Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here to speak to this important issue, but would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
Today we are here to talk about something incredibly important, and that is dental care. We know that, across Canada, many Canadians are not able to afford basic dental care. I want to read into the record so that the constituents of North Island—Powell River know what we are talking about. The motion that the NDP has presented today simply 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.
In my riding this is a significant challenge. During the election I was very surprised by how many doors I knocked on where people told me very clearly that affordable dental care was one of the best parts of the NDP platform to help people.
In my riding there are challenges on this issue. I want to give a specific shout-out to Compass Dental in Campbell River. One day a year, usually on a Saturday or a weekend day, dentists from that office, from Shoreline Orthodontics and Pier Street Dental come together and provide free dental care to members of the community.
There may be other dentists added to this list. When I went there a couple of years ago, the reception staff were absolutely amazing. They told me when they arrived early in the morning there was a huge lineup of people outside the door hoping to get an opportunity. Those dentists work hard every moment of that day to provide the dental care that people so desperately need.
I am so grateful for that dedication and that commitment in the riding, but I also face the reality that many people are desperately in need of dental care and have no way of being able to afford it. I cannot imagine how hard it is for dentists to have to turn people away, but that is what is happening.
I remember talking with a mother who talked about the reality that, at the end of the year, she pays for her children to get their dental care, but she simply cannot afford her own dental care. All parents would sacrifice for their children, but it is not right that the costs are such a barrier.
I also think of one constituent who is 56 years old and has had six teeth pulled in the last 10 years. She is down now to one chewing tooth. I cannot imagine that. Looking into the future, she knows that she needs implants or dentures, but she does not know how she is going to afford them. Her plan is to blend her food.
How is it that, in a country as rich as this, we are seeing the government give significant amounts of money to Mastercard and Loblaws, profitable businesses that are doing quite well for themselves, rather than to people who want to have their teeth taken care of? It is a simple, basic need. As rich as we are in Canada, we should do better.
That is why we are here today. In December, our finance and health spokesperson for the NDP wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance saying this is a real opportunity to collaborate and work together. We asked the Liberals to cap the middle-class tax cut they are proposing for people earning over $90,000 and use that money as a down payment to cover uninsured people making less than $90,000 a year, which is about four million people.
As I am having this discussion about the need of individuals in our country for the most basic dental care it brings to mind the truth of this place, which is that financial choices are political choices.
Who are we going to support in this country? Are we going to support people who are making a significant profit at the end of the year?
I remember when the government gave significant dollars to Loblaws in the last Parliament to help it with more energy-efficient refrigerators. I will never forget one of the local business owners in my riding emailing my office and asking where his money was for his refrigerator. A small amount of money would make such a significant difference in the life and prosperity of his business, and he wanted to know where he could get that kind of support.
I represent a rural and remote community, so there are other challenges on top of the challenges faced by people who have lower incomes or very expensive dental care. People could be making decent wages and keeping everything pretty sustainable, but if they need to have a very expensive dental procedure done sometimes they simply cannot do that. When we look at the challenges of just moving around my riding already, this just adds another layer.
When we look at these issues, we have to say to the government that when it makes choices about how to spend money, it is also making a political decision about who it values in this country. I hope all government members will support this motion, because what it really speaks to is valuing the most vulnerable people in our country and providing them with support.
There are so many stories, and I heard them when I was knocking on thousands of doors. I heard stories of people who were embarrassed to apply for work because their teeth were not in good shape. I heard stories of people who needed basic dental care, and it was getting to the point where it was painful so they were going to the hospital to get a tooth removed rather than getting care when they needed it, which could provide huge health concerns for them later in life.
I am really aware of the fact that in the year 2000 in this country we honoured corporate contributions. We understood that corporations in Canada, big multinational, multi-million dollar corporations, were making a significant amount of money and doing it on the resources of this country and on the labour of the people who live in this country. The corporate tax at that point was 28%. Today that tax is down to 15%.
These huge corporations are making significant amounts of money. I want to be really clear: I am not talking about the corporations in my riding that are doing well and looking after their people. I am talking about big multinational corporations such as Mastercard and Loblaws that have significant revenues every year. There was a time when they paid that 28% tax. Basically, to me that was understanding that the resources belonged to Canadians in this country, that the labour came from people who lived in this country and that the corporate tax meant we would not have people suffering to such a high degree when other people were prospering.
Here we are today having this debate. We are asking the Liberal government to take this seriously. Like pharmacare in the last Parliament, and it is continuing in this Parliament as well, the government keeps pushing things down the road. It wants to do another study and not talk about the core issues here. When people are struggling to afford their medication they should be the priority, not big corporations. When people cannot afford the most basic dental care they should be the priority, not the rich and well-connected.
This is a choice, and I am really sad to see a lot of people who are speaking from the government side not seeing a pathway to get to this motion. I just want to be really clear to the constituents I represent that this is a motion in the House. There was another motion that was passed unanimously in the House a little over a year ago to make sure that if any money to be given to our veterans was left over at the end of a year, it would go into the next year to support them, because we know there are so many challenges and barriers. The government did not follow through on that motion. It made a choice to vote but not support it.
Here we are again with an important motion that says we value people who have less. We value them more than people who have a lot, and today we are going to make sure they get the dental care they so desperately need.