Horwath promises NDP will give Ontario full dental coverage, convert student loans to grants

TheStar.com – News/Queen’s Park – Leader Andrea Horwath unveiled her party’s election priorities in a speech Saturday, with specific details to follow.
March 17, 2018.   By

An NDP government would provide Ontarians with dental benefits and convert post-secondary student loans to grants, said Leader Andrea Horwath in a speech Saturday that gave a glimpse into her party’s election platform.

“We know we can do better to make sure that everyone can build a good life, right here in Ontario,” she said, outlining five key promises in the party’s platform for the June 7 election, which also include improvements to health and long-term care, returning Hydro One to public ownership while cutting rates, providing universal pharmacare and raising corporate tax rates.

“We can help people be healthier, and make more life affordable in Ontario, if we help more people go to the dentist,” Horwath told the NDP’s provincial council.

“We are going to make sure every working person in Ontario has dental benefits. And we will make the largest investment in public dental coverage in Ontario’s history — so that every senior can get the dental care they need, and every person on social assistance can get the dental care they need.”

The dental program will be called “Ontario Benefits” and will be portable, moving with Ontarians when they switch employers, she said.

Horwath also outlined the NDP plans for student debt. “Young people need more opportunities, not more debt,” she said. “With our plan, we will make repaying provincial student loans a thing of the past, and give young people a much better start in life.”

A party spokesperson offered further detail on this point, saying an NDP government would “convert the provincial portion of student loans into grants that don’t have to be repaid.”

The NDP platform, which has not yet been released, will also touch on existing student debt, the spokesperson said.

 

In her speech, Horwath said the party will unveil its full platform in the coming weeks.

The NDP plan for seniors begins with a “find-and-fix inquiry” into long-term care, she said.

“We will give them the support and the time they need to provide great care,” she said, likely referring to a private member’s bill put forward by her party recommending at least four hours of personal care each day for nursing home residents.

The NDP has been hammering the Liberals daily in the legislature about health care, overcrowded emergency rooms and long wait times.

“When we win, we will end hallway medicine inside our hospitals,” Horwath said.

Horwath also said an NDP government would hold the federal government accountable for the rights of Indigenous people in areas such as clean drinking water on reserves.

Horwath had previously promised to cut hydro bills by 30 per cent, through a number of measures including getting rid of time-of-use pricing, capping power profits and buying back Hydro One shares, which critics have said would cost many billions.

The governing Liberals have introduced tuition rebates to cover the costs for students from lower-income families, as well as OHIP+, providing free prescriptions for youth.

The NDP pharmacare plan would provide free prescriptions for all Ontarians, initially covering 125 of the most commonly prescribed drugs, at a cost of $475 million a year.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is set to unveil the Liberals’ election priorities in a throne speech on Monday.

“I welcome a number of the ideas brought forward by the NDP today, especially those to help seniors, and support our health-care system,” Wynne said in a statement following Horwath’s speech.

“Our approach is a sharp contrast with what Doug Ford and the Conservatives are proposing, with billions in cuts to health care and education to fund their platform.”

A poll conducted by Campaign Research this week found Horwath had the highest approval rating of the three main party leaders. Ford trailed behind, followed by Wynne.

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/03/17/ndp-promises-to-give-ontario-full-dental-coverage-repay-student-loans.html

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