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Burnaby MPs happy with dental, grocery rebate in federal budget

The government's dental plan is expected to cost $13 billion over five years.
New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian (left) and Burnaby South MP and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian Burnaby South MP Jagmeet Singh, also the leader of the federal NDP, were happy to see two major supports in the Canada's 2023 budget. 

Finance Minister Chrystina Freeland revealed, during her budget presentation on Tuesday (March 28), the Liberal government would be adding more support and funding to dental care as well as a grocery rebate. 

Last year, Ottawa set up a temporary dental benefit for uninsured children under the age of 12 in families with a household income of less than $90,000. That benefit will be dropped by June 2024.

In its place, Tuesday's budget showed the Liberals are planning a government-administered insurance program, at a cost of $13 billion over five years beginning in fiscal year 2023-24.

The Liberals will open eligibility this year to people who are under the age of 18, seniors, and people with disabilities who meet the income criteria and do not have insurance. They plan to expand that eligibility to anyone who meets the household income requirements by 2025.

Dental care was one of the main asks of Singh and the NDP upon entering into a supply and confidence agreement with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals a year ago

"In my riding of New Westminster-Burnaby, well over 25,000 people [without dental care], and, if you look at Burnaby, you're looking at easily 50 or 60,000 that are Canadians that don't have access to dental care and I see this particularly with families with kids, lower income, seniors and people with disabilities," Julian told the NOW after the budget. 

"The fact of not having access to dental care puts them in a very difficult situation.

"This [funding] is big and it will have a real impact in our communities because it means finally people will be able to access dental care." 

While the price tag for the benefit has increased by an additional $7.3 billion over five years, Julian believes it's necessary. 

"The cost is minimal," he said, claiming Canada spends more than $30 million in overseas tax havens. 

"We're talking about a couple of billion dollars a year to provide supports that make such a difference in people's lives. Dental care is essential. This is something that should have been brought in years ago and it's high time that we provided ample dental care to Canadians." 

In a news release, Singh said the budget showed his party could get things done for Canadians. 

"Today's budget shows that when New Democrats use our power, we get real things done for people. We fought and we got those things for working people." 

As the cost of living continues to rise and people feeling the pinch, Freeland and the Liberal government also promised a doubling of the GST rebate as a grocery store rebate. 

The government says it will provide $467 for eligible couples with two children, $234 for single Canadians and $225 for seniors. 

Julian said this was another major need for Canadians. 

"We have seen greed-flation," he said. 

"We call it 'greed-flation' because these are grocery company CEOs that have been jacking up prices artificially to gouge customers. We're going to continue to press the government to put in place competition legislation so that these companies can't gouge customers. 

"We also need to make sure that families and seniors, people with disabilities have the wherewithal to put food on the table and that's the idea behind the grocery rebate, to give a few hundred extra dollars so that people can put food on the table." 

Singh believes, while the NDP is happy with what they've been able to do so far, there's more work to be done. 

"We're proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we’re not satisfied — because we see that there is so much more Ottawa can do to make people’s lives easier, he added in his statement.

"Last election, we promised to fight for Canadians, and that’s exactly what we will continue to do. We will keep fighting for working people to get the respect they deserve by ensuring that everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home, bigger paychecks and better working conditions. We’ll make sure rich CEOs and the ultra-wealthy pay what they owe, and we’ll bring the cost of groceries and telecom services down by stopping the free ride for big companies who are exploiting you."

- with files from The Canadian Press