The speech from the throne was a replay of the greatest hits that Liberals trotted out during the election campaign. Nothing new, and not a whole lot of specifics. Coming soon: cell phone bills that are magically 25 percent less expensive. Some kind of help for people struggling with student loans, or looking to buy a first home. Climate change came up a lot—which hasn’t happened nearly as much past throne speeches—but was mostly platitudes from the campaign trail.
Those are the Coles Notes on what the Liberal government is offering, after Canadian voters put Justin Trudeau on probation, reducing his government to a minority.
Governor General Julie Payette delivered the 43rd federal government’s agenda Thursday on behalf of Justin Trudeau.
Because Trudeau is at the helm of a minority government, this speech isn’t just for regular people across Canada. It’s also a kind of friendly invite to opposition parties, who will play a big part in deciding how much of the Liberals’ vision gets the parliamentary greenlight. In order to pass laws, the Liberals will need to appeal to some combination of the Conservatives (121 seats), the NDP (39 seats), the Bloc Quebecois (32 seats), and/or the Green Party (3 seats).
The Liberals have 157 seats and they’re 14 shy of a majority in the House of Commons (it was 13 but Liberal MP Anthony Rota was elected as the Speaker of the House shortly before the throne speech). Here’s a quick recap of what you need to know from today’s speech from the throne.
Western alienation isn’t new, but the #Wexit movement was trending after Trudeau was elected. The (virtually impossible) political threat is that Alberta and Saskatchewan are so fed up with Ottawa for ignoring their needs and economic struggles, that they’re willing to go rogue and leave Canada to become an independent nation. Wexit won’t happen but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t implications for the mostly-Eastern Liberals.
Payette addressed this in a roundabout way, never once using the term “Wexit.” She called regional differences “justified and important” though. She also went on about the peace, harmony, and collaboration that is the Canadian way—speaking hyperbolically about our collective ability to “move mountains” if we just all work together.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the speech “an insult to the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan,” and pointed out that Payette didn’t mention those two provinces by name at any point.
The former astronaut went on to say that “we are inextricably bound by the same space-time continuum,” and the fact that “we’re all on board the same planetary spaceship.” In other news, weed is legal.
Payette called climate change the defining issue of our time. She reaffirmed Canada’s aim to get to a “net-zero” future by 2050, but just as Trudeau did when he first mentioned it on the campaign trail, she didn’t give us a hint of exactly how they plan to get there.
She mentioned keeping a price on pollution (also known as the carbon tax), finding ways to make homes and businesses more energy efficient and subsidies for zero-emission vehicles.
This “ambitious but necessary” goal goes a lot farther than his government’s previous commitment to reduce emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. She repeated the Liberals’ pledge to plant two billion trees to fight climate change.
Dale Marshall is the national climate program manager at the advocacy group Environmental Defence. In an email, he told VICE that the throne speech didn’t mention limiting Big Energy. It referenced getting Canadian resources to new markets, which likely is a reference the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. “Unfortunately, the government also signaled that it will continue to expand export opportunities for oil and gas production, a trend that will undermine, and potentially erode entirely, progress made on reducing carbon emissions in other sectors. This has been the trend for three decades, and continuing to pretend that Canada can be both a major oil and gas exporter and a climate leader will yield the same result.”
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Montreal massacre, during which 14 women were killed on the Ecole Polytechnique campus, Payette spoke of a ban on military-style rifles. She also pledged money to crack down on gender-based violence as well as for cities to fight gang-related violence. This was wrapped up in an overall plan to strengthen gun control.
Without getting into specifics, she spoke of the government’s commitment to Indigenous issues, and the importance of completing the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Payette’s statement that the “path to reconciliation is long” was perhaps, the understatement of the speech. A new timeline was mentioned, with a Liberal commitment to introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) within a year.
Affordability, a key election issue, came up too. Payette said the government would enact a middle-class tax cut and invest in things to make it easier for parents to spend time with their families—expanding the Canada Child Benefit. She cited support for students struggling to repay loans as well as people looking to buy their first home. No specific mention of anything for people who are renting. She reiterated that the Liberals plan to reduce wireless costs by 25 percent.
A better sense of how much of what’s in the Liberals’ vision board translates into real action, comes Friday. That’s when Trudeau's cabinet members start getting their mandate letters, which outline what their actual missions are. And how much of their plans get kiboshed is in the hands of the other parties. Expect lots of back-and-forth on complex, important issues in parliament. Things will probably get messy, as they tend to in politics. Let’s hope our MPs don’t take any of it as personally as U.S. President Donald Trump did at the NATO summit.
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