Posts Tagged "free"


TVDSB to extend free menstrual products program to all elementary schools

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Free menstrual products will be available in female and all-gender washrooms in all schools within the Thames Valley District School Board starting in September 2021.

“Thames Valley is expanding its menstrual equity initiative to provide free period products in all elementary schools beginning next fall,” said student trustee Tasnia Rahman in a YouTube video announcement.

“Such an initiative has been in effect at all secondary school since 2019 and now elementary students are going to have the same provisions.”

Read more:
TVDSB to expand free menstrual product services across high schools

Student trustee Mahek Dhaliwal added that “period poverty, inclusivity and accessibility” are all issues that the initiative hopes to address.

“In light of the fact that London has the third-highest rate of child poverty in the country and that menstrual management is a pervasive part of one’s learning environment, it’s absolutely imperative to dismantle barriers to good menstrual health.”

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Wednesday’s announcement is the latest extension of a program that began as a student-led initiative in 2017.

The initial push was spearheaded by former student trustee Sarah Chun and was supported by community groups Here for Her and Tampon Tuesday. In 2018, a pilot project expanded access to free menstrual products in washrooms to all secondary schools.

Read more:
Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16

The program moved beyond the pilot phase in 2019, with vending machines with free pads and tampons set up in all-female and non-binary washrooms in TVDSB secondary schools before Wednesday’s announcement, which expands it further to include all elementary schools as well.

Rahman added, “this updated initiative would support all who menstruate, including transgender and non-binary students, in accessing products without having to navigate conversations that may feel uncomfortable or challenging.”

Click to play video: 'Calls for removing stigma, providing free period products on Menstrual Health Day'

Calls for removing stigma, providing free period products on Menstrual Health Day

Calls for removing stigma, providing free period products on Menstrual Health Day – May 28, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


Vancouver Car Free Day organizers plan month of smaller events in place of usual festivals

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The organizers of Vancouver’s Car Free Day festivals are returning to in-person gatherings this fall, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them online last year.

The Car Free Vancouver Society says in a statement on its website that it is planning a month-long festival that will feature a series of smaller events, rather than the large street parties it has traditionally hosted.

The series of “markets, performances, parklets, bike rides, audio tours and more” will begin on Aug. 29 and run until Sept. 25.

“We want to safely engage with our supporters and partners and foster the community that is so important to us,” the society says in its statement.

The society has been organizing Car Free Day festivals in Vancouver since 2008, with events blocking off Commercial Drive, Main Street and the West End in non-pandemic years.

In 2020, the society held virtual concerts, scavenger hunts and audio tours, while not organizing any in-person events to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The society says it wants to “safely engage” in person this year.

“We feel that this aligns with what our supporters are looking for in our events, and that’s a sense of community,” the society says. “By hosting a series of smaller events, we believe that the ‘car free’ vision can be experienced in neighbourhoods we have not reached before and provide more accessibility options, while also continuing to work with the partners that have supported us in previous years.”

B.C.’s restart plan allows for organized events like fairs and festivals in Step 3, as long as COVID-19 safety plans are in place. Step 3 is scheduled to begin on July 1 at the earliest. 

Step 4 of the plan, which is scheduled for Sept. 7 at the earliest, allows for increased capacity at large organized gatherings, such as concerts. 


Woman with heart condition verbally accosted in Parksville over disabled parking stall – Vancouver Island Free Daily

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Not judging someone based on their appearance is a lesson commonly taught to children – and one a Parksville woman wants members of the community to remember.

On Wednesday (April 28) Kim Cooper, 53, pulled into a designated disability stall at a Parksville parking lot when a woman began to aggressively yell at her.

“I wasn’t even completely parked, my sign was on my dash where it always is. And I opened my door and said ‘are you yelling at me?’ And she said ‘yes, where’s your handicap sign?’ And I went ‘it’s on my dash.’ And she just kept going on and on and on.”

