Mr. Speaker, it is great to speak this afternoon to such an important piece of legislation that our government brought forward and that I hope to see in place to help millions of Canadians very quickly.
We know we live in very challenging times. We live in times that require flexibility from the government, and swift responses. We live in a time when Canadians from coast to coast to coast are facing increases in the costs of everything from lettuce to gas to rent to everyday essentials, and we understand that. Canadians elected all 338 members of Parliament to ensure their interests are put forward and that we put in place programs that assist them and their families to have a better future, not only today but going into the future.
Today we are debating Bill C-31, an act respecting benefits in relation to dental care. I have said before, with regard to dental care, that the Canada dental benefit is an interim first step. No child under the age of 12 and no family that cannot afford to bring their children to the dentist should have to go without it. This is a measure not only for today, to address increased costs that Canadian families are seeing from coast to coast to coast, but also a longer-term measure in line with other measures our government has put in place, including the Canada child benefit, the increase to old age security, two tax cuts for middle-class Canadians and asking the wealthiest 1% of Canadians to pay more, to build a strong economy, strengthen our social fabric, reduce inequality and ensure that inclusive growth happens for all Canadians. That is what we are doing.
The interim Canada dental benefit will provide eligible parents or guardians with direct, upfront tax repayments to cover dental expenses for their children under 12 years of age. This is a first step. In accordance with the proposed legislation, direct payments will be made to eligible applicants, totalling up to $650 per year per child for dental care services for applicants with a family income under $70,000, $390 for those with a family income of $70,000 to $79,000, and $260 for those with a family income of $80,000 to nearly $90,000.
Starting in 2022, the interim Canada dental benefit will deliver over $900 million to support oral health for children under the age of 12 without dental insurance. This is tangible progress to help Canadian families and their children. This is tangible progress to ensure that we help Canadians, especially our most vulnerable, who are faced with the increased costs of everyday expenses that we all know and speak about. That is what Canadians sent us here for. This is the first stage of the government's plan to deliver dental care for families with incomes under $90,000 who do not have access to dental insurance.
Our government introduced this bill because we know the costs of dental care can be difficult for some families to bear. This means many parents have to postpone or forgo important oral health care for their children at a time when their teeth are developing. That is unacceptable. Dental care is essential to maintaining good oral health. Unfortunately, we know that poor oral health can lead to a range of health issues, with consequences that can be lifelong. Furthermore, poor oral health can lead to a reduction in quality of life and associated factors, including mental health issues, employment challenges, social shame, nutritional issues and isolation.
In 2018 alone, it was reported that approximately 6.8 million Canadians avoided visiting a dental professional due solely to cost. In the same year, 10 million Canadians did not have dental care coverage. We are addressing that, first starting with children under 12. Then we will also ensure that seniors are covered, so that my constituency office in the city of Vaughan does not get phone calls from seniors asking how they can get emergency dental care service when a $500 or $1,000 bill comes and they cannot afford it at the end of the month. That is a decision seniors make today in Canada, between putting food on the table and getting dental work done, which we know is very important.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, early childhood tooth decay is a severe form of tooth decay that can affect baby teeth, especially the upper front teeth. It is the most common, yet preventable, chronic childhood disease in Canada and around the world.
Furthermore, treatment of dental problems is the leading cause of day surgery under general anaesthesia in Canada among children under the age of five. It is estimated that negative impacts of poor oral health account for over two million missed school days annually. That is unacceptable. Applications will be processed quickly, automatically in many cases, with payments received within a week for individuals requesting direct deposit.
Bill C-31, if passed, will give the Minister of Health authority to implement an application-based interim benefit payment to eligible Canadians. Starting later this year, applicants will be able to apply for and receive the interim benefit up front before accessing dental care, before they incur the cost, because we know that going to the dentist can be, yes, expensive and absolutely necessary. Eligible Canadians will apply via the CRA's secure My Account portal or by calling the Canada Revenue Agency's client contact centre.
Our government recognizes that dental care needs vary from one person to the next. In this regard, the interim dental benefit can be used for any dental care provided by a licensed member of a regulated oral health profession in good standing with the pertinent regulatory body. The exact care the interim benefit is used to purchase will be decided between families and, yes, their oral health care providers.
Families will have choice. To access the interim benefit, parents or guardians of eligible children will need to apply through the Canada Revenue Agency. In addition, they will need to attest that first, their child does not have access to private dental coverage; second, they will have out-of-pocket dental care expenses for which they will not be fully reimbursed from elsewhere; and third, they understand they will need to provide documentation to verify out-of-pocket expenses occurring, i.e. to show receipts if required.
The interim Canada dental benefit is an important step in the right direction that assists Canadian families by ensuring that they have access to dental coverage for their children first. Then, later on, we will do it for seniors, to ensure that all Canadians have access to dental coverage. I am sure my fellow members would agree that this strategic investment in dental care, which fits in perfectly with our fiscal framework, will most certainly have a ripple effect that will improve the lives of children from coast to coast to coast for years to come.
I am pleased to note that the work is under way to set the stage for the development of a comprehensive, longer-term national dental care program. Specifically, the Government of Canada is working with key stakeholders, industry partners, academics and dentistry associations and organizations to help inform decisions on implementing a new national dental program.
The interim Canada dental benefit is intended to help make life more affordable and bridge the gap for families who struggle to pay for dental care for their children. Our goal is to ensure that eligible children under the age of 12 are able to access the interim Canada dental benefit before the end of this year, before the end of calendar year 2022.
For that to happen, the legislation we are proposing must receive royal assent as soon as possible. I ask all parties to support this common-sense measure that is going to assist Canadian families with children under 12 who do not have dental care coverage or insurance like all of us here enjoy as members of Parliament. For myself, with three kids under the age of 12, I know full well the cost of bringing my child to the dentist, and I know full well the benefit, as an MP, of having dental coverage. We must provide the same benefits to Canadians.
The government is of the view that measures in this bill build on the strong action we have been taking since 2015 to make life more affordable and build an economy that works for all Canadians. From cutting taxes for the middle class in 2015 to increasing the basic personal exemption amount to $15,000, to asking the wealthiest 1% to pay their share, to reducing the age of eligibility for old age security and GIS from 67 to 65, we are on the right path. We are increasing the Canada workers benefit this year, with up to $2,400 more for lower- to middle-income working Canadians to receive when they file their taxes.
The Canada child benefit, again, is tax-free, monthly and helping nine out of 10 Canadian families raise their children and receive more funds. We are not sending cheques to millionaires like the party on the opposite side did when it was in government. We are doing what is right for Canada to grow our economy, make it more inclusive and lift literally hundreds of thousands of children and families out of poverty, which we continue to do.
We know we are in waters that are rough due to global conditions, but we are guiding Canada on this ship in the right direction, to continued prosperity, low unemployment and ensuring that Canadians have a great future ahead of them.