Singh renews pledge of federal dental care, says Liberals take Atlantic Canada for granted

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh today promised to implement a federal program that would subsidize the costs of dental care for Canadians who lack insurance.

Program would subsidize expenses for Canadians earning less than $90,000 per year

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks during a campaign stop in St. John's, N.L., on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. Speaking alongside two dental hygienists, Singh pledged to bring in a federal program to help Canadians who earn less than $90,000 per year pay for dental expenses. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh today repeated a promise from the party's 2019 campaign to implement a federal program that would subsidize the costs of dental care for Canadians who lack insurance.

Singh made the pledge on the 21st day of the federal election campaign in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of St. John's South–Mount Pearl as the party fights to expand its Atlantic Canada caucus from one seat.

"I've heard story after story from people who cannot get their teeth looked after," said Singh.

"This is where we see one of the greatest divides: If you've got the right job, if you have enough money, you can get your teeth looked after. But for everyone else, they're kind of left high and dry."

WATCH: NDP repledges federal dental care program 

NDP campaign to start rapid testing

2 years ago
Duration 0:37
In light of recent COVID-19 modelling released by Canada's chief public health officer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his team will now start administering rapid tests on the campaign and cut the size of events.

Singh said the program would partly cover expenses of Canadians with an annual income of less than $90,000 per year, and fully cover people who earn less than $60,000 per year.

In a news release, the NDP said the program would benefit 6.5 million Canadians and save the average family $1,200 in dental fees each year. 

The party campaigned on a similar plan in 2019, which promised free dental care for households making less than $70,000, with a sliding co-payment for those earning between $70,000 and $90,000.

A 2020 report by the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that the federal government would face a one-time upfront cost of about $3 billion and then $1.5 billion annually until 2024-25 to pay for a similar program.

Funded by wealth tax

An NDP government would cover the expenses with funds generated by a one per cent tax on households with wealth of more than $10 million, Singh said.

Singh was was joined for the announcement by St. John's South–Mount Pearl NDP candidate Ray Critch, a lawyer and teacher, and labour leader Mary Shortall, the party's candidate for the next-door riding of St. John's East. 

The fourth-place party is fighting to hold St. John's East, its only seat in Atlantic Canada following the 2019 election. It was previously held by longtime NDP MP Jack Harris.

Singh, who spent time living in St. John's when he was young, accused the Liberals of taking Atlantic voters for granted.

"They take you all for granted because they just expect that they'll get your votes," he said. "We want to fight for you, we want to earn your support, and I want to be here to let people know that I want to earn your support and earn your confidence."

Modelling prompts campaign rethink

Singh also announced that his party is making changes to the way it campaigns as a result of new national COVID-19 modelling, released yesterday, that projected that Canada could see up to 15,000 cases per day by the end of the month if the rate of vaccination does not increase and more restrictive public health measures are not introduced.

The NDP leader's campaign will soon implement a rapid testing program, Singh said, something the Liberal and Conservative campaigns already have in place.

WATCH: Singh says his campaign will implement a rapid testing requirement

In addition, Singh said the party is planning to change the types of campaign events it holds to avoid large gatherings of people. 

"The new evidence that's come out from our public health experts in Canada is really sobering," he said. "Things look like they could get really bad."

With files from The Canadian Press