Families with young children will be eligible for cheques worth up to $650 a child under an interim version of the Liberal government’s new dental-care plan, which it has agreed to implement as part of a parliamentary deal with the NDP.
Two sources familiar with the planned announcement said the initial dental program will apply in 2022 for families with children under the age of 12. The program will be income-tested.
Families with no existing dental coverage and income less than $70,000 will be eligible for cheques of $650 a child annually. The amount drops to $390 if family income is between $70,000 and $80,000 and to $260 for families with income between $80,000 and $90,000. Families with income above $90,000 will not be eligible for the program.
An NDP source said the party is seeking a broader application of the full $650 amount.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources as they were not authorized to comment publicly on the announcement.
The package of measures aimed at helping lower-income Canadians with the higher costs of inflation will also include a temporary increase to the GST credit and new rent support, according to one source. The Canadian Press also reported that the announcement involves the three elements of the GST credit, rent support and dental care.
The measures were to have been announced Thursday in Vancouver, where the Liberal cabinet was holding a policy retreat.
The minority Liberal government announced a deal in March in which the NDP agreed to support the Liberals on confidence votes in exchange for action on a list of policy priorities. The deal said the new dental-care program would begin in 2022 and would be fully implemented by 2025.
The NDP had been advocating for an insurance-based dental-care system. The announcement of a cheque-based program is being presented as an interim measure while policy work continues on how a longer-term system would work.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Halifax Thursday for a meeting of the NDP caucus. He also cancelled plans for a news conference in light of the Queen’s death. He said earlier this week that his party and the Liberals have been engaged in extensive discussions throughout the summer on the dental-care plan.
The GST credit is an existing program that is based on net family income and is paid out quarterly. Eligible Canadians can currently receive up to $467 a year for single individuals and up to $612 for Canadians who are married or in a common-law relationship. The program also pays up to $161 for each child under the age of 19.
The Liberal and NDP deal announced in March included a pledge that the government would approve a one-time top-up, worth $500, to the Canada Housing Benefit in 2022, which would be renewed in 2023 if cost-of-living challenges remained. The housing benefit program provides direct rent assistance for lower-income households.
Canadian Dental Association spokesperson Zelda Burt said in a statement Thursday that the CDA is looking forward to further details being released on the dental plan. The CDA issued a “what we heard” report in August summarizing the views of dentists and other oral-health-care professionals on the federal government’s dental plans.
That report said public dental-care programs already exist in some form in every province and territory, and that those existing programs should be used as much as possible as part of any federal effort to enhance dental coverage.
For subscribers: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.