Braid: Trudeau denticare plan gets Smith's sovereignty elbow; Nenshi says he'll make good deals with anybody

The UCP is dead serious about keeping Liberal Ottawa out of just about everything

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Feel free to grind your teeth over this one — but not too hard, you might need a dentist.

Alberta will now shun the federal dental care program. Like Pharmacare, it will not be allowed to cross our borders.

The UCP is dead serious about keeping Liberal Ottawa out of just about everything. Their fervour recalls the old appeals to keep Alberta rat-free.

The province did strike a deal with the Trudeau government on daycare. But that was in 2021, long before Danielle Smith became premier and Ottawa’s every twitch came under her sovereignty lens.

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The daycare plan, which is supposed to cost parents only $10 day starting in 2026, isn’t exactly rolling along smoothly.

Operators complain that they don’t have needed information and were coerced into joining. This is so serious that they’re threatening to opt out of the one social program Alberta didn’t opt out of.

“If we think we can do it for $10 a day when you can’t get a coffee and a muffin for $10 a day, we’re delusional,” Krystal Churcher, chair of a child-care providers group, told Global News.

These federal initiatives, while noble in principle, are hideously difficult to build and manage. It’s not just about a couple of governments striking a deal and pumping out the money.

Dentists, pharmacists and daycare operators all have to opt in. Many are following Smith’s example by staying out. Some dentists — not all — say they already spend too much time telling patients why they don’t immediately get free care.

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In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Smith says Alberta already has dental supports for the needy and “the addition of another dental plan is both complex and confusing.”

She notes that the federal plan covers some people who are not eligible now, but also ignores others who do receive provincial aid.

Then comes the ritual complaint about jurisdiction: “Health care planning and delivery is an area of provincial jurisdiction, and the new federal plan infringes on this exclusive jurisdiction,” the premier wrote.

So, Alberta will withdraw entirely in 2026. She demands that federal money go straight to the province, to use as it sees fit for dental care.

The feds say no way, their plan will proceed in Alberta even without provincial involvement.

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Sedat Suna/Getty Images

At the bottom of this political pileup live thousands of families who can’t afford dental care, and see no sign of government aid.

One father told me that he and his two teenagers haven’t been examined for years. “I know I’ve got a head full of cavities but there’s nothing I can do about it because I just don’t have the money either for me or the kids,” he says. “The cost of dental work is outrageous.”

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The Alberta NDP says the need is so great that these programs must be made to work.

“There may be imperfections in the process and the communications, but those are things we can fix,” says Dr. Luanne Metz, the party health critic.

The Smith government “is causing chaos through our entire system. They’re intervening and breaking things as quickly as they can.”

Naheed Nenshi
Naheed Nenshi is introduced as the new leader of the Alberta NDP at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary on Saturday. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia Network

In a news conference shortly after he won the NDP leadership last Saturday, Naheed Nenshi said: “Our government’s intransigence on things like the Pharmacare and child care and dental care in this province hurts Albertans.

“I will very happily make a deal with anybody if that deal helps Albertans.

“I will make deals on clean electricity regulations that make sense for Alberta. I’ll make deals on federal transfers and on social programs.

“That’s what this government refuses to do. They just pick fights instead of making deals.

“But I’m happy to make a deal with anybody, including Pierre Poilievre and Justin Trudeau.”

These plans now seem inevitable. Properly run, they would bring great social and economic benefit.

The province should be directly involved, if only to protect Alberta from another federal policy fiasco.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald/Postmedia

X: @DonBraid

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