The Canada Revenue Agency is now accepting applications from parents for the new children’s dental benefit, which was put forward as part of the Liberal government’s package of cost-of-living relief for low-income Canadians.
The benefit, to be used toward dental services, is available for children under 12 in families with a household income of less than $90,000 a year. It ranges from $260 to $650 per child depending on net income.
The NDP pushed for the dental care and other policies as part of an agreement to support the minority Liberals on major legislation and confidence votes until 2025.
“This is just the first step,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement on Wednesday. “We’re going to keep fighting to make sure all Canadians can access comprehensive dental care as part of our health-care system.”
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters that by late afternoon on Thursday, more than 3,000 applications had already come in. “It’s a good sign, a sign this benefit is going to help lots of families,” he said.
Duclos said the benefit is only an “interim program,” and for far too many Canadians, the cost of dental care is “simply out of reach.”
“By the end of 2023, our objective is still to have a long-term program in place,” he said, one that is broader and that will fall under a public insurance program rather than requiring people to apply for individual benefits.
“The long-term program is going to resemble medicare,” he said.
At a press conference Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s decision to create a new dental-care program at a time when the health-care system is struggling and children’s hospitals are overcapacity across the country. Trudeau said half a million kids don’t have access to dental care.
“That means parents either don’t send their kids to the dentist or have to make impossible choices about what not to buy for their kids if they’re going to send them to the dentist,” he said.
“That’s not something we should be living in this country, particularly because we know that oral health is an intrinsic part of overall health.”
The official Opposition Conservatives, who voted against the dental benefit, have argued that the Liberal subsidies are a drop in the bucket compared to the costs that Canadians are facing due to inflation.
A one-time rental supplement of $500 for low-income households that was fast-tracked this fall in the same piece of legislation as the dental benefit will be available at dentists, such as Macleod Trail Dental, beginning on Dec. 12.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.