Earlier today, the Governor General delivered the Speech from the Throne. Rich with pomp and history, the delivery of this address marks the start of a new Parliament. Things got off to an unusual start with the renovation of Centre Block forcing the Usher of the Black Rod to drive 700m in a mini-van from the Senate to knock three times on the doors of West Block to summon Members of Parliament to join the ceremony via mini buses.
The first speech from astronaut Governor General Julie Payette, her preamble appropriately noted that “we are all on the same spaceship.” An important message for the five-party House of this minority Liberal government.
The speech acknowledged regional divisions and committed to working across all levels of government, with Indigenous communities and industry, to find solutions. It also committed to working just as hard on getting natural resources to market as they will on climate change.
More than anything, the speech called for finding common ground, and a “distinctly Canadian spirit of collaboration.”
So, upon which are we to collaborate? Here are the top-lines from the Throne:
- Target net-zero emissions by 2050 and continue to put a price on emissions.
- Make energy efficient homes more affordable and make zero-emission vehicles easier to choose.
- Promote clean, affordable power solutions; grow clean-tech; and plant 2 billion trees.
- Place 25% of Canadian lands and 25% of our oceans under conservation by 2025.
- Invest in affordable housing and make first-time home-buying easier.
- Make child-care more affordable.
- Cut cellular and wireless bills by 25%.
- Increase the federal minimum wage and introduce mental health standards in the workplace.
- Remove domestic trade barriers.
- Co-develop legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) within the first year of the new mandate.
- Eliminate boil water advisories on reserves by 2021 and close the Indigenous infrastructure gap by 2030.
- Ban military-style assault rifles and help cities implement buy-back programs for handguns.
- Work with provinces and territories to improve health care and take steps to introduce and implement national pharmacare. This was a clear nod to the Premiers who, at the Council of the Federation meeting last week, made clear their insistence that any national pharmacare program be developed in partnership with the provinces and territories. They also called for the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer funding.
- Continue to seek a seat on the United Nation’s Security Council; promote Canada’s interests on trade and digital policy abroad; and recommit to NATO and UN Peacekeeping.
In addition to pending Minister’s mandate letters and a fiscal update, the first confidence motion will be voted on next week. A middle class tax credit will be one of the first orders of business once we return to regular Parliamentary procedures next week, which ought to earn support from the Conservatives. Another area where the Liberals aligned with the Tories on the campaign trail, parental leave benefits may see some tax relief soon as well.
But despite some nods to working with the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer told reporters that his party will be tabling an amendment to the Speech highlighting the things that they believe were missing, including safeguarding against a potential recession, supporting our energy sector, and focusing attention on national unity. This shouldn’t be surprising, as the words pipeline and oil did not appear in this speech at all. Facing calls for a leadership review, Scheer will be looking to make a mark.
Indicating his tacit support, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said “we need to talk,” and called for real commitments and details on climate change, Indigenous reconciliation, and pharmacare from the Liberals.
Perhaps inspired by the holiday spirit, GG Julie Payette reminded us that Canada’s Parliament is one of the most enduring democratic institutions in the world. Quoting Lester B. Pearson, she concluded:
“Tonight we begin a new chapter in our country’s story. Let the record of that chapter be one of co-operation and not conflict; of dedication and not division; of service, not self; of what we can give, not what we can get. Let us work together as Canadians to make our country worthy of its honoured past and certain of its proud future.”
For more on how to work with this five-party minority House and segmented Senate, reach out to your McMillan Vantage friends!