Kamloops, Okanagan Tory MPs vote against dental care plan for kids | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops, Okanagan Tory MPs vote against dental care plan for kids

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Conservative MPs in Kamloops and the Okanagan have voted against a bill to improve dental care benefit for children that passed in the House of Commons last night.

The dental benefit will provide up to $650 annually to cover the dental costs for children whose families don't already have coverage and earn less than $70,000 per year and adjust to $260 for families earning under $90,000.

South Okanagan - West Kootenay NDP Member of Parliament Richard Cannings told iNFOnews.ca that Bill C-31 will benefit seven million Canadians who don't have access to dental care.

"They don't have a dental plan and they can't afford to go to a dentist," Cannings said. "This will change their lives."

Cannings said in its first year the plan will be for children under the age of 12 and then extend in the second year to cover older kids and those on disability, and in the third year extend to everyone who doesn't have a dental plan.

"From people not being able to eat properly to catching oral cancers early, there is a whole array of things that adds millions and millions and millions of dollars onto our healthcare costs," Cannings said.

The parliamentary budget office has said the scheme will cost $703 million over the next three fiscal years.

The move puts Canada on a similar line with the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of European countries that offer free or subsidized basic dental care to youth.

Canadian Conservative North Okanagan - Shuswap MP Mel Arnold along with Kamloops - Thompson - Cariboo MP Frank Caputo, and  Central Okanagan - Similkameen - Nicola MP Dan Albas and Kelowna - Lake Country MP Tracy Gray all voted against the bill.

In an emailed statement Arnold said he voted against the bill because it was "simply flawed."

"A centrepiece of the bill is resources for dental care, but the government has failed to propose, let alone establish, a national dental care plan to effectively administer the proposed resources and it is unreasonable to expect that simply allocating money without a plan will achieve intended results," Arnold said. "Canada’s healthcare systems are in crisis, and we must focus on stabilizing existing healthcare systems and cannot trust this government to establish a new program when they are failing to manage existing programs."

Cannings admitted the Bill was not perfect but accused the Liberals of dragging their feet and stopping the Bill from becoming a full dental plan.

The NDP MP also pointed out that the Conservative and Liberal parties had rejected the proposal of a universal dental plan during the last parliament.

NDP MP Don Davies pointed out to parliament during the debate on the bill that the Conservative members who voted against it had themselves dental insurance paid for by the Canadian taxpayer.

Along with the dental care aspect of the bill, it also gives very low-income renters a $500 one-off payment. This is expected to cost $940 million.

The money is earmarked for those making around $20,000 a year and living at or below the poverty line.

Cannings denied that the payment didn't amount to much.

"For those people in that situation, $500 would mean a lot," he said. "Five hundred dollars when you are making $20,000 a year, that's a considerable amount of money.

"People are being forced out on the streets because they can't afford their rental increases and this could very well help a whole lot of people stay off the street," he said.

The bill will now be passed through the Senate.

Caputo said he didn't have time to respond to our question and Albas could not be reached by deadline.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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