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View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, it is a great honour again to stand in the House and speak on behalf of my wonderful constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
I am going into my fifth year as a member of the House and during my time here, I have known nothing but a Liberal government. I did work for a previous member of Parliament during the time the Conservatives were in power.
Over the last numbers of years, I have watched the Liberal government make a number of choices. I will start with what it calls a middle-class tax cut, which in fact sent the lion's share of the benefits to people making six-figure incomes. I remember at the time telling Liberal MPs in this place that they gave themselves the maximum tax cut and that people who earned the median income, which is just over $40,000 per year, would receive nothing. That is just a correction for the record.
We also have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, and the Liberals have only implemented a handful of those 94 calls to action. This is a government that chose to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy the TMX pipeline. It has inadequate climate targets. It is waffling on pharmacare. Today we are getting lukewarm support for what the NDP is proposing for dental care.
Governing is about choices. I think back to the words of the late Jack Layton, when he said that we could not just be a party of opposition, that we had to be a party of proposition. That is exactly what today's motion would do. It is the NDP bringing forward a motion to the House, which would have real and tangible benefits for many Canadians suffering from a lack of care.
If we go back to the throne speech, there was a cursory mention of dental care, as follows:
The Government is open to new ideas from all Parliamentarians, stakeholders, public servants, and Canadians—ideas like universal dental care are worth exploring, and I encourage Parliament to look into this.
We are looking into this. We took the words of the Governor General, and we are doing precisely that. In fact, regarding the proposal for dental care, a poll was done last year by IPSOS. It showed that around 86% of Canadians would support providing publicly funded dental care to those without insurance coverage. Eighty-six per cent is a pretty comfortable majority of Canadians. I know that no matter what side of the political spectrum one represents, constituents in every riding of the country need dental care. They are suffering because of poor oral health.
Our proposal is very simple. One of the first things the Liberal government proclaimed it would do was with regard to taxes. The Liberals want to essentially take the basic personal amount and raise it in stages, so the amount of income a person would not pay taxes on would rise to the first $15,000 by the year 2023. This would then slowly slope off to the cut-off income of $150,000 a year.
People who are earning six figures are going to receive most of the benefit. The NDP proposes that we take that proposal but instead limit it to people who earn $90,000 a year or less, in other words, to people who actually need it.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated that if the proposed Liberal tax change comes into effect with the income going up to $150,000, it will cost the Canadian treasury $6.2 billion by the year 2024-25 after the full impact has kicked in. I remind all hon. members that tax changes actually cost money. If we are just giving a rather small benefit to the people who do not need it, then what measurable benefit are we giving Canadian society?
Meanwhile, a huge number of Canadians do not have any dental coverage. They do not have that oral health. We have a real opportunity here to take something, shift it slightly so there still is a tax change, but use the resultant savings to invest in a national dental care plan and get people the help they require.
For my constituents back home, I want to read into the record our motion of today. It says:
That the House call on the government to change its proposed tax cuts by targeting benefits to those who earn less than $90,000 per year, and use those savings to invest in priorities that give real help to Canadians, including dental coverage for uninsured families making less than $90,000 per year.
We need to look at some of the statistics to understand why this proposal is so important. We know that emergency room visits due to dental emergencies cost taxpayers at least $155 million annually. According to Statistics Canada, in 2018, 35.4% of Canadians reported they had no dental insurance, and 22.4% of Canadians, which is roughly 6.8 million people, avoided visiting dental professionals due to the cost.
We know the health literature studies have linked poor oral health to serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetic complications, renal disease complications, premature birth and low birth weight.
We can look at where we can make those targeted investments in society that will have real impact. Yes, the upfront costs will be quite expensive, because we are going to have to bring a large portion of the population up to a standard of care. However, those costs will start to go down over time. We will see the results in savings in our medical system when we do not have to spend the money to deal with much more complicated health problems down the line.
This is a real opportunity for us to come together and make a difference in this place. I ask members to look at the situation in their own ridings, at what so many of their constituents are facing and to make a real difference by passing this motion. We have a choice before us. Are we going to spend our limited time in this place to give money to people who do not need it or are we going to make that investment to ensure Canadians are getting the help they need?
I have been listening to the debate today and members who spoke previously brought together a lot of personal stories, of meeting constituents, residents in their communities who had to cover their mouth because they were embarrassed by the state of their teeth or had further complications going down the line, which had led to multiple hospital visits.
In many ways, oral health is still very much a class issue. People who have means, who have income, have good teeth. People who do not have that source of income usually have poor oral health. This is an opportunity to give people another rung on social mobility, to give them the ability to go forward, to have confidence in seeking a new job, to be more open, to really participate in society.
Our dental care plan as members of Parliament is very generous. In fact, we have so much privilege in this place. We command an amazing salary. We have incredible health and dental benefits. Why do we feel comfortable as parliamentarians to give ourselves that coverage, yet we balk at the cost of giving it to our constituents?
Can we honestly make that argument to the public when in our constituencies, that we as a members of Parliament deserve dental care but they do not have. I do not think many of us can. If members are going to make that argument, I would think twice about sitting in this place, because constituents might have better ideas.
I know my time is coming to a close, but I will end by imploring all of my colleagues, no matter which political party, to seriously look at this proposal, look at the good it will do for the people of Canada and take this moment to come together in this minority Parliament, pass the motion and get our country onto a path where we can cover people for dental care, which will have a very real and measurable impact in their lives.
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