Political Leaders Hear Dentistry’s Message at 2013 Days on the Hill Meetings


Meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and leaders of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberal Party were highlights of CDA’s 2013 Days on the Hill, held on May 8 and 9.

CDA president Dr. Peter Doig led the CDA delegation of elected officers, committee members and CDA staff to bring oral health issues to the attention of senior government officials on Parliament Hill. Access to care, drug shortages, First Nations oral health and oral health research were some of the issues topping the agenda in more than 30 meetings held this year with members of Parliament (MPs), senators and senior policy advisors.

Members of the 2013 CDA delegation met with the prime minister. (L. to r.) Kevin Desjardins, CDA director of public affairs; Dr. Gary MacDonald, CDA president-elect; Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Dr. Peter Doig, CDA president; Dr. Thomas Raddall, chair of the CDA advocacy committee.

Most importantly, the meetings provided an opportunity to present CDA’s project of developing a comprehensive national oral health strategy, to ensure that all Canadians receive the dental care they need regardless of their socioeconomic status or location.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Dr. Peter Doig.

On the first day of meetings, Dr. Doig spoke directly with the prime minister, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau about the development of a national oral health strategy. They discussed the need for an action plan to ensure effective delivery of oral health care for all Canadians, and Dr. Doig asked the political leaders for their support in addressing this complex issue.

Dr. Philip Poon, member of the CDA advocacy committee, also took the opportunity to thank the government for securing continuing funding in the Economic Action Plan 2013 for the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program, which provides First Nations and Inuit people with a range of health benefits that are not covered by other public or private insurance plans. The CDA delegation stressed the importance of implementing concrete initiatives to help close the access to care gap that exists between First Nations and the general Canadian population. “We suggested that in order to increase program use and improve oral health to First Nations and Inuit, the NIHB program should be more client-focused and based on people’s needs, with a reduced administrative burden,” explains Dr. Poon.

Days on the Hill were also an occasion to listen to inspiring guest speakers who have been involved in dentistry in different ways:

  • Erin O’Toole, Conservative MP for Durham, Ontario, discussed his experience serving the dental profession when providing in-house corporate counsel for Procter & Gamble.
  • Marc Garneau, Liberal MP for Westmount–Ville-Marie, Quebec, discussed the training he underwent as an astronaut to perform emergency dental procedures in orbit.

The annual Dental Dinner was once again a success, bringing together MPs with a direct or family connection to the dental profession. The evening allows the CDA delegation to reinforce its relationships with these MPs and ensure that they are familiar with oral health issues.


Meeting with the Minister of Health

Following the Days on the Hill, a CDA delegation met with Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq to discuss access to care for First Nations and Inuit and how CDA’s national oral health strategy could help tackle this long-standing issue. Minister Aglukkaq raised with Dr. Doig her personal concern with regard to the overprescription of narcotic painkillers across all medical professions, and urged the dental profession to take steps to address this issue.   

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Photos courtesy of Teckles Photo Inc.