Improvements to NIHB Discussed at Days on the Hill Meetings


On May 5 and 6, CDA held its Days on the Hill, an annual event that focuses on meetings with federal party leaders, cabinet ministers, members of Parliament (MPs) and other senior government officials. These sessions allow the Canadian dental profession to communicate directly with the federal government on key oral health issues.

Dr. Ronald Smith, CDA's new president, led the CDA delegation of elected officers, which also included president-elect Dr. Robert MacGregor and vice-president Dr. Robert Sutherland.

The CDA delegation met with more than 30 MPs. Although many oral health issues were discussed, the focus of this year's meetings was the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program. CDA was joined in these meetings by representatives from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Northwest Territories National Chief Bill Erasmus and Mr. Jonathan Thompson, director of the AFN Health and Social Development Secretariat, teamed with CDA to discuss the First Nations Oral Health Strategy and the NIHB program with members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

image Members of CDA's 2010 Days on the Hill delegation (from left): Dr. Peter Neilson, CDA Advocacy Committee, Dr. Robert MacGregor, CDA president-elect, Dr. Phil Poon, chair of the CDA Advocacy Committee, Gerald Keddy, Conservative MP for South Shore-St. Margaret's and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Dr. Ronald Smith, CDA president, Mr. Claude Paul Boivin, CDA executive director, and Mr. Andrew Jones, CDA director of public affairs.

In the short term, CDA is advocating for immediate improvements to the existing NIHB program, such as extending coverage for endodontic treatments. However, CDA and the AFN also requested that the federal government undertake a complete review of the program, with the ultimate goal of improving access to care and the oral health of the Aboriginal community.

In other meetings, CDA spoke with members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health about the many successful projects and initiatives originating from Health Canada's Office of the Chief Dental Officer. CDA expressed praise for the inclusion of oral health indicators in the national Canadian Health Measures Survey. This committee was also informed about dentistry's ongoing advocacy efforts in the area of tobacco control. CDA is now looking to extend some of the principles of Bill C-32 (legislation that targets the marketing of tobacco products to youths) to smokeless tobacco, another leading cause of oral cancer.

The annual Dental Dinner is one social event that acts as an ideal venue to interact with parliamentarians. For this event, CDA extends invitations to MPs who have a family connection to the dental profession. This year's guests included Harold Albrecht, a former practising dentist and current Conservative MP for Kitchener-Conestoga. Other participants in attendance because of their close familial connections to dentistry were David Tilson, Conservative MP for Dufferin-Caledon, Patrick Brown, Conservative MP for Barrie and Cheryl Gallant, Conservative MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. The evening provides an opportunity for the CDA delegation to build relationships with these MPs and ensure that they are familiar with oral health issues.

For more details on Days on the Hill meetings, visit the Government Relations section of CDA's website: