Liberal misinformation about Conservatives trying to sabotage the National Dental Care Plan laid bare

Michael TaubeRaise your hand if you enjoy going to the dentist’s office.

Anyone, anyone?

Of course not.

Most patients feel impending doom at the mere thought of sitting in the dreaded dentist’s chair. My son, who had a check-up on Monday and did well, could certainly live the rest of his life quite comfortably if he was told he never had to go back again!

There are many dentistry stories of woe that could lead to new cavities, bridgework or a root canal. Here’s one that you won’t find in an old, dog-eared copy of Maclean’s or Canadian Geographic on your next visit to the “toothsayer.”

A Liberal cabinet minister recently told a strange tale about Conservatives and dentists. He claimed the Official Opposition had helped create an environment of fear and anxiety about the government’s plan to help more Canadians receive proper dental care.

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National Dental Care Plan Liberal spin exposed

What am I referring to? Let me (ahem) fill you in.

As most readers know, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals signed a three-year work and supply agreement with Jagmeet Singh and the NDP on Mar. 23, 2022. One of the main policies was a national dental care plan for low-income Canadians.

The NDP had originally proposed this during the 2019 and 2021 elections. Their plan would have included roughly 6.5 million uninsured Canadians with an annual household income below $90,000. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated in an Oct. 7, 2020 report that it would have cost $1.4 billion to implement during the 2020-21 fiscal year. It would have increased to $4.6 billion in 2021-22 as more Canadians shifted into the program and then averaged $1.7 billion between 2022-23 and 2024-25.

Most Canadians realized the NDP’s proposal was far too costly and would have been run ineffectively. Much like everything else Canada’s socialist alternative proposes, for that matter. This didn’t stop the Liberals from including a similarly designed national dental care plan in the work and supply agreement.

Trudeau rolled out the CDCP (Canadian Dental Care Plan, originally called the Canada Dental Benefit) on Dec. 1, 2022. The Liberals’ plan, similar to the NDP’s, focused on Canadian families earning less than $90,000 a year and without private insurance. The CDCP would provide up to $1,300 over two years for any child in the household under 12. It was announced as a “$13-billion insurance program,” according to a Dec. 12, 2023 CBC News piece, and in “its current form, the plan is expected to cost the federal treasury about $4.4 billion per year.”

Unsurprisingly, there have been issues, delays and serious doubts over the past two years.

Sun Life Financial was awarded a contract in Sept. 2023 of up to $15 million to set up a national dental care plan, for instance, but it was a slow and agonizing process. A March 2024 Canadian Dental Association survey found that 61 percent of dentists didn’t intend to register with the federal system. (There are an estimated 25,500 licensed dentists in Canada.) The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association opposed the current fee structure and demanded equal pay. The Liberals changed a policy so that oral health care providers with CDCP patients could bill Sun Life directly without formally signing up.

Health Minister Mark Holland undoubtedly felt a lot of heat over these political missteps and miscalculations. He knows his government is collapsing in the polls, too. So, he attempted to change the political narrative in a bizarre fashion.

Holland claimed the Conservatives were trying to “sabotage” the CDCP by calling up dental associations and “bullying” them. “I think that the dental associations, who are normally just dealing as dentists with patients,” the minister said, “suddenly are dealing with rabid Conservatives who … want to see this program fail because they’re concerned that it’s going to benefit our party.”

Besides the fact that almost no one believes the CDCP was going to “benefit” the Liberals, what on earth was he talking about? The Canadian Dental Association didn’t know. Neither did the heads of several provincial dental associations.

Dr. Jenny Doerksen, president of the Alberta Dental Association, told the Toronto Star on June 23 that Holland was engaging in “campaign tactics.” Dr. Maneesh Jain, the Ontario Dental Association’s new president, was taken “by surprise” since his conversations with the minister’s office have apparently been positive.

“There has been zero pressure, really, from the Conservatives on us in any kind of fashion that would result in the low uptake of dentists registering for the program,” Dr. Robert Wolanski, president of the British Columbia Dental Association, told the Star. “The misinformation that has been provided has been provided almost solely by … the Liberal government and the NDP.”

Well, then. It looks like the Health Minister’s outrageous spin wasn’t able to fix the badly gummed-up Liberal national dental care plan. He’s going to have to sit in the waiting room for an extended period of time until the dentist is ready to see him.

That’s the tooth, and the whole tooth.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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