Big Spending Plans and Ever-Stronger Environmental Controls: Few Surprises in Throne Speech

November 23, 2021 Updated: November 27, 2021

Commentary

Throne speeches in Canada tend to be long on promises and short on details. The Nov. 23 speech from the throne delivered by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon was no exception. Much of what was delivered was a reiteration of the government’s mandate in 2019 along with campaign promises from last fall.

In summary, there were few surprises in the throne speech.

It sticks to big spending plans while imposing ever-stronger environmental controls. Coupled with plans to limit internet speech and continued work to remove firearms from Canadians, we see a plan modelled to appeal to the NDP.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs the support of NDP’s Jagmeet Singh in order to pursue his mandate and he has to ensure there is nothing in his mandate that would force the NDP to invoke another election.

The Liberals and NDP deny having a formal alliance but the throne speech makes it clear there is an informal one. Singh is no more eager to go to another election than Trudeau is and there is nothing in the throne speech that he can strongly oppose.

Promises

This was Simon’s first throne speech since being appointed as the Queen’s representative to Canada. Simon’s delivery was unique in that she began it in her native language of Inuktitut. Simon also made a point of delivering part of the speech in carefully rehearsed French. Her lack of ability in French had been a point of contention with some Quebec politicians and she demonstrated she is taking her vow to learn French seriously.

Simon is Canada’s first indigenous governor general and it was unsurprising the speech began by addressing indigenous issues. The word reconciliation was used a number of times during the speech. The definition of what reconciliation actually is with regard to Canada’s indigenous people is an ambiguous thing.

Promises have been made with little follow-through regarding issues such as clean drinking waters on reserved. With the appointment of Simon as Canada’s governor general, perhaps the government really does plan to begin seriously working on indigenous reconciliation.

Simon’s words in the speech made it sound like the government planned on getting to work as she said, “We must turn the guilt we carry into action, action on reconciliation.”

Those words are written by the office of the prime minister but in being delivered by an indigenous governor general they should carry more weight. Prime Minister Trudeau embarrassed himself and his government when he snubbed First Nations communities on the very first national Truth and Reconciliation Day of his own creation. Perhaps that has motivated him to take Canada’s indigenous issues seriously going forward. Time will tell.

The speech touched upon the promises made by the Liberals in last fall’s election campaign, including the mandatory buyback on banned firearms, plans to legislate content on the internet, and an intention to bring back a bill to ban conversion therapy.

The ban on conversion therapy will likely turn into contentious legislation not because it really addresses a widespread issue but because it sets a trap social conservatives can’t help but jump into every time. Never mind that actually finding places that perform this controversial therapy appears to be nearly impossible, as most including Conservative MPs support the ban. But any Tory MP who may oppose parts of the legislation covering private conversations between parents and their own children will be immediately painted as being intolerant of course and Erin O’Toole will be put in a difficult position. This gives us a hint of some of the political strategies we can look forward to in the coming session.

Broad promises were made on pandemic recovery and it was billed as being priority one. There was a mention of extending support for businesses continuing to struggle but little in the way of new spending promises. There was no indication of backing off on any supports either. Pretty thin for a top priority.

Inflation was mentioned but nothing solid was proposed in order to deal with it.

Strong words came on the environment and climate file. This is in keeping with Trudeau’s general goals and it is no surprise it was prominent in the speech.

The government plans to continue on a plan to reach net-zero emissions through capping oil and gas industry emissions and carbon taxes.

There is to be a National Water Strategy created along with a National Adaptation Strategy. What those strategies will actually entail has yet to be disclosed.

Any hope on the part of oil and gas companies that the government may relent on promises to come down on their industry is dashed now.

Inflation and high energy costs are not considered to be as high a priority for the government as a net-zero electricity future.

Erin O’Toole will have plenty to work with as the speech demonstrates a continued turn to the left by the Liberals. Perhaps he will rediscover his conservative roots and provide some opposition from the right in the coming session.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct a statement about Gov. Gen. Mary Simon’s role. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Cory Morgan
Cory Morgan is a columnist and business owner based in Calgary, Alberta.