The Liberals agreed to launch a new dental care program for middle- and low-income Canadians and pushed a number of other NDP priorities in exchange for the New Democrats supporting the government through 2025.
“We agreed to work together,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
“It’s about focusing on what we agree on, rather than what we disagree on.”
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office detailing the basis for the agreement, the proposed dental program for those under the age of 12 will start in 2022, then expand to people under 18, the elderly and people living with disabilities in 2023. It will start Full implementation in 2025.
“We are using our power to provide assistance to the people,” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said at his press conference. “We get help for people who need their teeth fixed, and we get help for people who need to buy their medication and can’t afford it.”
The government said the dental program, a mainstay of the two previous NDP campaign platforms, will be limited to families earning less than $90,000 a year, with no co-payments for anyone with an annual income of less than $70,000.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer commissioned the NDP dental plan during the 2019 campaign. At the time, Singh was promising that the NDP government would cover a wide range of preventive and restorative services, including check-ups, cleanings, fluoride treatments, x-rays, filings, crowns, root canals, and treatment for periodontal disease. In addition to the cost of dentures and braces for non-cosmetic purposes.
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The Balance Sheet Office (PBO) estimated the cost for the first partial fiscal year would be $560 million and rise to $1.884 billion in the subsequent fiscal year — a “one-time” increase due to untreated oral disease. After that point, the PBO said, the program would cost about $830 million annually, rising to $856 million.
The deal will also see the passage of the Pharmaceutical Care Canada Act by the end of 2023 tasking the National Medicines Agency with developing a national formulary for essential medicines and a wholesale purchase plan by the end of the agreement.
Regarding housing, another major theme of the National Development Programme, the government has agreed to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative – a program to create new, affordable housing for people and populations at risk – for an additional year and consider changing the definition of affordable housing.
Under the NDP proposal, “affordable housing” would be defined as housing that costs 80 percent or less of the average market rent in an area. Housing and Mortgage Canada considers housing affordable if it costs no more than 30 percent of a person’s income.
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While the Liberals have signed multiple childcare agreements with counties, the NDP is now requiring them to introduce the Early Learning and Child Care Act by the end of 2022 to enshrine these agreements into law, and to ensure they are long-term. Protected funding that prioritizes public and not-for-profit spaces.
“We want it to be like Medicare,” said one NDP source familiar with the deal.
The deal was finalized by a number of other commitments, including pledges to transition to a low-carbon future for workers, introducing the Safe Long-Term Care Act and continuing to deliver on promises to Indigenous communities.
We won’t let liberals get off the hook: Singh
The confidence and bid agreement was submitted to NDP lawmakers for a vote late Monday night. Under these arrangements, an opposition party agrees to support the government in specific actions with specific conditions, and not vote to defeat the government for a period of time.
This is not a coalition deal – the National Party deputies will not sit at the cabinet table.
That deal goes into effect on Tuesday and will run until Parliament’s ascendancy in 2025, allowing for four budgets and averting elections.
According to the agreement, the NDP has agreed to support the government in matters of confidence and budget and will not move for a vote of no-confidence during the term of the agreement. The New Democrats might also support some of the programming proposals to pass mutually agreeable legislation.
“We are not going to let liberals get away with it,” Singh said.
“If they fail to deliver what we agreed upon, this deal does not continue.”
The two sides agreed that leaders would meet once every three months, House leaders would meet regularly and that they would have monthly “assessment” meetings by a supervisory group made up of staff and politicians.
“What this means is that during this turbulent time, government can act with predictability and stability, deliver and implement budgets and get things done for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Gossip about a deal between the two parties appeared not long after the last election, Although at the time, sources in both parties said there was no actual proposal on the table.
“In the late fall we started talking about our priorities,” Singh said. “It took a while and there were some downtimes and gaps in between, but we were immediately interested in using this opportunity to help people, using our strength to give people the help they need, and that’s what we did.”
Both leaders mentioned the crisis in Ukraine, with Trudeau citing the Russian invasion as a source of global and economic uncertainty.
Asked if his party would support increased defense spending in the upcoming budget, Singh said he is watching if it comes at the expense of his priorities.
“What we believe very strongly is that no decision about military spending should get in the way of our investments in health care, nor should it end with cutting off our health care, or the initiatives we fought for,” he said.
Conservatives call it “the power grab.”
Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen attacked the deal, calling it “Justin Trudeau’s power grab”.
“Canadians woke up this morning to the fact that they were cheated and their prime minister cheated on them,” she said Tuesday morning.
“He clings very tightly to power. His number one goal, as we’ve seen over the past six years, is always to do what’s best for him, not do what’s best for Canadians.”
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In a separate press conference, the leader of the Quebec bloc, Yves-François Blanchett, called the Liberal Alliance and the National Democratic Party a “false majority”. He said that the agreement will not affect the way the bloc deals with Parliament.
“The bloc will continue to do exactly the same thing: If it is good for Quebec, we will vote for it. If it is bad for Quebec, we will vote against,” he said.
Later Tuesday during the question period, Blanchett said the federal government had no jurisdiction to offer national dental and pharmacy plans.
“The basis of this agreement is the intrusion of territorial jurisdiction,” he said in French.
Speculation about whether Trudeau would survive beyond 2025 swirled in political circles when news of the deal broke on Monday night.
On Tuesday morning, Trudeau tried to put the speculation to bed. “As I’ve said many times, I plan to continue serving Canadians during and after the upcoming elections,” he said.
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