Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
I would like to thank my NDP colleagues for using the first opposition day to urge the government to work collaboratively for working-class Canadians.
In this minority Parliament, the Liberals have a choice. They can provide a tax break to people who are making more than $90,000 a year or they can offer dental coverage to families making less than $90,0000 annually. In fact, if I were the Liberals, I would be jumping at the chance to support an opportunity to work so well for Canadians. What we have been able to provide here is an opportunity for the Liberals to see what they could accomplish instead of giving a few more dollars to people who do not actually need the money.
We know right now that we are leaving millions of Canadians behind. They cannot afford to go to the dentist. We know that this is causing incredible stress on our emergency rooms. We are spending $155 million annually on dental-related emergencies. These are preventive things. This is money we would not have to be spending if we had dental care for people who need it.
By providing access to oral health, we would also ensure that we are preventing other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetic complications, renal disease complications and premature birth and low birth weight.
We need to start protecting all Canadians, particularly those who are most vulnerable. I have spent a great deal of time in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, which is a very diverse riding. There are large number of students in my riding, and there is a large diversity in socio-economic status. I have spent a lot of time on doorsteps talking to people, and I am unbelievably surprised by the incredible support for a dental program in this country.
What is interesting to me is that it is not just those people who would benefit from a dental program who are so supportive of it. It is, in fact, Canadians of all economic backgrounds, whether they can afford their own dental care or not, who recognize that we have an obligation to make sure all people within our community are taken of.
I spoke to a constituent of mine, a young father who lived in a lovely home and clearly had a level of income that is quite comfortable. He had two daughters. He spoke to me at length about his support for medicare, pharmacare, mental health care and dental care. I said to him that he obviously had the money to take his kids to the dentist and asked him why he was worried about dental care. His response to me, which is something every person in this House needs to acknowledge, was that his children's well-being and his well-being depend on his community and country doing well. He was worried about the kids at his daughters' school and their ability to access dental care.
If Canadians like this young father can be generous and understand the obligation we have to represent Canadians and do what is best for Canada, I really find it problematic that there are people in this House who do not recognize it. We know that across Canada there is incredible support for a dental program, and the majority of Canadians who have elected us to represent them in this House have asked for and supported dental care. What right do we have to not support that? What right do we have to not support dental care when the people who put us in this building to represent them have said that they want dental care?
It is also really important, and people have brought this up before, that we talk a bit about how the Liberals say that there is no money for things that they do not want to put money into while there is always, always money for the things they think are important. This is not the first time that members will hear this, but Loblaws does not need Canadian taxpayer dollars. Mastercard does not Canadian taxpayer dollars. The ones who do need it are young families who cannot afford their dental care and university students and families who are struggling to make ends meet in my province, where 19,000 people were laid off in January. Those people need support. They need support to be able to access dental care.
A budget is coming out in our province today, and it is not going to get better there. There are people hurting in Alberta, and this is a concrete thing that I and all members can fight for on behalf of our constituents.
I would also like to take a moment to offer to my Conservative colleagues the thought that millions of Canadians do not have dental care, but the biggest benefits from the Liberal tax cuts go to the wealthy. Conservatives talk a lot about standing up for working Canadians, so I can only assume that they will be supporting our plan to cap the cut for the wealthiest and invest those savings in a dental care plan that will benefit millions of hard-working Canadians.
I am so proud to be a New Democrat, to represent Edmonton Strathcona and to have a proposal that would immediately help 4.3 million people and save our health care system tens of millions of dollars each year. It is time we started delivering on the needs of everyday Canadians and it is time we started investing in Canadians and their needs. Dental care is health care. Canadians should not have to choose between taking care of their teeth and taking care of their health.