Cooper survived a heart attack approximately 10 years ago and has lived with congestive heart failure ever since, a chronic and progressive condition that affects the pumping power of her heart. Living with such a condition can leave her winded while walking long distances, which can stress her heart and further exacerbate her condition.

Due to the nature of her condition, she has a disabled parking permit that allows her to park in the designated stalls near a building’s entrance.

“I was going to the dry cleaners, and she’s complaining about me in Bosley’s, and I went to open the door at the dry cleaners and she attacked me again.”

While still visibly distraught, the co-owner of Bosley’s by Pet Valu, Brianne Carson, approached Cooper and offered to walk her back to her vehicle.

“And I just burst into tears. She probably spent 35 minutes with me. I mean, I was just shaking,” said Cooper. “And it’s not right. I think we need to address the situation that ‘hey, not everybody has a visible handicap’.”

“To judge someone based on what we see is something we teach our children not to do, so as adults we shouldn’t be doing that either,” said Carson.

The chair for the Accessible Oceanside Association, Sandra Hobson, said while experiences like Cooper’s are uncommon, they are not unheard of.

“There are certainly instances where somebody who has a has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or a heart condition – they may not be able to walk the length of the parking lot. And they need those accessible spaces,” she said.

“It could also just be someone who’s really sick, or they’re recovering from a surgery. Even if it’s temporary, it might not be visible but it still is genuine.”

Hobson said that while we think we’re not an ableist society, many instances show we are. Such a mentality may cause people with genuine disabilities hesitate to claim the services they require, simply so they’re not seen as playing the system.

“The more stigma there is, the less people are likely to claim very necessary services,” she said, noting such behaviour can injure a person’s self-esteem and cause them to feel further devalued.

As identified by SPARC BC, the organization to manage B.C.’s Parking Permit Program, someone who needs to park close to a building entrance because their health prevents them from walking far would qualify them for a parking pass permit. On their website it states that a parking pass permit for people with disabilities ensures that a person with mobility limitations can park in one of the designated parking stalls throughout British Columbia.

As per their application form, all applications require a referral from the applicant’s doctor.

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Okanagan amputee assaulted over handicap parking spot – Vancouver Island Free Daily

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All Chelaine McInroy wanted at Vernon’s Walmart on a Saturday afternoon stop was to get groceries.

What she got instead, McInroy says, was harassed, verbally assaulted, and spat in her face.

The Armstrong amputee was parking in a handicap spot with a valid parking pass when she says a man came “storming over, screeching at me through my open window about how I clearly wasn’t disabled, that I was just faking it and taking the spot away from someone who truly needs it.”

McInroy shared her story on a Vernon and area community forum page on Facebook.

“He then spat in my face and took off,” said McInroy, 27, who lost her leg below her knee a few years ago.

The incident left McInroy shaken, but otherwise alright, though she now has to worry about exposure to COVID and other transmittable diseases after being spat upon with some of the spit landing in her eye.

“All because I was sitting in my car, and this man couldn’t see my disability,” said McInroy. “I am lucky in that my disability is usually visible (although of course not obvious to this man as I was sitting in my car and the prosthetic was not visible to him), but there are tons of disabilities that aren’t visible.

“That does not give anyone the right to harshly judge others, and it sure as hell is never OK to assault someone like that. Because that is what it is – assault.”

McInroy filed a police report but believes nothing will come of the incident as she said security cameras didn’t catch anything, and she said she was in a state of shock at the audacity of the suspect that she didn’t get a good physical description of the man.

“I beg of you all, if you see something like that happen, step in and help. Or at the very least, take note of the details so hopefully, the person can later be held accountable,” she said, adding that a few people “turned a blind eye and walked away.” “Incidents like this are not as uncommon as you’d think. But they are so wrong, and if nobody ever does anything, it will continue to happen.

“So please, keep an open mind and know that there are a lot of things going on that you might not see or understand, but that does not give you the right to judge and act like that. And if you happen to witness a similar event, do something. The world needs more kindness, especially during these trying times.”

