years beginning in 2012-13 to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities.
Research and innovation drive jobs and create opportunities for Canadian companies to succeed all around the world. Our government knows that Canadian students, businesses and workers have the skills to succeed. We know we can compete with anyone in the world. With this budget, Canadians know they have a government that believes in them.
Our plan is supported. Here are just two examples of what Canadians had to say about these measures. Seneca College president, David Agnew, says:
This budget speaks to the role that colleges play in increasing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. This on-going investment also illustrates the important role that our students and graduates play in today's economic prosperity.
The president of a Toronto company, Darcor Casters & Wheels, Rob Hilborn, says:
These budget measures supporting the link between businesses and polytechnics will increase innovation and entrepreneurship for many Canadian companies. Budget 2011 opens more doors for small and mid-sized firms to access college research facilities and talent.
In conclusion, budget 2011 will position us on a path to a stronger economic recovery. As we move ahead, we will keep taxes low, we will create jobs, we will promote investment and growth, we will encourage innovation and we will deliver on initiatives that improve Canada's business environment.
I am proud to support this plan and I hope all members will join me in passing this budget expeditiously.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to talk about Bill C-393. In fact, I am pleased that my friend from Ottawa Centre put his name to the bill and is giving me the opportunity to do just that.
As I listened to the various debaters today, it occurred to me there were some myths that perhaps I might have an opportunity to debunk today. I hope everyone is listening carefully as I do that.
The bill was first introduced almost two years ago in the House. The intention was to address deficiencies and limitations in Canada's access to medicines regime that have rendered it cumbersome and very user-unfriendly.
Parliament can and must deliver on its promise to people in developing countries struggling with the burden of such public health problems as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
I will deal with myth number one. The myth is that Bill C-393 would weaken current safeguards aimed at ensuring medicines are not diverted and illegally resold. Critics of Bill C-393 have previously claimed that it would weaken Canada's medicines regime and the existing measures to prevent the diversion and illegal resale of medicines, or that it would allow substandard medicines to be exported to developing countries. These claims were never accurate. In any event, such objections can no longer stand since the relevant clauses were removed at committee and are no longer part of Bill C-393.
All of the requirements to disclose quantities of a medicine being shipped and to which countries are being preserved. These safeguards were already deemed satisfactory by Parliament when it first created Canada's medicines regime.
Myth number two is that Bill C-393 would remove measures to ensure the quality of medicines being supplied to developing countries. This claim is simply not true. Under Bill C-393 as it now stands, a Health Canada review would continue to be required for all drugs exported.
Myth number three is that the amendments in Bill C-393 would violate Canada's obligations under the World Trade Organization's treaty on intellectual property rights. In detailed analysis, including by some of the world's leading legal experts on the subject, have shown that this is not correct. All countries at the World Trade Organization, including Canada, have repeatedly and explicitly agreed that issuing compulsory licences on patented medicines to facilitate exports of lower priced generic medicines is entirely consistent with World Trade Organization rules.
The next myth is that Bill C-393 and the one licence solution would authorize unfair competition for brand name pharmaceutical companies. We heard my friend from Ottawa Centre and a number of other speakers today mention the one licence solution. The claim makes no sense. The proposed one licence solution would not, as some inaccurately claim, create unfair competition for brand name pharmaceutical companies.
To be clear, nothing in Bill C-393 prevents brand name pharmaceutical companies from competing to supply their patented products to developing countries. Rather, Bill C-393 simply aims to enable competition by generics to supply those eligible countries and preserves the requirement that generic manufacturers pay royalties to patent holding pharmaceutical companies in the event of any compulsory licence being issued.
Bill C-393 is about making workable something already endorsed by Parliament.
Another myth is that Canadian generic manufacturers will not be able to supply medicines at prices that are competitive with generic manufacturers elsewhere. This claim is simplistic and unfounded. The goal is not to get business for Canadian companies. The goal is to get quality medicines at the lowest possible price for as many patients in developing countries as possible. However, it makes no sense to simply assume that Canadian companies cannot compete globally because they already do.
My friend from Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont was talking about the inability of countries to actually deal with the issue and to work with the drugs. That is a another myth that I will debunk.
The barrier to greater access is not the price of medicines but rather widespread poverty and inadequate health systems. The myth is that widespread poverty, inadequate health systems and not enough doctors, clinics, nurses and so on are the barriers to delivering these.
I spent almost six years living in west and southern Africa working for a Canadian aid organization and I can tell the House that there are multiple barriers to accessing medicines in the developing world which vary from country to country and even community to community. However, major progress has been made in increasing access to treatment, including by strengthening health systems. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the quality of health or physical infrastructure in some developing countries presents an insurmountable challenge to delivering affordable medicines.
For example, with determination and innovative approaches, AIDS treatment is being delivered effectively in some of the most resource limited settings imaginable. In just a few years, millions of people have been put on life-saving AIDS drugs in developing countries, thanks to both effective global investments in health systems, for example through the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and the use of generic medicines purchased at dramatically lower prices.
Every credible organization and expert recognizes the obvious fact that the price of medicines is a key factor affecting access to those medicines and that the price of medicines prevent many patients with HIV or numerous other conditions from accessing life-saving treatments. Prices are higher when medicines are only available from brand name pharmaceutical companies that hold patents on those medicines. Instead of the word patents we could use monopolies if we wish.
Making medicines affordable, strengthening health systems and other initiatives to tackle poverty and improve health in developing countries are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are complementary and all are necessary. All the clinics, doctors and nurses in the world will not be able to help patients if medicines are priced out of reach, and that is the bottom line, and that is why we have this bill before us today.
Madam Speaker, I stand to speak today about an issue that is near and dear to my heart and to the hearts of so many Canadians in Oshawa and around the country, autism spectrum disorders, or ASD.
