Budget 2023: Freeland’s $43 Billion Measures Include “Grocery Rebate” and Dental Plan
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland arrives to deliver the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on March 28, 2023. Photo: Justin Tang/Canadian Press
Chrystia Freeland’s third budget as finance minister announced $43 billion in “significant and necessary investments” with a focus on expanding the green economy, putting in place a national dental plan and providing targeted relief for those who are struggling financially.
“Last year Canada delivered the strongest economic growth in the G7,” said Freeland, in today’s budget speech to the House of Commons. “But we all know that our most vulnerable friends and neighbours are still feeling the bite of higher prices.”
With an economy showing signs of faltering, consumer prices remaining stubbornly high, and elevated interest rates making federal debt repayments increasingly costly ($34.7 billion for 2022/23), Freeland was expected to break with Liberal habits and spring a little restraint into this budget. Canada’s total federal debt is now $1.18 trillion and this is targeted to grow over the next five years due to today’s spending measures.
Although she said her government was exercising “fiscal restraint,” Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre did not agree. Serving notice that his Conservative party members will vote against today’s budget, Poilievere called the Liberal plan a “43 billion bonanza of debt, taxes & inflation.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who last year made a deal to support the minority Liberals in exchange for NDP friendly policies, praised the budget, saying “we secured a victory for you and your family by forcing Justin Trudeau’s hand.”
Besides focussing on cleaning up the electricity grid ($20.9-billion over five years), Freeland announced measures that should provide “targeted temporary relief from the effects of inflation for those who need it.”
This includes the $2.5 billion “grocery rebate,” that should help about 11 million low- and modest-income Canadians. The one-time payment will be worth an average of up to $467 for a couple with two children, and an average of $225 for a senior.
And she announced the creation of the new $13 billion Canadian Dental Care Plan. As the plan rolls out over the next few years, it will provide dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with annual family income of less than $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000.
Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer and Chief Operating Officer at CARP (an advocacy group that promotes a new vision of aging and an affiliate of ZoomerMedia) felt that there were several measures in today’s budget measures that should benefit seniors.
He said that although the details of the dental plan aren’t finalized, “it could make oral health affordable to those who do not have regular dental care.”
He also highlighted to two other measures — the grocery rebate and the $500 benefit to help offset rent costs — “will benefit low-income seniors, especially those struggling with inflation.”
And VanGorder welcomed the increase to GIS that will see seniors 75 and over receive up to $2,000 in additional support in 2023. But he called on the government not to forget “younger seniors” — those between the ages of 65 and 74 — who were “largely ignored in this budget.”