McInroy says she has had a few people glare and/or say some nasty things over parking to her, but it’s never progressed to physical assault before. She says she has been physically assaulted in public before though due to her disability, just not over parking. She also has a service dog who’s been kicked twice before, two separate times.

Her story on Facebook, as of Sunday afternoon, had drawn more than 360 reactions and 120 comments.

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Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16 | Watch News Videos Online

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The City of Edmonton will be offering free menstrual products in all women’s and gender-inclusive washrooms in city-owned facilities this year. Sarah Komadina spoke with Scarlet Bjornson from No Woman Without, which works to increase access to menstrual products for all women.


Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16

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Following a campaign by No Woman Without, Period and a pilot project, the City of Edmonton will be offering free menstrual products in all women’s and gender-inclusive washrooms in city-owned facilities.

Campaign founder Scarlet Bjornson didn’t expect the decision but was thrilled to receive a call from Councillor Andrew Knack on Thursday.

“They just decided this was the right thing to do,” Bjornson said.

“I’m elated, overwhelmed, excited, thrilled — all of the positive emotions you can feel. Motivated, did I say that?”

Read more:
Donation drive collects feminine hygiene products for Edmonton women in need

The No Woman Without, Period campaign started in 2017.

“We saw that providing the menstrual products to different organizations was a really good first step but we wanted to focus on making the change at our local governments,” Bjornson said.

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Click to play video: 'Period poverty increasing during pandemic'

Period poverty increasing during pandemic

Period poverty increasing during pandemic – Oct 10, 2020

The team has been working with several councillors, including Knack, Sarah Hamilton and Aaron Paquette, for years, Bjornson said, thanking them for their support.

“I was not expecting a city-wide facility decision. I was blown away.”

“What this means for people who experience menstruation is the ability to roam and be in the community is now feasible,” Bjornson explained.

These products are expensive and for some they’re unattainable.

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“To know that those issues are covered and those products will be available for them so that they can be in those spaces, it makes the community more accessible.”

Edmonton’s pilot began in 2019, councillor Bev Esslinger said, and the supplies will be in place no later than June 16.

“Really, it’s 2021 and it’s part of human kindness.

Read more:
Group calls for free menstrual products in all publicly funded Ontario schools in open letter

“We’ve done a pilot project in the city and we found out that it was important to have access. And really, as part of our gender equality work, this is an extension,” Esslinger said. “I’m really excited.”

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“We know that a third of Canadians under 25 struggle in this area to get adequate resources,” Esslinger said.

“We provide soap and paper towels, so it seems like a natural thing that we should provide some basic necessities as well.”

Bjornson said she didn’t expect the campaign would make so much progress in just four years.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16'

Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16

Edmonton will provide free menstrual products in city buildings by June 16 – Apr 9, 2021

“This motivated us to go to the province, and go other cities and even go to the country and say: ‘It’s time to have this conversation really, really loud.’

“In the coming months, we would love to see a big wave of red across our country where cities just decide… this is the right thing to do.”

No Woman Without, Period is urging people to write letters of advocacy to their councillors, MLAs and MPs, pushing for an end to period poverty.

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Read more:
One-third of young Canadian women can’t afford menstrual products, report finds

Amanda Cardinal has experienced that first hand. She was living on the street this time last year.

“Women need these,” she said. “They should have access.”

When she needed supplies, while living on street, she was faced with a difficult decision.

“To tell you the truth, I had to go steal it. I had nowhere else to go.”

Click to play video: 'Charity provides menstrual products for Indigenous girls and women'

Charity provides menstrual products for Indigenous girls and women

Charity provides menstrual products for Indigenous girls and women – Oct 24, 2020

Last February, the Scottish parliament became the first nation in the world to make sanitary products freely available to all women.

The legislation made products such as tampons and sanitary pads free for all women in Scotland, available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies.

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


Contact-less App allows people to operate elevators and doors touch free

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It is technology that seems like it is out of the future – a cellphone app that controls public elevators and opens doors.

