Throne speech was a 'grab-bag' of issues but put a particular interest on affordability: Political strategist
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sketched out his government’s third-term agenda, emphasizing the need for strong action on climate change as Canada grapples with unprecedented flooding along its Pacific coast.
Building a resilient post-pandemic economy, underpinned by the country’s first national childcare plan, and continuing to address the historic harms done to Indigenous people are also top priorities, the government said Tuesday during a so-called throne speech in Ottawa.
The broad-strokes address, delivered by Governor General Mary Simon but written by the prime minister’s office, comes two months after the government was returned to power. Though the incumbent Liberals won a plurality of seats, they lost the popular vote and failed to secure the parliamentary majority Trudeau had coveted, leaving him reliant on opposition parties to pass legislation.
“The government is taking real action to fight climate change. Now, we must go further, faster,” Simon said, according to the prepared text of the speech. “That means moving to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions, while accelerating our path to a 100 per cent net-zero electricity future.”
After a first term dominated by Donald Trump’s election in the U.S., and a second sent off course by COVID-19, Trudeau begins his third mandate facing a climate crisis in British Columbia.
Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city and a key shipping port, was essentially cut off from the country by road and rail last week after torrential rains put large swathes of farmland under water. The westernmost province, which also saw hundreds die amid wildfires and extreme heat this summer, is now rationing fuel as soldiers race to shore up infrastructure with another wave of precipitation rolling through.
On top of reiterating its election pledge to cap oil and gas emissions while sharply increasing its carbon tax, Trudeau’s government vowed to create Canada’s first climate adaptation strategy, invest in public transit and mandate the sale of zero-emissions vehicles. But like much of the speech, it was short on details.
Other highlights include promises to:
- Keep COVID-19 under control through vaccine mandates and the procurement of boosters and newly approved doses for children, as well as working with provinces to strengthen the health-care system;
- Extend income supports for sectors hardest hit by the pandemic in the short term, while addressing longer-term challenges by completing the roll-out of the national daycare plan and following through with pledges to build more affordable housing units and help first-time buyers get into the market;
- Reintroduce legislation to regulate streaming and social-media companies that was stuck in the Senate when the election was triggered;
- Keep communities safe with a mandatory buyback of banned assault-style weapons and by working with jurisdictions that want to ban handguns;
- Continue working with key allies on global issues, with a focus on deepening partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region and across the Arctic.
- While the Liberal government will likely win support for its environmental and social policies from the left-leaning New Democratic Party, the main opposition Conservatives are railing against the price tag attached.
“The cost of living is driven by the cost of government,” Conservative lawmaker Pierre Poilievre told reporters before the speech, noting that annual inflation -- now running 4.7 per cent, the highest since 2003 -- is more than twice as high as both wage growth and the Bank of Canada’s target. “When you spend more, it costs more.”
But Trudeau’s government appears undaunted. After posting a record-smashing deficit of more than $300 billion (US$236 billion) in the fiscal year that ended March 31 and promising $78 billion in additional spending over five years on top of the $140 billion it unveiled in its April budget, the Liberals aren’t dialing back their ambitions.
“The decade got off to an incredibly difficult start, but this is the time to rebuild,” Simon said. “This is the moment for parliamentarians to work together to get big things done, and shape a better future for our kids.”
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