Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Gold, I want to follow up on a question that I asked October 4 on behalf of Cliff Williams, a Nova Scotia senior who is relying on the new Canadian Dental Care Plan to access dental services.
As I stated in my last question, one third of Canadians do not have dental insurance, and one in five avoid dental services because the price is prohibitive. We know that dental care is health care. I applaud the government for its commitment to providing financial assistance to those Canadians who face barriers in accessing dental services by bringing forward the new dental care plan.
A government media release from March 31 — from which you read your answer to my question on October 4 — simply says that by the end of 2023, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will become available to uninsured Canadians under 18, persons with disabilities and seniors with an annual family income of less than $90,000.
Senator Gold, Mr. Williams’ question is a simple one: When will the benefits be available to eligible seniors? As there are only a few weeks until the end of 2023, is the government still guaranteeing that the benefits will be available before the end of the year?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and for your continued advocacy on this important issue. The government is still of the view that — as you mentioned — the Canadian Dental Care Plan is expected to roll out for those categories of eligible Canadians that you mentioned.
I have been informed that by 2025, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will be fully implemented to cover all who are eligible. Once fully implemented, the Canadian Dental Care Plan will support up to 9 million uninsured Canadians.
I’m told that there will be more information forthcoming and shared in the coming weeks. Given the scale and scope of this important program, the government is taking the time necessary to finalize all elements of the plan so that it is communicated clearly to Canadians.
Senator Cordy: Thank you for that, Senator Gold.
My next question follows up on what you said. Will you reach out to the minister and report back to the Senate with an update and updated information for seniors? Then, when I or other senators get phone calls, we can give them some updated information, perhaps with some goalposts as to when certain things could be happening. That would be helpful for us.
Senator Gold: Thank you. I will certainly communicate to the minister. Again, I repeat: I have been advised that more information will be forthcoming in the weeks to come. We look forward to that.