This afternoon, the Trudeau Government delivered its third Speech from the Throne since being elected in 2015. The speech, entitled A Stronger and More Resilient Canada, was delivered by Governor General Julie Payette in the Senate Chamber, and kicks off the second session of the 43rd Parliament.
Unlike other Throne Speeches, this one was delivered with muted pageantry due to strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols. Only a small number of Senators and Members of Parliament attended the Senate Chamber for the Speech—an event that normally sees the Senate completely full. Notably absent from the day’s events were Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, who are unfortunately ill with COVID-19.
The top-line is that the Speech committed the government to creating one million jobs—roughly the same number lost during the pandemic – and to implementing a broad range of spending commitments and programs ranging from health care to a green recovery.
One item noticeably absent from the speech is an increase to federal/provincial health transfers. This ask was widely supported by Provincial Premiers and is likely to be central to ongoing discussions with the provinces and territories.
Notable announcements and commitments from the Throne Speech include:
Curbing a Second Wave/Helping Canadians
As part of its green recovery plan, the Government committed to:
The Government pledged to immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal and will also legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Because of the minority parliament, the Liberals must now secure support for the Throne Speech from at least one opposition party to avoid losing the confidence of the House of Commons, which would likely trigger a general election this fall.
The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois have both signaled that they will vote against the speech. The NDP have signaled they need further commitments from the Liberals on income support and paid sick leave before agreeing to support the government.
Assuming the Liberals survive a confidence vote, the milestones ahead including reconstituting parliamentary committees, publishing updated ministerial mandate letters, and continuing pre-budget consultations leading to a fall economic statement/mini-budget, and the Spring Budget in 2021. In addition, the Throne Speech noted that this Fall the government will publish an update to Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, setting out the Government’s economic and fiscal position, providing fiscal projections, and identifying new measures to implement the Throne Speech.
Prime Minister’s Address and Opposition Responses
This evening, Prime Minister Trudeau delivered a rare, prime-time television address to the Nation. The Prime Minster acknowledged that many regions of Canada have entered a second wave and that this wave could be worse than the initial one this Spring. The Prime Minister urged Canadians to download the COVID-19 contract tracing app, wear a mask and get the flu shot. Trudeau also briefly summarized key commitments made earlier today in the Throne Speech.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole responded to the Prime Minister’s address by focusing on the job losses faced by Canadians since the start of COVID-19 and the regional divisions in Canada. O’Toole specifically urged the government to expedite the approval of rapid virus testing.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet criticized the government for not increasing provincial health transfers while also condemning the government’s commitment to national standards for care for the elderly.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated the need for universal pharma and dental care, more funding for income supports and a wealth tax.
Of the three respondents, Singh seems most likely to support the Throne Speech in the days ahead, thereby averting a general election.
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