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NDP won’t bend any further on federal dental-care plan, Singh warns

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OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party was willing to be flexible on the first phase of the Liberal government’s dental-care plan, but in future the New Democrats will bend no further.

The government agreed to bring in a federal dental plan for uninsured low- and middle-income families as part of a supply and confidence agreement with the NDP.

In exchange for fulfilling its vision for dental care, among other priorities, the NDP agreed not to trigger an election before 2025.

The agreement stipulates that the government deliver dental care to children under age 12 who meet the criteria by the end of this year.

Singh acknowledged in an interview that the timeline was ambitious, which is why the NDP was amenable to an interim measure. “That flexibility allowed for the government to deliver that in a flexible way.”

Rather than launch a full-fledged program, the government opted to deliver cheques directly to qualifying families. The new benefit provides up to $650 for each eligible child, and is based on their family’s income.

To access the money, families with a household income of less than $90,000 need to attest that their child does not have access to private dental coverage, they will have out-of-pocked dental expenses they plan to use the money for, and they will be able to show receipts.

The government announced the benefit would be a “first stage,” while a more comprehensive program is developed.

Singh said his party agreed to the benefit plan on condition the full program be ready for the next phase of qualifying patients by the end of next year.

The program is supposed to extend to all kids under 18, people with disabilities and seniors by the end of 2023, and apply to all members of qualifying families by 2025.

That’s not the only line in the sand the NDP has drawn.

“It’s got to be the full, federally administered program by 2023,” Singh said.

That means, as far as the NDP is concerned, the government can’t have the provinces deliver the dental-care program, as they did with child care.

The health minister’s office said in a statement that the government continues to work with partners, including provinces and territories, to improve access to dental care, and more details will come “in due course.”

The fact that the government is taking extra time to get the program right is good news, said Carlos Quiñonez, vice-dean and director of dentistry at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.

“Best case scenario, for me, would be if there was a significant runway — one, two, even three years — to sort of think through all of the things that will need to be considered in order to achieve a likelihood of success for such a plan,” said Quiñonez, who was consulted by the federal government.

For one thing, the government will need to carefully work out how to deliver dental care to uninsured people without disturbing what is “ostensibly, a relatively good system,” he said.

Another NDP condition is that the plan, once complete, include “the highest coverage possible” with services that will protect people’s quality of life.

“We want to make sure that quality of life is the top notch: best quality and the best practices,” Singh said, recognizing that some services would fall outside of that scope.

That balance can be difficult to find, though, Quiñonez said.

“To me, that’s a very important issue because it not only has to be scientifically defensible, it also has to be ethically defensible.”

It’s difficult to make hard-set rules about how many cleanings someone is entitled to per year, for example, because people with greater oral health needs might need more care, he said. “These are exactly the reasons why I think it’s prudent to take some time and really think through what the implications of all of this are.”

Those questions are further complicated when one considers the way health and esthetics have become entwined in dentistry, said Catherine Carstairs, a professor in the department of history at the University of Guelph and author of The Smile Gap: a history of oral health and social inequality.

“I think it is hard in dentistry to distinguish between what’s a need and what’s seen to be cosmetic because there’s really quite a blending there.”

Carstairs said she was disappointed by the recently introduced benefit program, but still has high hopes for what the federal government can achieve in time.

“It’s not really going to go very far toward addressing the needs that people have,” she said. “But I’m still pleased to see that the program seems to be proceeding in some capacity.”

Legislation to enable the benefit payments is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons soon as MPs officially return from their summer break.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau announces diplomat Jennifer May will be ambassador to China – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that diplomat Jennifer May will take over as ambassador to China with a mandate to speak out on human rights abuses while pursuing trade with the world’s second-biggest economy.

“A dedicated public servant, Ms. May’s many years of diverse experience on international missions, and her deep understanding of Asia, will serve to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canada’s interest in China,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday.

