This year has been an interesting one in Canadian federal politics, especially because it involved two of the major parties (the Liberals and NDP) agreeing to work together wherever possible.
Canadians doing everything right, still struggled with rising inflation throughout the year. Our cooperation ensured those who needed help the most were able to access federal government relief.
Through the confidence and supply agreement with the Liberals, the NDP used its power in a minority parliament to provide stable government in tumultuous times and accomplish a long list of benefits for Canadians.
One of the obvious wins was the initial stage of a dental care plan for lower income Canadians who don’t have dental coverage now. This year’s stage provided up to $650 in support for children under the age of 12.
By the end of 2023, we will have a real dental care plan that will cover all children, people with disabilities and seniors, and by the end of the following year anyone who has a household income of less than $90,000 and doesn’t have coverage now will be able to go to the dentist for basic care without cost. That will change the lives of millions of Canadians.
The NDP-Liberal agreement also includes a pledge to bring in a universal public pharmacare plan that will take shape over the next two years, giving Canadians access to prescription drug coverage, while saving billions of dollars at the same time.
NDP-led initiatives also provided inflation relief to low-income households with a doubling of the GST rebate and a one-time $500 benefit for renters. We also forced the Liberals to finally act on a child care program that will bring affordable and accessible child care across the country.
Workers have often been ignored by successive Liberal and Conservative governments who have sided with corporations, but this agreement has resulted in several major breakthroughs to change that.
Workers in federally-regulated sectors will now have two weeks of paid sick leave per year so they won’t have to make the difficult decision to come into work sick or stay at home and get well. The government will also bring in anti-scab legislation to ensure workers will have the power to fight for proper wages and safe working conditions.
For decades the NDP has sought to protect seniors who have too often been robbed of their pensions when corporations go bankrupt. Typically, bankruptcy proceedings transfer company assets, including pension funds held in trust, to the banks, leaving workers penniless. The NDP has tabled numerous bills over the years to fix this, and this year I was very happy to see one of those bills introduced by a Conservative MP to finally bring justice for pensioners.
While most Canadians are swamped by rising costs of almost everything, banks, oil and gas companies and big-box grocery stores have been making record profits. The NDP demanded those excess profits be taxed to provide funds to help those who are struggling, and the government relented by raising taxes on banks.
An NDP motion forced the House of Commons to look into the sky-high cost of food and was successful in getting the Competition Bureau to launch an investigation into grocery chain profits.
I was happy to see one of my private members bills taken up by the government without debate and included in the last budget. This was an initiative to remove the alcohol excise tax on low-alcohol beer, providing relief to this growing sector and encouraging healthier lifestyles.
My two other bills, one to promote the use of environmentally beneficial building materials in federal infrastructure and another to give Canadians the right to live in a healthy environment, will be debated this spring.
I will continue to work hard for everyone in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay and across the country.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2023!
Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan – West Kootenay.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.