Time is running out for Liberals to fulfil dental plan promise to NDP – Canada News

The Canadian Press – | Story: 372206

The clock is ticking for the government to deliver on its ambitious promise to the New Democrats to deliver a dental care program for low- and middle-income uninsured kids by the end of the year, while cost estimates have nearly doubled.

The pledge is a key element of the Liberal government’s deal with the NDP to stave off an election until 2025. The Liberals promised to provide coverage by the end of the year for children living in a household with an income of less than $90,000, expanding it next year to include under 18-year olds, seniors and persons living with a disability.

The plan is to fully implement the program by 2025.

The government has just over six months to launch a completely new program, but still appears to be in the consultation phase of the planning and hasn’t settled on the most basic question: what form will this program take?

One option is for the program to be delivered as a federal transfer to provinces, which would either administer it alongside existing dental programs or amalgamate them together.

But the NDP have always pitched the program as a stand-alone federal dental insurance plan, administered by federal staff to fill the gaps in the patchwork of provincial and private programs across the country.

A third option to contract the program out to a private company is also on the table, according to several stakeholder groups who’ve been in talks with government officials but aren’t able to speak publicly.

Each available path has its own pitfalls and would likely take more than six months to traverse, and it’s not clear what concessions the NDP are willing to accept to get a federal dental-care program in place.

“We are driving dental care forward and are intent on delivering the stated goals. We believe we’ve found an excellent national model that meets expectations,” said NDP health critic Don Davies in a statement Thursday.

The government’s 2022 budget suggested the plan would cost $5.3 billion over the next five years, starting with a modest investment of $300 million this year to kick-start the kids program.

But in a legislative costing note, the PBO says the total cost of the program, if delivered as a transfer to provinces, could be closer to $9 billion, and the government would have to spend $939 million this year to get it going.

The PBO’s report underscores just how complicated the government’s task is in setting up a new dedicated program, the Canadian Dental Program said in a statement.

“While we fully support efforts by all levels of government to improve Canadians’ oral health, we’re concerned that the timeline previously announced may be exceedingly ambitious given the complexity of this issue,” said Dr. Lynn Tomkins, the association’s president.

The government has so far held several one-on-one and roundtable meetings with a large slate of stakeholders, including those with an interest in health care, oral health and insurance.

A task force has been stood up to navigate the various options. The executive director of that task force, Lindy Van Amburg, was not available for an interview.

Instead, Health Canada issued a statement to say that coverage will be provided for children this fiscal year, suggesting the government may be offering itself slightly more breathing room by giving itself until the end of March to fulfil its deal with the NDP.

“The government of Canada is committed to respecting the timelines that have been set out for this program, and will provide more information as the design of the program moves forward,” the statement read.

Still, the timeline is ambitious. If, as the PBO interpreted, the government decides to download its dental care ambitions onto the provinces, it will need to get buy-in from 13 provinces and territories with a myriad of existing programs and their own unique industry landscape.

The dental association prefers this option because it would support existing programs that need funding, be less disruptive to the insurance sector and pose a lower risk of people going without coverage during the transition.

The Liberals went through a similar process to realize its cost-cutting goals for child care last year, but it took nearly a year to get all provinces and territories to agree.

The politics of signing new provincial and territorial dental care deals may also be complicated by the fact that several provinces, including Quebec and British Columbia, have emphatically requested more money from the federal health transfer with less political meddling from Ottawa.

Contracting out a federal program comes with its own headaches. Some stakeholders have told the government it could offer best value for money, but transparency and accountability could be lost in the event a private company takes over the coverage.

Awarding a multi-billion-dollar procurement process would normally take upwards of a year. Companies need time to prepare a bid, government officials need to carefully go through each one, and that’s all before the winning company is able to start working on the program.

It’s anyone’s guess how long it would take to launch a federal bureau with dedicated government staff.

The government will need to pick an option before it can even begin delving into the arguably much more challenging and detailed work of deciding which services will be covered, how much reimbursement the plan will offer and how it will impact the industry at large.

It’s also difficult to know precisely how much the program will cost. If, as some groups fear, provincial and employee insurance plans drop coverage and refer patients to the federal program, the Liberals’ promise to the NDP could become much more costly, very quickly.