While the last two ambassadors – former cabinet minister John McCallum and business executive Dominic Barton – soft-pedalled China’s human rights abuses, the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Trudeau expects Ms. May to use her envoy posting to highlight the importance of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reports here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

POILIEVRE VS. TRUDEAU – In his first opportunity to question Justin Trudeau since winning the Conservative Party leadership, Pierre Poilievre this week repeated his calls for a federal payroll tax freeze and chided the Prime Minister for choosing international travel over House of Commons attendance. Story here.

BRIAN MULRONEY’S DINNER WITH PIERRE POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre must make an appeal to Canada’s political centre if he wants to win government, former prime minister Brian Mulroney says he told the new Conservative Leader this week over dinner. Story here.

OILS SANDS COMPANIES FALL SHORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION: ANALYSIS – Canadian oil sands companies have done little to follow through on their public pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, despite raking in historic profits in 2022, a new analysis shows. Story here.

QUEBEC ELECTION – Quebec’s four opposition party leaders attacked Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault on the environment, the cost of living and his management of the economy in the last debate of the election campaign Thursday, leaving Mr. Legault on the defensive. Story here. The debate, with English translation, is here on CPAC. Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade posted a tweet on her preparation for the proceedings here. Meanwhile, on Friday, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he is pausing his campaign after developing flu-like symptoms. Story here.

ONTARIO REPORTS SURPLUS – Ontario says it took in 20 per cent more revenue than anticipated last year, wiping out what it had predicted would be a $13.5-billion deficit and replacing it with a “temporary” surplus of $2.1-billion. Story here.

JURISDICTIONAL HURDLES COMPLICATE FEDERAL GUN ACTION – Federal agencies are trying to boost efforts to trace the origins of guns used in crimes, but it appears jurisdictional hurdles could prevent the measures from going as far as some would like. Story here.

LAST COUNCIL MEETING FOR WINNIPEG MAYOR – Brian Bowman bid an emotional farewell to his council colleagues on Thursday, during his last meeting as Winnipeg’s mayor. Story here from CBC.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Sept. 23, accessible here.

JOLY TO VISIT SOUTH KOREA – As South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-Yeol visited Ottawa on Friday, a senior official revealed Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly will visit Seoul next month. The disclosure, according to a Canadian Press pool report, came as the president met with Governor-General Mary Simon at Rideau Hall.

SEAL SUMMIT SET FOR NOVEMBER – Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has announced a Seal Summit for Nov. 8 and 9 in St. John’s that will involve parties such as the Indigenous community, commercial fishing industry and provincial and territorial representatives to talk about issues including fisheries science and management, and developing new products and diversifying markets for seal and seal products.

THE DECIBEL

On Friday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, senior foreign correspondent Mark MacKinnon discusses what is happening in Russia where President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 reservists in a partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine. That sparked protests in several cities in Russia, and a flood of people trying to leave the country. Mr. MacKinnon talks about what the repercussions of Putin’s escalation might be, and what it means for the broader conflict. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, visited a local school to mark Rosh Hashanah with students, and then, with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, hosted a luncheon for visiting South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, and Mrs. Kim Keon-hee. The Prime Minister then held a meeting with the South Korean President. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne participated. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Yoon were then scheduled to hold a joint media availability.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how the best way to help Canada’s overwhelmed health care system is to get your COVID-19 booster shot: ”Canada needs to rediscover the drive that made its earlier vaccine campaigns so successful, especially among the most vulnerable – namely, older Canadians. British Columbia took a stab at it when it announced it intends to deliver 280,000 booster shots per week this fall. Every other province needs to be at least as ambitious. There are enough boosters to go around. Ottawa said Moderna is shipping 10.5 million doses of its bivalent vaccine to Canada just this month, and Moderna and Pfizer are close to submitting even newer formulations for approval from Health Canada. Canada also has plenty of first-generation shots for the nearly one in 10 adults who never got the original two-shot series. Let’s get back to the time when Canada led the world. Every Canadian who gets vaccinated or boosted this fall reduces the number of people likely to end up in our crowded hospitals. It’s not complicated.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how giving MPs more meaningful work might lead to more civility in Parliament: “I can think of a hundred things wrong with Parliament, and heckling wouldn’t even make the list. Nor, for that matter, would incivility, at least between MPs. We pay politicians for much the same reason we pay wrestlers, to act out a relatively harmless pantomime of combat for the rest of us. Parliament exists as a forum, with all of its quaint rules and customs, not to deny social conflict but to contain and channel it, to express our antagonisms in stylized form.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the first salvo between Pierre Poilievre, Justin Trudeau proves pair will be formidable opponents in Parliament: “In June, 2014, Ray Novak, Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, confronted the Conservative prime minister with a choice: either declare now that he was staying to fight a fourth election, or step aside for someone else. Mr. Harper, who could not abide the thought of another Trudeau leading the country, decided to stay and fight. He shouldn’t have. Mr. Trudeau must know the odds are against him. Yet he must also believe that Mr. Poilievre is a threat to the country. He may have convinced himself that he and no one else can stop the new Conservative Leader from becoming prime minister. He may be right. And if he’s wrong, he won’t be the first politician to make that mistake.”

