NDP MP pushing feds to cover dental care costs for uninsured Canadians

·2 min read
A dentist provides oral care at a volunteer-run clinic for low-income people in Vancouver in 2019. A Vancouver MP is pushing Ottawa to cover dental costs for uninsured Canadians earning less than $90,000. (CBC/Tristan Le Rudulier - image credit)
A dentist provides oral care at a volunteer-run clinic for low-income people in Vancouver in 2019. A Vancouver MP is pushing Ottawa to cover dental costs for uninsured Canadians earning less than $90,000. (CBC/Tristan Le Rudulier - image credit)

Millions of Canadians cannot afford to go to the dentist and the federal health critic wants Ottawa to do something about it.

Don Davies, MP for Vancouver-Kingsway, is tabling a private members motion in the House of Commons on Tuesday asking the federal government to establish a dental care plan for uninsured Canadian families who have a household income of less than $90,000.

According to the Canadian Dental Association, 32 per cent of Canadians have no dental insurance.

Davies, the NDP's health critic, says he has twice consulted with the parliamentary budget officer — an accountant independent of party politics — who estimated it would cost $1.5 billion to cover over six million Canadians.

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows Canada spent about $265 billion on health care in 2019.

NDP MP Don Davies, seen in a still from a video posted on his website in April 2021, says almost two million more Canadians would qualify for dental coverage under his proposed plan.
NDP MP Don Davies, seen in a still from a video posted on his website in April 2021, says almost two million more Canadians would qualify for dental coverage under his proposed plan.(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Davies, speaking Tuesday morning on CBC's The Early Edition, said dental concerns can become costly health care expenditures if left unchecked.

"We know that it leads to pain, serious illness, poor nutrition, mental health issues, social exclusion and even loss of jobs," said Davies.

"It's linked to cardiac problems, diabetes complications, even low birth weight. And the people that are really suffering the most, I think, are the people who are most marginalized … Indigenous people, children, single parent families, young workers, women and low-income Canadians."

The money from Ottawa, according to Davies's plan, would be doled out to the provinces, who would have to agree to provide dental care and reimburse dentists who provide the coverage to qualifying residents.

"I can't see a single premier turning down money that will make the health of their citizens better," said Davies.

According to Davies, when Canada's public health care system was being established in the 1960s, dental care was part of the original vision but there were too few dentists at the time to actually deliver services on a universal basis. Today, that is no longer an issue.