As many of you are aware, the Hon. Shawn Murphy tabled Bill C-304, a Private Members' Bill, in the House of Commons in 2006. This Bill, named "National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism Act" is critical to our cause as it would not only include autism treatment in Medicare, but would also require the Federal Minister of Health to develop a National Autism Strategy in consultation with the provinces and table the plan in the House of Commons.
Where is the Bill at? What can you do to help?
For a Bill to become law it must be tabled in the House of Commons (First Reading), debated at Second Reading, studied by a Committee, and then voted on and passed following Third Reading. Then it would go through the same thing in the Senate and then get the Royal Assent from the Governor-General. A Private Members' Bill is entitled to two hours of debate at the Second Reading stage. The second hour of debate was held late in the day on February 14, 2007. The vote on the Bill did not take place afterwards as the procedures the House follows is to delay votes and group them together so that more MPs will be present.
Next: the Bill will be the subject of a vote next Wednesday, February 21, 2007 (subject to the usual change without notice), on whether to refer it to the next stage in the approval process, namely, whether or not to refer it to a Committee (probably the Standing Health Committee). The vote will be one where each MP who is present will have their vote recorded in the Hansard, (as opposed to the shouting of "yeah" or "nay" where you can't tell who voted which way).
If the majority of voting MPs vote on Wed. Feb. 21 to refer the Bill to the Committee Stage (also known as "Reporting Stage"), then the Bill continues to live another day. However, if the majority of voting MPs vote against it, the Bill will be dead. Finished. History.
It appears that the Liberals and NDP are willing to support Bill C-304 being referred to Committee. However, the Bloc Quebecois, and a majority of Conservatives (probably 99%) are against it. Whereas the Conservatives were willing to support Motion M-172 to create a National Autism Strategy a few months ago, the Motion is not law and not binding. This Bill C-304 would force the government to put words into action.
What should the autism community do in the critical next few days? What can you do to help promote our common interests?
Probably the best thing our community could do is to contact backbench Conservative MPs and lobby them to vote in favour of referring the matter to the Committee stage. Please contact your MP and any others that you have time to contact and ask them to support Bill C-304 and at least give it a chance to be studied by the Committee. The contact information for all MPs is available from www.parl.gc.ca
Please spread the word. Time is of the essence. Please take a moment to send your MP and others a message. Below is a same that you can use. Thank you.
Dear XXX, MP:
Re: Support for Bill C-304 Autism Strategy Bill
I am writing to urge you to vote in support of Bill C-304 when the Bill is subject to a vote in the House of Commons. Bill C-304, the "National Strategy for the Treatment of Autism Act" is of critical importance to families with members who suffer from autism. The Centres for Disease Control in the U.S. just recently reported that the prevalence rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders have increased to 1 in 150. By any standard this is a national public health crisis. Yet, not one province offers the core healthcare treatment for autism under Medicare and there is no National Autism Strategy to deal with this growing epidemic. The government has recently made announcements of a National Cancer Strategy, National Heart Health Strategy, National Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Strategy, etc. Although the federal government announced some autism consultation initiatives in November 2006 and supported a motion for a National Autism Strategy in December 2006, these are non-binding and largely symbolic window dressing. Words are not enough. We need action. Please vote to refer Bill C-304 to the next stage in the approval process and let the Committee examine the Bill and do its work. Please urge your fellow MPs to support the Bill. Thank you.