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Justin Trudeau Promises New Gun Control, a Smaller Canadian Military, and Legal Weed

The speech from the throne, which kicks off a fresh sitting of Parliament, was delivered in the Senate chamber by Governor General David Johnston, as is custom.

by Justin Ling
Dec 4 2015, 8:25pm

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his agenda for the coming months on Friday, with a promise to do everything from taking assault weapons off the street to overhauling how Canadians elect a government.

The speech stuck largely to the Liberals' campaign platform, but offered some identification of the Liberals' gameplan with what was, and wasn't, mentioned.

The speech from the throne, which kicks off a fresh sitting of Parliament, was delivered in the Senate chamber by Governor General David Johnston, as is custom.

Any Canadians looking for clues in the speech as to the future of high-profile pipeline projects like Energy East; the military mission against the Islamic State; or reform of the Communication Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy agency, were likely disappointed on Friday.

Trudeau's speech did, however, make reference to his party's plan to beef up gun control.

The speech vowed that the government will "get handguns and assault weapons off our streets," echoing language in their campaign platform that committed to, amongst other things, bringing back regulatory paperwork required to transport certain types of weapons, kick in more money for anti-gang squads, increase background checks for gun purchases, and to increase regulations on gun vendors.

The Liberals promised, however, that they will not bring back the national long-gun registry that the previous government scrapped.

Canada already has strict gun control that makes it virtually impossible to get a handgun or assault rifle, although illegal weapons still make it onto the streets.

In the speech, the Liberals also promised a "leaner, more agile, better-equipped military."

The government has already moved to rein in spending on a massive shipbuilding contract started by the previous government that is seeking to build the navy's next generation of warships.

Two commitments made during the campaign that are expected to be longer-term projects for the Liberals are electoral reform and marijuana legalization.

On the former, Johnston re-iterated Trudeau's words, that "2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system."

It's still not clear with what system that Liberals plan on replacing it with, or whether or not that reform with require a national referendum.

On marijuana, the throne speech promised that the Liberal government "will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana."

The timeline for that plan still remains foggy, with Ottawa promising consultation and review before any changes come into force.

The speech also repeated Trudeau's messaging around economic growth — that his government will hike taxes on the rich, while issuing means-tested cheques meant to families with children — and the environment.

"As part of efforts to restore public trust, the Government will introduce new environmental assessment processes," Johnston read. That plan, the government promised, will include robust consultations with First Nations and aboriginal people.

Trudeau sought to play up its consideration of aboriginal issues in the speech. David Charette, an indigenous artist, played an honour song for Johnston and the prime minister before the speech itself.

Syrian refugees, and high-school students also met the prime minister and Canada's head of state prior to the speech.

The speech also committed to 'open and transparent government.'

The first step in that process came on Thursday, when veteran Liberal MP Geoff Regan was elected Speaker of the House of Commons on a promise to improve decorum, civility, and accountability in the House of Commons. 

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling