Dental plan has no teeth for Ontario poor

by Barry Weisleder

Ontario’s health minister, Deb Matthews, admitted in June that there is no money to improve the oral health of the province’s 500,000 working poor.

In the 2007 election campaign her Liberal Party promised to introduce dental care for low-income Ontarians, followed up by a budget commitment in 2008 to provide $45 million annually for three years to help half a million impoverished workers unable to afford private insurance coverage. Now, it seems, that is barely enough to cover dental care for children of the poor.

Thirty-two per cent of Canadians do not have dental insurance and 17 per cent of residents across the country avoided seeing a licensed dentist last year because of cost, according Health Canada. As a result, an underground industry of unlicensed and sometimes dangerous dentistry preys upon the poor, and often new immigrants.

Desperation is born of hardship, deepened recently by the Ontario Liberal government’s regressive Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and its heartless elimination of the Special Diet Supplement to welfare ($250 a month for food). After inflation, welfare benefits today have only 55 per cent of the buying power they had in 1993.

Liberals at Queen’s Park smile daggers while they make workers and the poorest folk pay for the bail-out to resource industries and auto giants, pay for the crisis of their profit system.