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why Pierre Poilievre doesn’t seem to care about climate change: “It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear on the campaign trail – to tell Albertans that you will boost oil production, even if it damns the climate. But Mr. Poilievre needs to be aware that a majority of Canadians will never support such an irresponsible position when the fate of the world is at stake. The Conservatives need to get serious about climate change, or accept losing elections as a general rule.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on why the federal Liberals should be worried if Justin Trudeau stays: “For the first time as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau faces a Leader of the Official Opposition who possesses communication skills that rival his own. Mr. Trudeau benefited from comparisons with previous Conservative Party leaders Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, neither of whom could hold an audience. In Mr. Poilievre, he faces an opponent who can draw a crowd. That has to be a major cause for concern in Liberal ranks. Mr. Trudeau won three consecutive federal elections against Tory leaders who were relatively weak or, in the case of former prime minister Stephen Harper, irretrievably weakened. After seven years in power, and a series of scandals on par with those of Mr. Harper’s government, Mr. Trudeau’s own popularity has plummeted.”

Tara McGuire (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the drug overdose crisis is everyone’s problem: “In the years since Holden died, I have been extremely fortunate to receive an education. I read widely about the opioid crisis and absorbed as much as I could about how to become a writer. During that time, I wrote a book that I very much did not want to write. I considered trashing it many times, which would have been so much easier. But if I bailed, if I didn’t open up about Holden’s struggle and what his death has taught me, then I’d be just another person not talking about it. I’d be another person quietly perpetuating the stigma and shame that come along with substance use and misuse and their often-tragic ramifications.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Pandemic protesters try making leap to politics in Manitoba's civic, school board races – CBC.ca

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Fierce opposition to COVID-19 measures is reverberating through Manitoba’s upcoming municipal and school board elections. 

It’s believed at least a dozen people on ballots in October are vocal critics of pandemic-era restrictions, some of whom gained widespread notoriety for their dissent.

Dick Eastland said running for a school board seat wasn’t something he seriously considered before the pandemic. He said discussions with others who rallied against the restrictions and vaccine mandates changed his mind.

“We have been talking about this a lot privately from person-to-person and trying to inspire each other, to show some strength,” he said.

“For a lot of people, they’re getting completely out of their comfort zone.”

Dick Eastland said too many school trustees hold the same views and he’s running for office to present a common-sense perspective. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

This includes Eastland, whose own kids are out of school.

“There’s no reason for me to do this, except that I strongly believe that a lot of people felt helpless when it came to masking their children or vaccinating them.”

Eastland, who is looking to represent Ward 1 in the Pembina Trails School Division in Winnipeg, argues the current trustees are too willing to go along with the crowd rather than thinking for themselves. He wouldn’t be afraid to chart his own path, he said.

“My reputation isn’t at stake here,” Eastland said. “Me battling for families that are maybe getting run over by the machine, so to speak, that’s who I’m here for.”

Karl Krebs, who failed to turn Winkler, Man., into a sanctuary city immune from pandemic restrictions, actively encouraged like-minded people to run for office.

He told a restaurant full of his supporters in August that if enough of their people run, “this will be a memorable moment in the history book of Manitoba,” an online video shows. 

He’s one of two people seeking to become mayor of the Winkler. Krebs will face Henry Siemens, a longtime councillor.