A hands-off and touch-less approach, an Ottawa tech company has designed an app and system, which can open and operate specially adapted doors and public elevators, using your own smartphone.

“No one wants to touch buttons anymore,” says Ke Wang, President of Protodev Canada and the inventor of “Contactless Access.”

He explains the concept is actually quite simple, “Essentially, it’s an app that allows you to activate buttons in elevators or those handicap buttons with your phone, rather than actually touching it.”

The app is called “Contactless Access”, and may help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wang says it is something that got its start a couple of years ago as a tool to help with accessibility.

“I’m in a power wheelchair myself. So, when I go into shops and stuff like that, it’s a bit of a pain in the butt to open doors. Sometimes when there is a button, usually it’s covered by something else.”

He saw the need to open doors remotely, but it was an elevator at Carleton University that needed a solution.

Dean Mellway is an accessibility advisor with Carleton University, and says a tight elevator posed a challenge; students would require help.

“If a student has a high level of disability/quadriplegic, in a very large wheelchair, they would roll into that elevator and wouldn’t be able to reach the buttons.”

The app solved that problem. It can now be used to help stay contact-free when operating elevators or doors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is being piloted for use to allow safe access to elevators, not just to improve accessibility.

Canada’s largest airport is using the tech in six elevators on a trial basis.

“What it is done in a pandemic environment, is given us another way to help create a more touch-less and frictionless airport,” says Robin Smith, spokesperson for Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

“Here at Toronto Pearson, we’ve made a commitment to try any advanced or innovative technological solution that could have a positive impact for the health and safety of our airport community.”

On Wednesday, the technology was installed at select properties owned by the National Capital Commission in the ByWard market. They plan to expand this to other locations also.

“Our initial interest was U.A. (Universal Accessibility), but it’s expanded to COVID as well,” says Bill Leonard, National Capital Commission Real Estate Director.

“If you can control those doors with your cellphone, it just makes these stores; these businesses, and these buildings that much more accessible.”


New Westminster offers $4M worth of free land for affordable housing | CBC News

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On full disability and in a wheelchair, New Westminster resident Aaron Pietras has only $375 a month in his budget for housing. 

In the Lower Mainland, housing advocates say finding an accessible place for that price on the market is “virtually” impossible. 

But with a stroke of luck, Pietras was able to get into one of the city’s newest affordable housing projects at 43 Hastings St. last year. 

The bedroom closet inside the home of Aaron Pietras has been specially designed to be more accessible. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The development wouldn’t have been possible without the free donation of a plot of million-dollar land from the municipality.

“That’s significant given the costs of land in the Lower Mainland and really made the project viable,” said Janice Barr, CEO of the non-profit Community Living Project, which built and operates the facility. 

The project was such a success, the City of New Westminster is looking to do it again. 

It’s requesting proposals for another affordable housing project on Fenton Street. The successful bidder will get the four plots of land worth around $4 million “at no charge.”

Four sites on Fenton Street in New Westminster are being offered free of charge to a non-profit willing to build affordable housing. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The city will also pay for additional expenses like a building permit and development approval.

“There are people here who previously didn’t have housing who now have housing to stabilize their lives and they’re part of the community. And, as a city, we really feel that that’s really important,” said John Stark, New Westminster’s supervisor of community planning. 

The price of a plot

Providing free land is a relatively new push for the City of New Westminster, but other levels of government are increasingly looking to their own land holdings as a housing solution.

The City of Vancouver called providing city-owned land to non-profits and government agencies a key approach in the quest for affordable housing. The province of B.C. was also on board with using publicly-owned land to create more affordable housing. 

Janice Barr, CEO of Community Living Housing Society, says the cost of land is a major factor when it comes to building affordable housing. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

With property prices sky high, incentives to build affordable housing are becoming increasingly crucial to woo developers, said Michael Mortensen, who advises developers under the Liveable City Planning banner.

