Autism

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week’s federal budget talked a lot about infrastructure. My question is about another kind of infrastructure, namely, social infrastructure.

I talked about it yesterday, as did Senator Oliver, in dealing with autism. I do not need to go over all the figures. One in 150 families is affected by autism.

Parliament has taken steps. We lobbied hard and Minister Clement listened and did some work.

Will the government consider taking a further step to create a division for autism within the Public Health Agency of Canada so that this condition can be looked at, receive the attention it deserves, and families can receive the help they so desperately need? I am looking for that national leadership focus.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors): I am well aware of the honourable senator’s hard work on the subject of autism.

As the honourable senator knows, when Minister Clement was Minister of Health he set up a research chair to study ways to move this issue forward. Autism is one of many conditions that falls within the purview of provincial departments of health and, of course, health care is delivered by the provinces.

With regard to the budget, a great deal of money has been set aside at universities for research in science and technology. It is hoped that indirectly, through the money that has been provided to universities, to the science community and to the health system, in addition to all the money that the government transfers to the provinces for health care, the treatment of autism will move forward quickly in the near or immediate future.

With the budget and the actions that the government has taken, in our consultations in various areas, we have tried to reach out to the good suggestions that are there, including the worthy ones of the honourable senator.

I am sure that Minister Aglukkaq — who is from the North, I am happy to say — and her officials, will have reviewed the files that Minister Clement was working on in terms of autism. I cannot say definitively what they are but I will find out.