Sunday, May 27, 2007
National Autism Political Strategy, Dartmouth, May 26, 2007
Yesterday began early up at 5, off to gas up and then on the road to the Dartmouth Holiday Inn to meet the folks from FEAT-BC as part of their national autism strategy tour. Above, the charming ladies at the registration desk got everybody signed in and welcomed. My sister, Belinda Doherty, and Chris (aka Jim aka Bruce ) Armstrong arrive from the Valley. (Annapolis Valley), Shawn Murphy, Senator Jim Munson and Andy Scott exchange pleasantries, Andy and Jean Lewis from FEAT-BC, Denise Cameron Scott TRIES to grab a relaxing moment after a long journey but is bothered by a pesky blogger, Brian Rimpilaenan travelled from Fredericton for the event, and last but far from least, Peter Stoffer, who with Andy Scott in presenting a national autism strategy motion in the House of Commons cleans up on the door prize a beautiful piece of art by a BC First Nations artist.
It was a great day and the message we all shared was crystal clear. It is time for the autism community in Canada to GET POLITICAL. The courts have, as was noted in some of the speeches, washed their hands of Canada's vulnerable autistic citizens. For autistic children in Canada section 15 has been turned into an empty and hollow promise by the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wyneberg. Political solutions are all that is left and political solutions, as past history in BC and Ontario has shown, will not come easy, with politicians, once elected, backtracking on and backing out of their promises. For some unknown reason judges and political leaders both feel free to disregard the compelling realities, needs and challenges of Canada's autistic children and adults.
But politics remains the only solution and there has been progress, real progress, on the national political scene. The Scott-Stoffer motion put autism in the national political consciousness. The valian effort by Shawn Murphy was defeated on the votes but it continued that growth of political consciousness, and continued the momentum towards a true national political solution to Canada's autism crisis.
The FEAT people intend to focus on ridings where the margin of victory in the last election was 2% or less and work on electing candidates with a commitment to autism. That looks like it will achieve some good results but it is not enough. Individual MP's do not establish laws or otherwise govern in our party based parliamentary democracy. Parties, usually under tight Prime Ministerial direction, govern in Canada. That means the autism community must help elect parties that WILL introduce legislation to include ABA, and any other evidence based treatments for autism, in Canada's national medicare coverage scheme. As Murphy, Munson, Stoffer and Scott all noted, that can be done in Canada's cooperative form of federalism regardess of who has primary constitutional jurisdiction over Health care.
But our political history is clear on this subject. Medicare was an idea borne of the NDP (CCF) and was put into effect by the Liberals. More recently the Bloc Quebecois and Stephen Harper's Neo-Con Conservatives all voted unanimously against including autism treatment in medicare. Any realistic national political strategy must acknowledge these realities. And we must be candid with the autism community and with Canadians. As a dad with an autistic son my party is the Autism Party which exists only in my mind and my heart, but guides my political actions. And it tells me that the best interests of autistic Canadians will be served by electing Liberals and NDP members of parliament so that one or either or both in a minority government situation, can actually pass legislation to include autism treatment coverage in Medicare. Let's GET POLITICAL, let's elect a government which will include autism treatment in Medicare so that autistic Canadians wherever they live will receive effective government funded autism treatment.
Thanks to Jim Young of FEAT-NS whose province hosted this event and the folks from FEAT-BC who have done so much for the cause of autism in Canada. Special thanks too, to the politicians with consciences, Andy Scott, Peter Stoffer, Shawn Murphy and Jim Munson, all of whom have made serious efforts to advance the cause of autism nationally.