Life / Health

Conservatives merge old, new tactics to pressure Liberals over autism funding

OTTAWA — Federal Conservatives will seek today to find out why a request for $3.8 million a year to help families with autism is being ignored by the Liberals.

The Tories are set to use time set aside for opposition motions to call on the government to come through with money for the Canadian Autism Partnership.

The funding would be used for a more co-ordinated approach to research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment for the estimated 1 in 68 Canadian kids with the neurological disorder.

The Liberals had received a pitch for the cash — $19 million over five years — ahead of this year's budget, but turned it down much to the disappointment of autism advocates and affected families.

Among them is Conservative MP Mike Lake, whose son has autism, and who has raised the issue in the Commons repeatedly over the years.

In the House of Commons Wednesday, he pressed the Liberals anew but Health Minister Jane Philpott said the government already supports autism research.

"One of the best ways that the federal government can support advancements in autism spectrum disorders is to support research and we have done so in a significant way," she said.

The day the Tories are using to pressure the Liberals on the subject is called an "opposition motion" in official Parliamentary parlance. The motions are often used to push the government to come around to the Opposition's point of view.

But it's not the only pressure Lake and others are applying.

Their campaign is also been helped by an advocacy group called Global Citizen, which uses social media to try and convince governments to act on social issues.

The group put out a call to action on the autism partnership and thousands of tweets have followed, directed at both Philpott and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Among those lending their name to the cause are Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Freidmen and hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser.

While the Conservative motion will be debated today, it not expected to be voted on until the Commons returns from a one-week break on May 29.


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