Liberals & Conservatives vote against NDP motion for low-income dental care

Voting in favour of the motion were all NDP MPs, 10 LIberals, 1 Conservative, 1 Green, and 1 independent.

Last week, Jack Harris, NDP MP for St. John’s East, introduced a motion in the House of Commons regarding implementing a federal dental care.

MPs voted 285–36 against his motion.

This wasn’t a bill; it was just a motion; therefore, it wouldn’t have been binding to the government, but had it passed, it would’ve showed the federal Liberals that the House wanted to pursue this much needed programme.

Here’s the text of Harris’s motion M-62:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a federal dental care plan as soon as possible for Canadian families earning less than $90,000 per year who are not covered by a dental care plan, as an interim measure toward the inclusion of full dental care in Canada’s healthcare system.

If passed, then subsequently implemented, the programme could’ve ensured dental coverage for households with a combined annual income of less than $90,000 and who didn’t have dental care through a private insurer.

Furthermore, it was intended as a temporary measure until a more comprehensive programmed could be implemented across the country, providing near immediate coverage for lower income families.

Those voting in favour of the motion included 23 NDP MPs, 10 Liberal MPs, 1 independent, 1 Green, and 1 Conservative MP.

NDPTimmins—James BayCharlie Angus
NDPChurchill—Keewatinook AskiNiki Ashton
NDPSkeena—Bulkley ValleyTaylor Bachrach
NDPElmwood—TransconaDaniel Blaikie
NDPNorth Island—Powell RiverRachel Blaney
NDPRosemont—La Petite-PatrieAlexandre Boulerice
NDPSouth Okanagan—West KootenayRichard Cannings
NDPVancouver KingswayDon Davies
NDPHamilton MountainScott Duvall
NDPEsquimalt—Saanich—SookeRandall Garrison
NDPWinnipeg CentreLeah Gazan
NDPHamilton CentreMatthew Green
NDPSt. John’s EastJack Harris
NDPAlgoma—Manitoulin—KapuskasingCarol Hughes
NDPCourtenay—AlberniGord Johns
NDPNew Westminster—BurnabyPeter Julian
NDPVancouver EastJenny Kwan
NDPCowichan—Malahat—LangfordAlistair MacGregor
NDPWindsor WestBrian Masse
NDPLondon—FanshaweLindsay Mathyssen
NDPEdmonton StrathconaHeather McPherson
NDPNunavutMumilaaq Qaqqaq
NDPBurnaby SouthJagmeet Singh
Lib.YukonLarry Bagnell
Lib.Beaches—East YorkNathaniel Erskine-Smith
Lib.LabradorYvonne Jones
Lib.Cape Breton—CansoMike Kelloway
Lib.Saint John—RothesayWayne Long
Lib.AvalonKen McDonald
Lib.Coquitlam—Port CoquitlamRon McKinnon
Lib.Bonavista—Burin—TrinityChurence Rogers
Lib.Coast of Bays—Central—Notre DameScott Simms
Lib.Cumberland—ColchesterLenore Zann
Ind.Brampton CentreRamesh Sangha
GreenNanaimo—LadysmithPaul Manly
Cons.Huron—BruceBen Lobb

Of the 285 MPs who voted against the motion, 3 were independents: Yasmin Ratansi, Derek Sloan, and Marwan Tabbara. The rest were Conservatives, Liberals, and all of the Bloc Québecois MPs.

And since I’m in Lethbridge, I’ll take some editorial license to point out that my MP—CPC Rachael Harder—voted against the motion.

When you break it down by province, BC had the most yes votes, at 12, followed by Ontario’s 9, Newfoundland and Labrador’s 5, Manitoba’s 3, and Nova Scotia’s 2. Alberta, New Brunswick, Nunavut, Québec, and the Yukon all had 2 vote. All 4 MPs from PEI and all 14 from Saskatchewan voted against the motion.

Harris first introduced his motion for debate in May. At that point, he claimed that if the programme had passed, it would’ve benefited nearly 7 million people, or about 20% of Canadians, including half of those over the ago of 60. At least until a full dental programme could be implemented.

He also claimed that 1 in 3 Canadians have no dental coverage and that 1 in 5 avoid going to the dentist because of cost.

As well, he reported that “in Canada, 94% of spending on dental care is private and only 6% comes from government programs. This is the second-lowest level of government spending on dental care among OECD countries, ranking even worse than the United States.”

Harris’s programme would’ve ensured premium-free dental coverage for families with a combined household income of under $70,000. Households with incomes between $70,000 and $90,000 would be on a sliding co-pay system.

According to a costing by the Parliamentary Budget Officer last year, the programme would cost $1.5 billion, as well as $3 billion in start up costs. It would be administered by the federal government or by the provinces and territories by agreement and would include the following services:

  • Annual diagnostic services, including examinations and radiographs
  • preventive services, including scaling, polishing, and fluorides
  • Restorations, including fillings and crowns
  • Endodontic services, including root canal treatments
  • Various other required services, including oral services and extractions
  • Orthodontics, including non-cosmetic braces

When asked by other MPs whether programmes should responsible for the programme, Harris responded wih:

Health care is administered . . . under the Canada Health Act, and dental care is not any different from that as a health care matter. We expect that any program of this nature would be similarly administered by a province, and that would be guaranteed along with all other aspects of health care.

In debate last week, just before his motion was defeated, Harris stated that when the Royal Commission on Health Services established the plan for the current health system in 1964, it included universal public dental services. It wasn’t implemented at the time due to a dentist shortage, which Harris believes has since been resolved.

Francis Drouin, the Liberal MP for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell and the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, said during the May debate that the federal government “remains committed to its promise to work with Parliament to study and analyze this issue.”

Drouin further stated that “both the 2019 Speech from the Throne and the 2019 Minister of Health’s mandate letter committed to support Parliament in studying and analyzing the possibility of a national dental care program.”

He then went on to say that the government plans to begin a study next year in collaboration with Statistics Canada to add oral health to the Canadian health measure survey, in an effort to address gaps in dental care data, which he claims is unreliable, outdated, and spars.

The results of that survey may not be available for at least another 2 years however.

So, if Canada does ever get a national dental care programme, it might not be until 2024. At least.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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