Throne Speech Welcomed by Greens, Decried by Others

Throne Speech Welcomed by Greens, Decried by Others
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wait during the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Isaac Teo

The party most happy with the Liberal government’s speech from the throne was the Green Party, with Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May saying it had all the things she had asked for, such as a goal to reach zero emissions, pharmacare, and a national child-care program.

But the government’s plan was decried by the Conservatives for not addressing issues of national unity, the energy sector, and fiscal restraint.

The Quebec-first Bloc Quebeoics also rejected the speech, saying it infringes on provincial jurisdiction.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh walked a fine line, criticizing the government while also saying his party is undecided on whether to support the plan. The minority Liberals need the support of at least one of the main three opposition parties to remain in power.

The speech, read by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette in the Senate chambers on Sept. 23, said the government is extending the federal wage subsidy program to the summer of 2021, and will support the unemployed through the employment insurance system, while winding down the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.

“This is not the time for austerity,” the speech said.

“Canadians should not have to choose between health and their job, just like Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.”

The speech also said it’s going to use federal spending to add a million jobs.

“This will be done by using a range of tools, including direct investments in the social sector and infrastructure, immediate training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers,” it said.

The government also hinted at scaling up taxes to increase revenue, including looking for ways to tax “extreme wealth inequality” and taxing internet giants.

The government’s post-pandemic “resiliency agenda” also includes the long-touted promise to implement a national child-care program and pharmacare, as well as calls for national standards for long-term care.

Also promised in the plan are tougher gun laws, systemic racism-related legislation, a new disability benefit regime, and more support for reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

The cornerstone of the government’s agenda, the speech said, is tackling climate change.

The plan includes legislation to reach zero emissions by 2050 and investments in technology to help with that goal.

“Taken together, this is an ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality,” said the speech, which offered no price tags or specifics on how the goals will be achieved.

Candice Bergen, deputy leader of the Conservatives, dismissed the plan as “grand gestures and empty promises” and said the speech neglected Western Canadians.

“We'd like to see specific things addressed about unity,” Bergen said, adding that her party wants more support for energy workers and a plan to pay down the national debt.

The Bloc Quebecois leader, who like Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19, said the federal government’s plan encroaches too far into provincial jurisdiction.

He gave the Liberals one week to meet Quebec’s demands for increased federal health transfers to the provinces, or else his party will vote against the government’s plan.

Reacting to the speech, Singh said the Liberals always say the right words but lack in taking action. For his party to offer its support, he said it wants a commitment to implement paid sick leave and assurance that the end of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in lieu of an expanded employment insurance program doesn’t mean people will get less money.

“We’ve not decided yes or no on the throne speech,” he said. “I’m saying we need to see some actions to back up these words.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the nation in a televised address on the evening of Sept. 23, saying that a second wave of the pandemic is already underway in four provinces.

“We're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and Scott Goulet
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