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The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 5:20 pm | Story: 372189

A charge has been laid following a decade-long investigation into allegations of abuse at a residential school in Manitoba.

The province confirmed Thursday a person was charged with one count of indecent assault on a female related to the investigation into the former Fort Alexander Residential School northeast of Winnipeg.

Manitoba RCMP did not provide comment on the charge.

The school was opened in 1905 in the community of Fort Alexander, which later became the Sagkeeng First Nation, and closed in 1970.

Mounties have said that officers with the major crime unit began looking into the residential school in 2010 and a criminal investigation began the following year.

Police have said the investigation involved reviewing archived records of the school, including student and employee lists.

Officers have also interviewed more than 700 people across North America.

Mounties said last year that RCMP were waiting on advice from the province’s Crown prosecutors regarding charges.

Sagkeeng First Nation recently discovered 190 anomalies during a search near the Fort Alexander school using ground-penetrating radar.

Initial data shows the irregularities fit some of the criteria for graves, but the community leadership has said more information is needed.

The Fort Alexander school had a reputation for abuse.

Survivors told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about starvation and harsh discipline. Children from nearly two dozen First Nations attended the school for about 10 months of the year.

The commission’s final report said Phil Fontaine, former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and a past national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, put experiences at residential schools on the national agenda in 1990 when he disclosed his own sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander school.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 1:19 pm | Story: 372141

Events are set to take place in Ottawa in late June through the rest of the summer for what organizers say are to protest remaining COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions.

Andrew MacGillivray, steering committee member for Veterans for Freedom, says in a YouTube video interview that it will hold a three-day conference in Ottawa next week, from Wednesday to Friday.

Veterans for Freedom describes itself on its website as a group made up of Canadian veterans working to “restore fundamental freedoms for all Canadians” and “uphold Canadian laws.”

MacGillivray says its aim is to have the federal government repeal remaining mandates, reinstate federal workers who lost their jobs related to mandates and pay those workers for lost wages.

He says his group plans to hold a meeting with up to 17 MPs on Wednesday, who are mostly Conservative, and the next two days will be town hall events with key people in the “freedom movement.”

MacGillivray says it will set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called “Camp Eagle” and will be holding events all summer.

The “Freedom Convoy” protest, which occupied downtown streets for three weeks earlier this year, is still in recent memory for many Ottawa citizens.

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The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 1:18 pm | Story: 372140

The House of Commons is suspending COVID-19 vaccine mandates for MPs, staff and visitors next week.

Government House leader Mark Holland put forward a motion this afternoon to end the mandate as of Monday.

House leaders from all parties met to discuss the mandate earlier this week and the House unanimously agreed to suspend them in a vote today.

The Board of Internal Economy, an all-party committee that makes decisions about Parliament business, voted to bring in the mandate for anyone coming to the parliamentary precinct beginning last November.

At the time it also agreed to make wearing masks mandatory until June 23, and to allow members to participate remotely in debate and committees in a hybrid format until that date.

The federal government has suspended vaccine mandates for domestic and outbound international flights and rail travel starting Monday.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 11:59 am | Story: 372124

Amid stubbornly hot inflation and rising interest rates, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland detailed financial commitments to “help make life more affordable for millions of Canadians” – but the measures were all previously announced.

Freeland delivered a keynote address about the state of the Canadian economy at the Empire Club of Canada in downtown Toronto Thursday afternoon.

In her speech, Freeland highlighted the federal government’s ‘Affordability Plan,’ which she referred to as a suite of measures totalling $8.9 billion in new support for Canadians in 2022.

The measures were all included in the past two federal budgets and are now taking effect.

Freeland called recent skyrocketing inflation a “global phenomenon” that is being driven by lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing lockdowns in China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Jobs are plentiful and business is booming, but it is also harder for a lot of Canadians to pay their bills at the end of the month,” Freeland said in her speech.

Last month, Statistics Canada reported the inflation rate for April rose 6.8 per cent compared with a year ago. That’s the highest since January 1991. The federal agency is expected to release May’s inflation report next week.