Karl Krebs, organizer of the Things That Matter movement that has fought against pandemic restrictions, is running to be mayor of Winkler. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

In an interview on Friday, Krebs said he hopes his own decision to seek office, and subsequent appeals to others, had the desired effect.

“We’re all in this to bring about change that will bring us back to where we were,” Krebs said. “Nobody is looking for a different community other than the one that we had two years ago, and that’s what’s been affected. We’ve seen the effects of mandates on businesses. We’ve seen the effects of promoting medical choices that people are not comfortable making.”

Krebs said one person he encouraged to run is his “good friend” Don Bouchard, who’s challenging councillor Jim Funk to serve as reeve of the RM of Hanover. 

Bouchard attended rallies with convoy protest supporters where he’s done ministry and performed baptisms.

He said what’s broken in society is this tendency to believe there’s only one opinion, and other perspectives are wrong.

“People are allowed to be angry. They’re allowed to think differently. And if I’m offended, I have the problem.”

‘If I do get elected … things could happen’

Angela Anderson Johnson, who is among nine nominees vying for a single seat in Ward 5 of the Winnipeg School Division board, said she’s been branded online as an opponent of COVID measures and she’s been bombarded with critical comments since her name was listed on the ballot.

She said those remarks have empowered her.

“I can go to all the rallies and listen to them … but it’s not doing anything, right? Nothing’s changing. So I think if I do get elected to be a school trustee, I think things could happen.”

Four people, three men and one woman, stand in front of a large office building with hands holding microphones and cellphones in the foreground.
From left to right, Gerald Bohemier, Todd McDougall, Patrick Allard and Sharon Vickner, along with co-defendant Tobias Tissen, all received fines ranging from more than $14,200 to nearly $35,000 for violating pandemic health restrictions. (CBC)

Todd McDougall is one of the five people convicted this summer for repeatedly violating COVID-19 public health orders.

He’s been part of discussions with friends and other supporters about seeking elected office, he said.

McDougall knows he’s garnered a reputation for his views on COVID-19, but said he doesn’t want voters in Ward 2 of the Pembina Trails School Division to “pigeonhole” him as a one-issue candidate. Three of the four hopefuls in that race will be elected.

He wants discussions with voters to be about “what’s happening in education right now,” McDougall said.

He hopes people afford that same opportunity to all candidates that may be portrayed as having fringe views.

Like him, Patrick Allard, who was also charged in court for flouting pandemic rules, wants more transparency on school board decisions and more opportunities for parents to have their say.

Allard is one of three people vying to become a trustee in Ward 8 in the Winnipeg School Division.

Patrick Allard, an opponent of COVID-19 restrictions who has been fined because he hasn’t adhered to public health orders, encourages people of varying viewpoints to seek public office. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

He’s happily encouraged people to run for office on social media, he said, but denies targeting a certain group of anti-mandate protesters with his messaging. If you’re frustrated with those in public office, you should get involved, he said.

“I was always told when I was young, ‘If you don’t like the laws, run for office and change them.'”

Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said the path from protests to politics is well-travelled, no matter which end of the political spectrum they occupy.

“I think many people [who protested COVID measures] “got a taste of how enjoyable it was to be part of the media spotlight and to be in groups talking about issues of importance to them,” Adams said.

“It’s not surprising that these individuals would come forward and be part of a local campaign,” Adams said.

He added some of these candidates may not seriously think they can win. Meanwhile, those individuals hoping to gain power may have a better shot at school board elections, since they don’t generally garner much attention and any incumbents do not have much name recognition. 

Election day is on Oct. 26.

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Politics Podcast: Is Social Media Turning Us Into Political Extremists? – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

What effect is social media having on our politics and society more broadly? According to critics, we’re living through an unregulated era of social media that will one day look as outdated as tobacco did in its pre-regulation era.

In his new book, “The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World” New York Times reporter Max Fisher explores how social media impacts the psychology of its users and changes how people think, behave and communicate.

In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Galen Druke talks to Fisher about his book and why he believes this is leading to social and political crises in the U.S. and around the world.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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