Even private developers struggle with rising costs which makes choosing to build affordable housing a difficult option, he says.

“People have misconceptions about how much profit developers are looking for,” Mortensen said. 

The profit difference compared to a condo project is huge, according to Mortensen. He says most developers are looking for a 15 per cent return on costs, whereas rental properties usually average around six per cent.

He says it’s already tough to get those returns with increasing costs and accepting a lower profit margin can make it harder to secure financing.

Michael Mortensen with Liveable City Planning stands next to a private development on West Broadway in Vancouver slated to include 248 rental units. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Private versus public land

But while leveraging publicly-owned land to create more affordable housing is something all levels of government seem to agree on, giving it away for free to private developers isn’t something many of them are keen on.

For the current provincial government, it’s a hard no. 

“Public land belongs to the people of B.C. and should benefit them, not wealthy corporations,” said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a statement. 

Andy Yan, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, agrees.

He pointed to the Little Mountain housing development site in Vancouver as a cautionary tale.

There is not much to see at the Little Mountain social housing site in Vancouver since more than 200 units of housing was dismantled more than a decade ago. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The provincial government sold the land to private developer Holborn Holdings Ltd. in 2007 at a fraction of the assessed value.

Years later, the demolished social housing units the company promised to replace are years away from completion.

“When the BC Liberals chose to sell off public land, in many cases for less than the land could have been worth, they gave away control and the opportunity to use that land to provide affordable housing for people,” said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in its statement. 

Mortensen says private developers are still a key part of the housing solution.  

“When you have the creativity of the development industry and partner with them … we can produce more housing. We can do it at virtually no cost to the taxpayer,” he said. 

‘King of the world’

Aaron Pietras said finding an affordable place to live has made a huge difference in his life and allowed him to have true privacy for the first time. 

“I feel like I’m the king of the world right now,” Pietras said. “It’s like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

But while Pietras felt lucky to have his new home, he said accessible and affordable housing for others with disabilities is still hard to find.

“It’s very challenging you know,” he said. 

Aaron Pietras, who only has $375 a month for rent, said getting an affordable place has completely changed his life. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)


Campaign for free prescription contraception ramps up ahead of B.C. budget

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Holding an IUD birth control copper coil device in hand, used for contraception

flocu / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Free prescription contraception is a no-brainer, according to groups advocating its inclusion in February’s provincial budget.

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by Options for Sexual Health in 2010 estimates the B.C. government could save $95 million a year if it paid for universal access to prescription contraception.

It would also promote equality, giving young people and those with low incomes the same choices as those who are able to pay for their preferred method of contraception.

“Not all contraception works for everyone,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, committee chair and co-founder of the AccessBC campaign. “Money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding on the best option.”

The most effective contraception is often the most expensive up front: An intrauterine device, or IUD, can cost between $75 and $380, while oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 a month, and hormone injections can cost as much as $180 a year.

But that’s a small amount compared to an unplanned pregnancy, which can have a “huge ripple effect” on a woman’s life, particularly if she is already struggling to get by, said Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Ann Davis Transition Society in Chilliwack.

“I think it’s a gender equity issue. Contraception costs usually fall on women, and if they become pregnant that often falls on them as well.”

MacAhonic said providing free prescription contraception would also reduce some of the stigma that still exists around birth control. School-age girls trying to get a prescription without their parents’ knowledge may be prevented by a lack of money.

In May, the Canadian Paediatric Society released a position statement identifying cost as a “significant barrier” to using contraception for youth.

“Many must pay out-of-pocket because they have no pharmaceutical insurance, their insurance does not cover the contraceptives they desire, or they wish to obtain contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge,” said the statement.

The society recommended all youth should have confidential access to contraception at no cost until age 25.

But B.C. advocates want the government to go further.

AccessBC pointed to several European countries that subsidize universal access to contraception in some way, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Many programs are revenue-neutral when the cost of an unintended pregnancy is considered.

