Trudeau tables agenda in throne speech
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a conciliatory note with opposition parties and provincial leaders in the opening address of his new administration, after a divisive election in which he lost his majority.
Trudeau, in a so-called Throne Speech that sets out the government’s agenda, called on lawmakers to find common ground and said he would be open to new ideas in order to work with other parties. At the same time, the Canadian leader cited climate change and efforts to “strengthen the middle class” -- key planks of his platform -- as two of the main messages sent by voters in the election.
“Some believe that minority governments are incapable of getting things done,” the government said in the speech, which was delivered in Ottawa Thursday by Governor General Julie Payette. “We open this 43rd Parliament with a call for unity in the pursuit of common goals and aspirations.”
While Trudeau managed to retain power, the October election result represented a rebuke of his performance over the past four years and revealed a stark regional divide. The Liberals won 157 districts in the 338-seat parliament, well off the 184 the party won in 2015 when the prime minister swept to power with a majority government.
They also earned the lowest share of the popular vote -- at 33 per cent -- for any governing party in the nation’s history, compared to 34 per cent for the opposition Conservatives, who dominated in oil-producing west.
Trudeau, however, has chosen to forgo any formal governing agreement with another party and instead move ahead with legislation on a case-by-case basis.
The go-it-alone tactic should work easily for Trudeau, at least temporarily, given he’s only 13 seats shy of a majority and has three possible partners: the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the main opposition Conservatives. The pro-labor NDP is seen as the most natural partner for the Liberals.
Trudeau offered up a fig leaf to the New Democrats by saying that their idea of universal dental care was “worth exploring.” But mostly, the speech aligned closely with the Liberal agenda.
“While your approaches may differ, you share the common belief that the government should try, whenever possible, to make life better for Canadians,” the government said in the speech. It cited better health care, affordable housing, investment in infrastructure, less gun violence and “real plan” for climate change as priorities.
The government’s first act, it said, will be to cut taxes for “all but the wealthiest Canadians.”
There was a nod to the regional divisions that have surfaced in Canada, and angst in western Canada about falling commodity prices that have undermined the economies in the region. The Liberals won only 17 seats west of Ontario, with none in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Trudeau pledged to work hard to “get Canadian resources to new markets” and help people in the battered resource industry. At the same time, the government is committed to setting a target to achieve net-zero emissions in the country by 2050.