Ahead of Freeland’s speech, Canada’s unions called on the finance minister to announce new measures “to make sure millions of vulnerable workers and their families aren’t left behind by the worsening inflation crisis.”

“It’s the responsibility of governments to intervene and make sure families are not being left to bear this burden alone,” Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said in a news release Thursday morning.

“Beyond measures already announced in Budget 2022, additional direct and targeted help to families through an immediate increase in the GST credit would help vulnerable families who need it the most.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday – its largest hike since 1994, leading economists to predict the Bank of Canada will follow suit next month.

Canada’s central bank has increased its key rate by half a percentage point twice in recent months, bringing it to 1.5 per cent in June and governor Tiff Macklem has hinted he is prepared to act “more forcefully” if high inflation persists.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 11:37 am | Story: 372118

Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard is facing two new sexual assault charges.

Toronto police say the force charged Nygard with two counts of sexual assault on Wednesday.

Nygard was charged last fall with six counts of sexual assault and three counts of forcible confinement in alleged incidents in Toronto dating back to the late 1980s and mid-2000s.

He was also charged in March with sexual assault and forcible confinement relating to alleged offences in Quebec involving the same victim between Nov. 1, 1997, and Nov. 15, 1998.

Nygard also faces sex-related charges in the United States, and federal Justice Minister David Lametti has said that while Nygard would be extradited to the U.S., it will only happen after the cases against him in Canada are resolved.

Nygard has denied all the allegations against him.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 9:23 am | Story: 372099

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says the city’s state of local emergency remains in effect as it monitors another potential storm.

Environment Canada has ended all heavy rainfall warnings in Alberta, but Gondek says there’s more rain in the forecast for Kananaskis, west of Calgary, next week.

City officials say the potential for another 50 to 100 millimetres of rain in the eastern slopes of the Rockies would affect the Elbow and Bow rivers in Calgary.

Preparations for potential flooding in Calgary this week included the closure of Memorial Drive, a major east-west roadway along the river, to build a temporary berm to help protect communities to the north.

Gondek says that berm will remain in place until at least Sunday or Monday, although the city is to open a couple lanes to traffic on the roadway today.

She says the berm cost about $118,000 to construct, but it protects about $53 million worth of property in nearby communities.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 9:17 am | Story: 372097

Canada’s top court has sent the case of two men convicted in the slayings of three family members back to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Last year, the Alberta court imposed consecutive parole eligibilities for Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank of 50 years in prison before they could apply for release.

Last month, the Supreme Court, calling it unconstitutional and cruel, struck down the federal law that allowed consecutive parole eligibilities.

Today, the high court ordered the Appeal Court to deal with the two men’s sentencing in light of the recent ruling.

Klaus and Frank were each convicted of three counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of Klaus’s father and sister were discovered in their burnt-out farmhouse near Red Deer, Alta., in 2013.

His mother’s body was never found.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 9:03 am | Story: 372093

The parliamentary budget officer says the cost of a new dental program for low- and middle-income uninsured Canadians could be nearly double what the federal government originally estimated.

The program is a key element of the Liberal government’s deal with the NDP to stave off an election until 2025.

The Liberals promised to provide coverage by the end of the year for children living in a household with an income of less than $90,000 and expanding next year it to include seniors and persons living with a disability.

The government’s 2022 budget suggested the plan would cost $5.3 billion over the next five years.

But in a legislative costing note, the PBO says the cost could be closer to $9 billion.

The government has just over six months to launch a completely new program, but still appears to be in the consultation phase of the planning.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 9:01 am | Story: 372092

Michelle Rempel Garner, a longtime Conservative MP from Calgary, says she’s stepping back from the federal Conservative leadership race to consider running for Jason Kenney’s job.

Rempel Garner was serving as co-chair on Patrick Brown’s leadership campaign when Kenney stunned many last month by announcing he was resigning as premier of Alberta and leader of the United Conservative Party after narrowly surviving a leadership review.

Rempel Garner’s name soon started to circulate as a potential successor to Kenney.

She confirmed on Twitter she has been encouraged to run and is giving “serious consideration” to mounting a UCP leadership bid.

Rempel Garner says she will step back from the federal Conservative leadership race to focus her attention on a potential leadership run.

