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St. John’s East MP Jack Harris proposes federal dental care for uninsured Canadians

Jack Harris addresses supporters on election night in St. John's.
St. John’s East MP Jack Harris.

Program cost would average $1.5 billion over a five-year period

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A private member’s motion tabled in the House of Commons by St. John’s East MP Jack Harris calls for a federal dental care plan for uninsured Canadian families making less than $90,000 a year.

“This would be an interim measure toward the inclusion of full dental care in Canada’s health care system,” Harris said.

Harris and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to the media about the motion via Zoom before taking questions.


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“We started the idea of universal medical care and in that vision it included dental care, so we are proud to be able to present the vision of concluding that universal health care coverage from head to toe,” Singh said.

Harris said 35 per cent of Canadians have no dental care plan and more than one in five Canadians say the cost prohibits them from receiving dental care.

“That’s especially true of women — 25 per cent have indicated that they have not gone to access dental care because of cost and, in fact, a higher percentage of young people between 18 and 35 have also indicated that they have not accessed dental care,” he said. “This is indicative of who doesn’t have access … and who needs it.”

These numbers come from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Community Health Survey from 2018, Singh said.

In a news release, St. John’s Centre NDP incumbent Jim Dinn said every political party in Newfoundland and Labrador should be “pressuring their federal counterparts to support this bill.”

“I can’t begin to tell you how many people in St. John’s Centre in the past two years have told me about the problems they have because they cannot afford dental care,” Dinn stated.


Federal New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh, pictured in St. John's during the 2019 federal election campaign. — SaltWire Network File Photo
Federal New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh, pictured in St. John's during the 2019 federal election campaign. — SaltWire Network File Photo


Taxing rich companies

The cost would average $1.5 billion over a five-year period, Singh said.

“This is a plan that is very feasible that we can implement right away,” he said.

If it were to be implemented, an increased amount of money is projected for the first year of the program, as they expect people with long-term dental problems would want to get them taken care of immediately, Singh said.

“It would taper off over the next years, but in that range of $1.5 billion.”



The cost estimate comes from a report released on Oct. 7, 2020 by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

When asked where the money to fund the program would come from, Singh said the NDP is the only party talking about getting companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook, as well as the wealthiest Canadians, to pay more in taxes.

“We know that some of the wealthiest companies in the world continue to make massive profits, in fact record-breaking profits, off of Canadians, but don’t pay any taxes this year,” he said.

More than half of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador would qualify for the program, Harris said.


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