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MP Cannings praises dental provisions in federal budget

A local MP says he’s very pleased to see his party’s dental care plan included in the federal budget.

“It’s one of the big ticket items, and we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to force the government to do to make sure all Canadians will have access to dental care,” says South Okanagan-West Kootenay New Democrat Richard Cannings.

Cannings calls the move “a big step up” from last year, as now seniors, people with disabilities, and children under 18 are included. Next year coverage is expected to be extended to everyone earning under $70,000 who doesn’t otherwise have any.

“This will change the lives of nine million Canadians. It’s one of the biggest improvements to our health care system since it was brought in in the ’60s,” Cannings said. “We’re very proud of that. I think that’s the big news.”

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Cannings also hailed the Liberals’ doubling of the GST credit again as a grocery rebate. He said the NDP called for support for low-income people feeling the brunt of inflation.

He said there were “a few other smaller but still important victories” in the financial plan.

“We’ve been calling since [late NDP leader] Jack Layton’s days for help with the interchange fees that small business pays on credit card transactions,” he said.

“The government has finally come through with some movement on that. They’ve made agreements with Visa and Mastercard to fix that to some extent. We’re very happy there.”

Cannings said another plus is funding to help workers in the transition to a green economy, ensuring they are paid wages competitive to the United States. He noted that U.S. president Joe Biden’s inflation reduction act will see over a trillion dollars spent on greening the American economy and consequently many Canadian companies are looking to expand south of the border.

“We have to come up with measures to match that,” Cannings said. “There’s a 38 per cent tax credit for clean tech companies.”

Cannings noted one constituent with a business funded by Bloomberg was told “we like your business, but we want all of your expansion to be in the United States to take advantage of these new measures.”

“This budget goes some way to try to stem that tide,” Cannings said.

He also claimed a “partial victory” over the alcohol excise tax, which was due to rise 6.3 per cent on April 1 in line with inflation. While the Liberals didn’t heed the NDP’s call to freeze the tax, they did cap it at two per cent for one year. “So we were hoping for a little better but we’ll take that,” Cannings said.

Three aspects of budget disappointed him. He said there is nothing to help graduate students who are paid scholarships by the federal government, but have received the same funding since 2003, which now amounts to less than minimum wage.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ request for a $2 billion top up to the federal disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, which places such as Grand Forks have tapped into, went unanswered.

And Cannings said there was “disappointingly little” for the tourism industry and small business still recovering from the pandemic.

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