‘We’re working on affordability,’ says Liberal cabinet’s Rodriguez, point man for Quebec
There are three points to be remembered in the new federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa last week, according to Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez who is the Trudeau government’s lieutenant for Quebec.
The first, household grocery purchasing power during an inflationary period, is being addressed through a special rebate, for a one-shot payment of $467 for eligible couples with children, $234 for single Canadians without children, and $225 for seniors.
The affordability problem
“We’re working on affordability,” he said in an exclusive interview this week with Newsfirst Multimedia. “You’ve seen it and felt it, I’m sure. Things are costing more all the time, especially the groceries, and people are suffering.”
He said the sums will help households pay the groceries at a time when virtually everyone is being impacted.
The second element, he continued, is designed to help people get the dental care they need and make life more affordable. As such, by the end of this year the Liberal government expects to begin rolling out the Canadian Dental Care Plan.
Public dental coverage
The plan will be fully implemented by 2025, providing dental coverage for up to nine million Canadians. This is being supported by an investment written into the Trudeau government’s Budget 2023 of $13 billion over five years starting in 2023-24, and $4.4 billion in ongoing, permanent funding.
“No one should have to choose between taking care of their teeth and paying their bills,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement regarding the dental program, while adding that “Budget 2023 will help millions of Canadians see a dentist and provide much-needed relief for families.”
For $90,000 and less families
“Whoever’s been to the dentist recently – and I’ve been there – it’s become really, really expensive,” said Rodriguez. “We’re making sure that anyone who is not ensured and makes $90,000 and less benefits from this program. And I’m thinking more specifically about our seniors, for example.
“This is more than just health coverage,” he added. “It has a huge impact on their lives. When a senior doesn’t have enough money to have a denture, that person may very well decide to isolate and not go out because they don’t feel comfortable and will stay away from others. So, dental care is a health issue, but it’s also a social issue, a quality-of-life issue.”
Towards a clean economy
Outlining a third element, Rodriguez maintained the 2023 budget makes transformative investments to build Canada’s clean economy, fight climate change and create new opportunities for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers.
He said this includes significant measures that will deliver cleaner and more affordable energy, support investment in communities and the creation of well-paying jobs, while ensuring that Canadian workers are able to produce and provide the goods and resources that Canadians and others need.
“We’re talking about building the economy of the future,” said Rodriguez, noting that the government has set aside $80 billion over 10 years for projects that include electrification of transportation, production of green energy and green technologies.
The post-Covid economy
While tabling the 2023 federal budget last week, the government claimed that the country has made a remarkable recovery from the Covid recession, that Canada’s economic growth was the strongest in the G7 over the last year, and today 830,000 more Canadians are employed than before the pandemic.
In addition, Finance Minister Freeland and other cabinet members maintained that inflation in Canada has fallen for eight months in a row, the unemployment rate is near a record low, and that the labour force participation rate for women aged 25 to 54 reached a record high of 85.7 per cent in February supported by a Canada-wide system of affordable early learning and child care.
Predatory lending targeted
In the budget, the government also pledged to take action to crack down on hidden junk fees and predatory lending, to lower credit card transaction fees for small businesses, and to help Canadians keep more money in their pockets.
To strengthen Canada’s universal public health care system, the Trudeau government also pledged to deliver $198.3 billion to reduce backlogs, expand access to family health services and ensure provinces and territories can provide public health care efficiently.
Some basic facts on Ottawa’s Budget 2023
- In 2023, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will become available to uninsured Canadians under 18, persons with disabilities, and seniors who have an annual family income of less than $90,000. There will be no co-pays for those with an annual family income under $70,000. By 2025, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will be fully implemented to cover all uninsured Canadians with an annual family income under $90,000.
- Budget 2023 also proposes to invest:
- $250 million over three years, starting in 2025-26, and $75 million ongoing to establish an Oral Health Access Fund, which will address oral health gaps among vulnerable populations and reduce identified barriers to accessing dental care, including in rural and remote communities, complementing the Canadian Dental Care Plan.
- $23.1 million over two years, starting in 2023-24, to collect data on oral health and dental care access in Canada and help the government’s ability to support those who need it most through the Canadian Dental Care Plan.
- To make life more affordable while global inflation drove up the cost of living, the government has made significant investments and implemented key initiatives in the past year alone, including:
- Doubling the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) for six months to help 11 million individuals and families with the rising cost of living – with couples with two children receiving up to an extra $467 and seniors receiving an extra $225 on average;
- Launching the Canada Dental Benefit, which provides up to $1,300 over two years to help get kids the dental care they need;
- Providing low-income renters with $500 to make life more affordable;
- Enhancing the Canada Workers Benefit for our lowest-paid – and often most essential – workers, to provide up to $1,428 for a single worker without children, up to $2,461 to a family, and an additional $737 for workers with disabilities;
- Increasing Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for seniors age 75 and older by 10 per cent as of July 2022, which is providing more than $800 in additional support to full pensioners; and
- Delivering $10-a-day child care or reducing child care fees by at least 50 per cent on average in every province and territory, and strengthening the child care system in Quebec with more child care spaces.