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Federal dental care benefit gets go-ahead from House of Commons

Bill gives children in families who make less than $90,000 a year as much as $650 per child
A dentist holds instruments in Skokie, Ill., on Friday, June 12, 2020. The House of Commons has voted to pass third reading of the Liberal’s dental-care benefit bill, which will allow the government to send cheques to modest-income families to pay for their kids’ dental needs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

The Liberals dental-care benefit bill passed third reading Thursday in the House of Commons despite opposition from the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois.

The bill passed 172 to 138, with Conservatives and the Bloc voting against it.

It would give children with families who make less than $90,000 a year as much as $650 per child to care for their teeth.

To qualify, families will need to apply through the Canada Revenue Agency and attest that they have booked a dental visit for their kids, that they don’t have private insurance and that they will have out-of-pocket expenses for the appointment.

Families will also have to keep their receipts in case they are audited.

Dental care is a pillar of the supply and confidence deal between the Liberals and the NDP. The Liberals promised to launch a federal dental care insurance program by the end of 2022, starting with coverage for children from low- and middle-income families.

When that couldn’t be accomplished by the end of the year, the Liberals instead went ahead with a benefits program that would send the money directly to families.

The government hasrebrandedthe plan as relief for the rising cost of living. Bill C-31 also includes a one-time subsidy of $500 for low-income renters to help people cope with the cost of inflation.

The bill must still make its way through the Senate and receive royal assent before families can apply.

Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer argued in the Commons that the relief is superficial. He said handing out cash could actually contribute to inflation and make the cost of living worse.

“We would be doing Canadians a far greater service … if we came to this place every day trying to reduce the cost of government,” Scheer said Thursday.

“Don’t pour water on that grease fire. No more inflationary spending that will make the problem even worse,” he said.

Bloc MP Jean-Denis Garon told the House of Commons he felt the bill was rushed, and parliamentarians have not had time to hear from experts and provide input on the legislation.

The government still intends to develop a dental insurance plan to meet its commitment to the NDP, but no details have yet been released.

—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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