Liberal payments for dental care and rental housing will only add to inflation, without providing relief from the rising cost of living, Conservative MPs argued in the House of Commons on Monday.
The MPs debated the government’s legislation to create an annual $650 dental benefit for low- and middle-income families for every child under the age of 12.
The bill would also give low-income renters a one-time payment of $500.
“This bill offers measures throwing some money here, throwing some money there, all in a desperate effort by a desperate government to make it appear that it is doing something — anything — to address the cost-of-living crisis,” Conservative MP Michael Cooper said at the outset of the debate.
Conservatives argued the relief package would have the opposite effect than intended, because it would drive up inflation while offering only a little relief to people in the meantime.
“The more that this government spends, the costlier it is for Canadians to purchase goods,” Cooper said.
“When you have more money chasing fewer goods, you’re going to get inflation. It’s called ‘Economics 101.’”
The Conservatives are pushing an amendment to quash the bill entirely, but that is very unlikely to happen as the NDP and Liberals will both vote in favour of passing the bill.
Both initiatives were pushed by the NDP in exchange for its agreement to support the government on key votes until 2025.
Cooper argued a $500 cheque wouldn’t cover more than a week of rent in most Canadian cities, and would be “eviscerated” by inflation, rising interest rates and tax hikes.
NDP Alberta MP Heather McPherson said the Conservative MP’s suggestion to give nothing, rather than too little, didn’t make sense.
She said it will go to Canadians for whom “$500 will make a significant difference, and I don’t understand why the Conservatives would say $500 isn’t going to help families that are struggling,” McPherson said.
During the debate, Conservatives made little mention of the government’s dental-care plan, except to say that nine out of 10 provinces already provide dental care to children from low-income households.
“In that respect, this is a duplicate of measures,” Cooper said.
Bloc Québécois MPs are also concerned about whose jurisdiction dental care should fall under. The Quebec health system typically covers the dental needs of children under the age of 10.
“We may vote against a bill, not because we don’t agree with it, but out of a concern about respecting jurisdictions,” Bloc MP Marie-Hélène Gaudreau told the House in French.
The government House leader’s parliamentary secretary, Mark Gerretsen, accused the Conservatives of prolonging debate of a bill for which they obviously did not intend to vote.
“What is paramount for them is to ensure that the legislative process in this place just cannot function,” Gerretsen said.
The Conservatives have thrown support behind the Liberal government’s other targeted relief bill, which aims to double the GST rebate for six months. MPs are expected to vote on third reading of that bill on Thursday.
—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press