Rob Nicholson, Rob Oliphant Unite in Push for National Dementia Strategy

March 9, 2016 Updated: March 9, 2016
FONT BFONT SText size

OTTAWA—Two members of Parliament with dramatically different political affiliations have joined forces in an effort to establish a national strategy to deal with dementia.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Rob Nicholson is the architect of a private member’s bill that, if passed, would establish a Canada-wide framework for dealing with mental-health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. He has the support of an unlikely ally: Liberal MP Rob Oliphant.

Alzheimer’s hits close to home for Nicholson. His father struggled with the disease before he died in 1997.

“I am, in many ways, no different than millions of other Canadians who are either related to or know somebody that has (Alzheimer’s),” he said.

The number of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions is expected to soar to 1.4 million by 2031

Nicholson’s bill calls for specific national objectives to improve scenarios for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as more investment in research, particularly in biomedical and clinical work.

The Alzheimer Society is now encouraging all MPs to get behind the bill.

The number of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions is expected to soar to 1.4 million by 2031, nearly twice the 747,000 people diagnosed in 2011—14.9 percent of Canadians 65 and older.

The issue also strikes a chord with Oliphant.

“Twenty five years as a United Church minister, I’ve dealt with families constantly who are wrestling with this,” he said. “As a pastor, you live it with them.”

Nicholson’s stature also brings huge credibility to the bill, Oliphant added, noting they also have another thing in common: They’re getting older.

“I don’t think that’s totally accidental,” he said. “We have an aging population. … This is not just a health issue, it is also an economic issue.”

From The Canadian Press