The Liberal government, chastened at the polls on election day, laid out priorities for its new mandate in the speech from the throne Thursday, Dec. 5.
Those priorities includes lower taxes and lower carbon emissions, and a sharper focus on healthcare, safety, and reconciliation with Indigenous people.
The throne speech, that sets out the broad goals of government, is written by the prime minister’s office and delivered by the Governor General at a ceremony that takes place in the Senate.
It's the first order of business for any new Parliament, with the exception of electing a Speaker. That took place Thursday morning.
Members will respond to the throne speech on a later date, likely after Christmas. As it is is a matter of confidence in the government, Trudeau’s Liberals, 13 seats shy of a majority, will need support from other parties to survive the vote.
Many of the commitments in the speech were started in the previous mandate, or aim to make good on Liberal campaign promises. In fact, the wording, in many cases, is taken verbatim from the party's election platform.
The government pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and protect 25 per cent of Canada’s land and 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, as well as move forward with its controversial plan to implement carbon pricing across the country.
One of the key promises, a national pharmacare program, was repeated, along with a commitment that every Canadian will be able to access a family doctor and mental health care. The speech also mentions exploring universal dental care.
For the economy, Trudeau’s Liberals will cut taxes for “all but the wealthiest Canadians,” cut the cost of cell and wireless services by 25 per cent and increase the federal minimum wage.
The government has also committed to moving forward with the new NAFTA and provide “full compensation” for supply-managed industries. Canada’s commitment to NATO, United Nations peacekeeping and the UN Security Council was reinforced. Canada hopes to be elected to a seat on the council in June. The two-year term would begin in 2021.
And on Indigenous communities, the Liberal government says it will introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of the new mandate. It will also continue the work to end all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves by 2021, as well as continue work to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ calls for justice.
Howard Ramos, political sociologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax said it’s clear from the speech that Trudeau is trying to play it safe so as not to risk losing the confidence of the house so early in the mandate.
“It's clear that going forward the focus is going to be on environment and economics which are fairly safe issues in Canada," he said.
“Despite some of the regional differences around pipelines, most Canadians support action on climate change and most Canadians are concerned about issues of affordability and the economy.”
The Liberals’ priorities were, however, not safe enough for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who said he was disappointed in the speech and will be tabling an amendment on Friday.
“There's nothing in the throne speech about preparing Canada for a potential economic downtown with many warning signs on the horizon, nothing about our energy workers in Alberta and Saskatchewen, nothing about our forestry workers in B.C. . . . and most importantly, nothing on national unity,” he said.
St. John’s East MP Jack Harris said it’s too early to say whether or not the NDP will support it, but criticized the speech for being thin on details.
"What we're seeing here is generalities and not enough specifics. On climate change we've got targets for 2050 and nothing about the fact that there's a gap between now and 2030 . . . on prescription drugs instead of committing to a universal comprehensive plan (they) talk about taking steps to introduce," he said.
"It's disappointing, to say the least, that we're getting these sort of broad words but no significant commitment."
Key points in the Speech from the Throne for the 43rd Parliament
- Set a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
- Protect 25 per cent of Canada’s land and 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025.
- Plant two billion trees.
- Move forward with implementing carbon pricing across the country.
- Cut taxes for all but the wealthiest Canadians.
- Continue investments in affordable housing and make it easier for more people to buy their first home.
- Make before and after school care more accessible and affordable.
- Cut the cost of cell and wireless services by 25 per cent.
- Strengthen pensions for seniors and increase the federal minimum wage.
- Give more support to students.
- Move forward with the new NAFTA including “full compensation” for supply-managed industries “with many farmers in the dairy sector receiving their first cheques this month.”
- Remove additional barriers to domestic and international trade for businesses and farmers.
- Continue with investments in infrastructure.
- Reduce red tape for start-ups and small businesses.
- Introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of the new mandate.
- Continue the work of eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021.
- Co-develop new legislation to ensure that Indigenous people have access to high-quality, culturally relevant health care and mental health services.
- Continue work to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
- Work with Indigenous communities to close the infrastructure gap by 2030.
- Ensure that Indigenous people who were harmed under the discriminatory child welfare system are compensated “in a way that is both fair and timely.”
HEALTH & SAFETY
- Take steps to introduce and implement national pharmacare.
- Work with provinces, territories, health professionals and experts in industry and academia to make sure that all Canadians can access a primary care family doctor.
- Partner with provinces, territories, and health professionals to introduce mental health standards in the workplace, and to make sure that Canadians are able to get mental health care when they need it.
- Make it easier for people to get the help for opioid and substance abuse.
- Improve mental health care support for veterans and help end homelessness among veterans.
- Ban military-style assault rifle.
- Introduce a firearm buy-back program.
- Allowing municipalities and communities to ban handguns and invest to help cities fight gang-related violence.
- Take greater steps to address gender-based violence in Canada by building on the Gender-Based Violence Strategy and working with partners to develop a National Action Plan.
- Renew Canada’s commitment to NATO and United Nations peacekeeping.
- Continue to ensure that Canada’s voice is present at the UN, notably on the UN Security Council.
- Provide targeted resources for international development assistance, including investments in education and gender equality.
- Seek out opportunities for Canadian commerce, ingenuity, and enterprise and build partnerships with “like-minded countries” to put Canada’s expertise to work on a global scale.