ASD affects many Canadians, including my son, of all ages and walks of life, from coast to coast to coast. This is why the government is committed to building knowledge of and awareness about this serious condition. Indeed, this government is pleased to have the opportunity to voice its endorsement of Bill S-211. By supporting the bill, we underscore our standing commitment to recognize April 2 as annual World Autism Awareness Day.
Many have heard of the government's significant investments in autism related research, and I am very proud of that. This important work is being spearheaded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, otherwise referred to as CIHR. In the spirit of promoting autism awareness and knowledge, I would like to take this opportunity to outline this work and some important findings that it has engendered.
One of CIHR's main priorities is to promote health and reduce the burden of chronic diseases and mental illness. In this context, CIHR's Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction is working with partners in the autism community to set research priorities, coordinate action and accelerate the speed at which knowledge is translated into improved well-being for Canadians with autism.
I am pleased to report that over recent years, CIHR has invested approximately $29 million in ASD-related research projects. Of this amount, roughly $16 million has been devoted to better understanding the causes of ASD. Moreover, CIHR has committed another $10.5 million in this area, with plans to focus on the characterization and treatment of ASD.
In 25 years of children's mental health practice and research, there have been many challenges in thinking about the causes and treatment of autism and there is much work under way to understand the genetic causes of autism and whether there are also environmental triggers. For example, Dr. Peter Szatmari, head of Child Psychiatry, McMaster University, is co-leader of the CIHR-funded Canadian arm of an international study seeking to track down the complex mix of genes involved in ASD.
The international autism genome project, or AGP, is the world's first international collaboration on genetic factors in children's mental health, involving more than 170 leading genetics researchers from over 50 centres in the U.S.A., Europe and Canada.
Since the launch of the autism genome project, at least two dozen genes have been identified and associated with ASD, including four new genes in the latest phase of the study. Based on genetic studies of twins in families, which have shown that ASD propensity can be genetic, researchers estimate that 5% to 15% of autism cases can be linked to specific known genes. In addition, researchers have begun to quantify the influence of genetic patterns and have found that those with ASD were 20% more likely to have abnormalities in the number of copies of specific genes.
Another CIHR-funded initiative is the pathways in ASD project, a one of a kind collaborative research study being led by researchers from McMaster University. The pathways project is focused on understanding how children with ASD develop and change and how family stress evolves over time. It also seeks to identify child, family, school and community factors that might act as predictors, mediators or moderators of key outcomes, information that will ideally be used to develop new intervention programs.
To date, approximately 440 children from 5 different locations across Canada have been enrolled in the study, making it the largest prospective study of ASD ever developed. The project will examine a number of factors that influence areas of development related to the child, the family and the community as a whole, such as social confidence, communication skills, behaviour and the ability to function independently.
The results of this study will be a valuable resource in ensuring the best outcomes for children with ASD, both through the development of new programs and interventions and by furthering our understanding of their needs and strengths.
CIHR is also supporting a $1.4 million strategic training grant in autism research, led by Dr. Eric Fombonne from McGill University, which will contribute to training the upcoming generation of autism researchers and will aim to uncover the mysteries of autism.
Building on the strategic training program in autism research that trained over 40 Ph.D. and post-doctoral students, this latest project will expand the program. This project will address the pressing needs of Canadians affected by autism as well as their families by building research capacity in this very important area.
In addition, CIHR is investing in autism research at the University of Alberta where researchers are examining the early development of autism by following infants at increased risk of the disorder because they are siblings of children who already have autism. The ultimate goal is earlier identification and treatment. Research, such as this, is building our understanding of ASD and our capacity to treat ASD.
Finally, in another CIHR funded project, Dr. Richard Tremblay of Université de Montréal is conducting a series of longitudinal studies that trace the early childhood development trajectories of disruptive behaviour problems and their association with the developmental trajectories of other health problems such as inattention, emotional problems, sleep problems and obesity.
There is a plethora of research projects under way that seek to better understand autism and to bolster the ASD evidence base. Indeed, the studies I have described today present only a sample of this very important work. It is my hope that as we recognize and celebrate World Autism Awareness Day in years to come, Canada will be able to share the ongoing results of such research and succeed in boosting our collective knowledge and awareness of this serious condition leading ultimately to successful treatment.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues who have played an important role in this very important day: the Minister of Health, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, other colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Commons, the researchers across Canada and around the world, the volunteers in local and national autism awareness organizations and, of course, the families of such wonderful kids.
On April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, we will all remember this very important condition and I think the House will fully endorse this wonderful bill.
Mr. Speaker, I listened quite extensively to the member for
What this is all about on the government's part is ideology over substance, paying $30 million more for a census return from this borrow and spend government to get less accurate information. That does not make sense.
However, the member's argument, and he went to great length in his remarks, was that one reason the Conservatives were doing away with this was because of the criminal aspect for the long form and the mandatory nature of it.
There is a double standard on that side of the House. If that is really the substance of the government's argument and the principle of its argument, then why is it still a criminal offence for farmers if they do not fill out the agriculture census?
At 12:10 this afternoon, I took this off the Statistics Canada website. One question on the agriculture census was, “Are there penalties for not answering and returning the questionnaire?” The answer was:
Yes. Under the Statistics Act, agricultural operators are required to complete a Census of Agriculture form. Refusing to answer the questions on the census form could result in a fine of $500 or a jail term of three months, or both.
Most agricultural organizations support the agriculture census with the penalties in it because they know the value of the agriculture census to the agricultural community. However, my point is this. If the government is talking about principle, then why the principle in one area and not in the other, or is its argument just intellectual dishonesty?
The electoral district of Edmonton--Mill Woods--Beaumont (Alberta) has a population of 112,919 with 80,250 registered voters and 218 polling divisions.
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