The federal government announced Thursday that applications are now open for dental care benefits touted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as inflation relief.
Applications for the dental benefit, part of Ottawa’s package of cost-of-living relief for low-income Canadians, are filed through the Canada Revenue Agency.
Trudeau told reporters in London, Ont., that 500,000 Canadian kids can’t access dental care.
“That means parents either don’t send their kids to the dentist or have to make impossible choices about what not to buy for their kids if they’re going to send them to the dentist,” he said.
“That’s not something we should be living in this country, particularly because we know that oral health is an intrinsic part of overall health.”
The plan is receiving mixed reactions from across party lines.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre voted against the benefit in the House of Commons, arguing that Liberal subsidies are a drop in the bucket compared to the costs Canadians face due to inflation.
Poilievre did not make any comments regarding the benefit Thursday.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pushed for dental care and other policies and said in a statement on Wednesday that it was “just the first step.”
“We’re going to keep fighting to make sure all Canadians can access comprehensive dental care as part of our health-care system,” he said.
The benefit is available for children under 12 in families with a household income of less than $90,000 per year.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters that the government received more than 3,000 applications by mid-Thursday afternoon.
But he added the benefit is only an “interim program.”
“By the end of 2023, our objective is still to have a [broader] long-term program in place,” he said. “The long-term program is going to resemble medicare.”
A one-time rental supplement of $500 for low-income households fast-tracked this fall in the same piece of legislation as the dental benefit will be available beginning on Dec. 12.