In 2015, a study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated the cost of universal contraception in Canada would be $157 million, but the savings, in the form of the direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy, would be $320 million.

Options for Sexual Health executive director Michelle Fortin said that while the birth control pill remains relatively cheap, women might choose another method if the cost was the same.

“If you’re a student you may have to choose between a month of food or an IUD,” she said. “Finances continue to be a barrier.”

Fortin said a petition circulated at Options clinics across the province will be presented to the health minister in advance of the budget.

AccessBC is also urging people to write to their MLAs before February.

“We’re feeling optimistic. We have a lot of momentum,” said Phelps Bondaroff, noting the select standing committee on finance and government services recommended the government explore the issue.

“If it makes the budget, it will do great things. … It’s a win-win, a no-brainer.”


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NDP members want free patient parking at B.C. hospitals, but minister demurs

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NDP members have backed a call for government to remove paid parking from hospitals for patients and families, similar to a plan by Jon Buss, pictured outside Surrey Memorial Hospital, and his campaign.


VICTORIA — B.C.’s New Democrat party members are urging their government to make hospital parking free for patients and families, but the minister responsible isn’t ready to commit to any such action.

NDP members at the party’s weekend convention passed a resolution that called on the provincial government to “eliminate parking fees for patients and families visiting hospitals in B.C., while taking an evidence-based approach to ensure spaces are available and the system is not abused by those who are not patients or their family members.”

The resolution, which passed on the convention floor, said that parking fees are “a hardship during some of the most stressful moments in a family’s life” and “give private companies the chance to profit from parking violations incurred by sick or grieving people using a publicly run service.”

The fees — which range by health authority, but at the Vancouver General Hospital parkade are $3 per half-an-hour or $18.75 per day — also create a financial barrier within the health care system, according to the resolution.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said his ministry is still reviewing the hospital parking issue, but noted that some of the revenue goes to hospital foundations, supports health care, and offsets expensive parking enforcement services.

Revenue generated from parking fees at all health authorities is approximately $40 million annually, up from $15 million in 2003.

“It’s actually challenging, especially in some communities, to offer low-cost parking and police low-cost parking,” he said. “So it’s a challenging and complicated issue. But it’s one of the issues that the premier has directed me to look at. And so we’re doing that right now. The resolution at the party convention will inform that process as well.”

John Buss, founder of the website that is advocating free parking for patients and those visiting them, said he was pleased with the resolution. Buss said he has been participating in the provincial review process and is “very hopeful” Dix has heard the public outcry.

“The issue is, when do we get Mr. Dix to stop reviewing and start doing,” said Buss. “Our group’s fear is it’s going to be used like the tolls on the bridges and we’ll bring it up at election time. Please promise us we don’t hold this issue as a piece of bait for the next election.”

Opposition critic Norm Letnick said a one-size-fits-all solution to hospital parking won’t work and that he’s sympathetic to the cost pressures facing Dix.

“Right now, he’s using those dollars to provide services,” he said. “Philosophically, I’ll wait and see what his position is, because he’s government. And if we don’t like it, we’ll criticize it.”

Dix was equally noncommittal about a separate review passed by NDP members calling for the introduction of a publicly funded dental care plan in the next election, which would start with children and youth before expanding to adults when funding is available.

“Certainly it’s something that we’re open to, but, again, the health care system has currently a $20-billion budget and we have to act within that budget and set priorities within that budget,” he said.

While a limited number of dental surgeries are covered by public healthcare, most are only covered by private extended health insurance plans.

The first priority is incremental improvements for dental coverage for low-income citizens and those with developmental disabilities, said Dix.

Premier John Horgan publicly declared interest in the idea last year. While Dix would not state an estimated cost on Monday, a dental coverage proposal in Ontario was estimated to cost roughly $1.2 billion annually.

Letnick said the government should first focus on making sure national pharmacare programs promised by federal parties don’t download costs onto provinces before considering expensive programs like dental coverage.

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