“I will make my decision based on the conversations I have with the people I represent — Albertans.”

In his own statement on Twitter, Brown thanked Rempel Garner for contributing to his campaign and wished her well in her deliberations.

Announcing that Rempel Garner, who was first elected in 2011, would serve as one of his national campaign co-chairs was seen by some to be a key get for Brown, whose political roots lie in Ontario.

Her departure follows a decision by two MPs to forgo their endorsement of Brown and instead back his main rival, longtime Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre.

At the time, a spokesman for Brown’s campaign brushed off the decision by Ontario MPs Kyle Seeback and Dan Muys to switch sides, saying they only represent two votes.

A spokesman has not yet responded to a question of whether Brown will name a replacement to the role Rempel Garner filled as a campaign co-chair.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 7:12 am | Story: 372082

Canada’s chief justice says the legal system must continue to modernize and innovate, warning it cannot return to pre-pandemic ways of doing business.

At a news conference today, the Supreme Court of Canada’s Richard Wagner says all players in the justice system are reassessing what they do, how they do it, and how effectively they meet the needs of the people they serve.

Wagner insists access to justice is not just a fundamental right or a service, but above all a basic human need and an essential ingredient of democracy.

He acknowledges meeting the expectation of timely justice is a big task, especially with so many courts facing backlogs and delays.

Wagner says this is why a committee on court operations in response to COVID-19 continues to meet even as the pandemic eases.

The committee recently drafted a document for judges and court administrators with practical suggestions to deal with matters faster and more effectively.

The Canadian Press – Jun 16, 2022 / 7:10 am | Story: 372081

More than 32 years after a gunman motivated by a hatred of feminists opened fire at École polytechnique, killing 14 women and injuring others, Nathalie Provost will finally attend a convocation.

The gun control advocate and survivor of the 1989 shooting is being recognized on Thursday with an honorary doctorate at a ceremony in downtown Montreal. While she has two previous degrees from the school, Provost says traditional graduation ceremonies weren’t held back when she was a student, so Thursday’s will be her first.

Her thoughts, she said, will be on how deeply the school has marked her life — not only by the tragedy but also by the lifelong friends she made and the education she received.

“The adult person I’ve become is an engineer to the core,” she said in a phone interview. “Even if I don’t work as a classic engineer, I am one.”

Provost said she returned to class less than a month after being shot four times by Marc Lépine in the Dec. 6, 1989, massacre that’s widely believed to be Canada’s worst mass shooting specifically targeting women. She graduated with an engineering degree a few months later, in May 1990, and would go on to earn a master’s degree from the same school.

In retrospect, she said has realized that she felt she had something to prove in returning to class so soon.

“I think it was kind of a way to say to the world and to Marc Lépine, ‘You won’t stop me,'” she said.

“‘You tried, but you won’t succeed.'”

Provost’s honorary doctorate comes at a very different time in her life. Her four children, who will be in attendance, are the same age as the young graduates.

At 55, she’s had a successful career as a civil servant and has climbed the ranks at her job.

“I’m getting to the age of wisdom, where I can look back at what I’ve lived,” she said.

In a statement, Polytechnique said it wanted to honour Provost because of her life of “remarkable achievements, driven by uncommon determination and social values, (and) for the example of audacity that she embodies for the new generation of engineers in Quebec, in Canada and around the world.”

Provost, who became a gun control advocate after the shooting, said she is feeling encouraged by the federal government’s new firearms legislation that includes a national freeze on importing, buying, selling or otherwise transferring handguns.

However, she said she feels there’s more to do — on gun control as well as on other issues, including gender discrimination and violence against women.

“Equality between men and women is something we have to keep fighting for,” she said.

“It’s not a closed case,” she said, citing the debate over abortion in the United States as an example.

She said the young female engineers who are graduating will likely face less of an uphill battle professionally than she did, but she said they still face complex challenges. “I don’t know if they know how important they are, but they are,” she said.

After decades of advocacy, Provost said she hasn’t yet felt the need to stop telling her story — as long as she feels it can help lead to better gun legislation and concrete change.

“When I no longer believe in my contribution, I won’t be able to speak up anymore and probably I’ll shut up,” she said. “But for the moment, I think I can bring something.”

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