Throne speech: Liberals outline priorities Opposition says falls short on economy
Gov. Gen. David Johnston implored Parliamentarians to be “smart and caring” as he delivered the throne speech to open the 42nd session of Parliament under a new Liberal government.
In the speech delivered in the Senate Friday, the governing Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined their agenda, starting with a call for Parliamentarians to be “smart, and caring – on a scale as never before.
“The times we live in demand nothing less,” Johnston said. “Canada succeeds in large part because here, diverse perspectives and different opinions are celebrated, not silenced. Parliament shall be no exception.”
Then Johnston turned to the government’s legislative and fiscal priorities, starting with a tax cut for the middle class.
"This is the fair thing to do, and the smart thing to do for Canada's economy," Johnston said.
The speech, which opposition leaders later said was thin on matters related to the economy and domestic security, outlines other priorities too, including introducing a new Canada Child Benefit, “significant” new investments in transit and infrastructure, and working with the provinces and territories to develop a new health accord.
“The Government will undertake these and other initiatives while pursuing a fiscal plan that is responsible, transparent and suited to challenging economic times,” Johnston said.
The throne speech, which lasted approximately 15 minutes, also reaffirmed the Liberals’ promises to reform the electoral system, work with the provinces to put a price on carbon, “legalize, regulate and restrict” access to marijuana, and launch a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The Liberals also promised to “renew” Canada’s commitment to “United Nations peacekeeping operations, and will continue to work with its allies in the fight against terrorism.”
The speech did not address another security-related campaign promise, however, to repeal controversial aspects of the anti-terrorism legislation that was brought in by the previous Conservative government.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the agenda was developed by “listening” to Canadians.
“Canadians have told us they want a real and fair chance at success,” Trudeau said, adding “We will restore Canadians’ trust in their public institutions, including the House of Commons and the Senate, by working with greater openness and transparency.”
‘Lack of economic focus’
In the speech, the Liberals said they would create a fiscal plan “that is responsible, transparent and suited to challenging economic times,” but it did not make mention of Trudeau’s vow to run deficits of no more than $10 billion over the next three years.
Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose told CTV’s Power Play that she was struck by a “lack of economic focus” in the speech.
“There is nothing in there as a signal to the private sector about what the plan for the economy is,” Ambrose said, adding there was also no mention of what the government will do to support the faltering energy sector in Western Canada.
“The energy sector just in Alberta has seen 60,000 job losses,” Ambrose said. “If there were 60,000 job losses in southern Ontario right now, it would have been mentioned in this speech from the throne.”
Ambrose said the Liberals also fell short in terms of explaining how the government would address the threat of the Islamic State.
“If they can’t even name the threat, how are they ready to deal with the threat?” she said. “All of our coalition partners step up and enhance their role in the fight against ISIS and Canada is stepping back.”
As a former health minister, Ambrose said she’ll keep an eye on how the government proceeds with legalizing marijuana.
“It’s one thing to decriminalize marijuana, it’s another to legalize it,” she said. “I would still be very concerned about how they would structure regulations that will keep it out of the hands of youth.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair lauded the Liberals for announcing they would put an end to “monster” omnibus bills, and “partisan” advertising on the public dime.
“It’s courageous, and I think it’s long overdue,” Mulcair told reporters following the speech.
Speaking on Power Play, Mulcair said the government also came up short in several areas. The speech, Mulcair said, made no mention of earlier promises such as restoring door-to-door mail delivery by Canada Post, and reverting the retirement age back to 65 from 67.
“Mr. Trudeau swore up and down during the campaign that he was going to bring that back from 67 to 65 – a very simple, clear, concrete promise – not a word, so we’re going to have to wait and see if they do anything.”
Mulcair also said that he was “shocked” that there was not a “single reference” to childcare in the throne speech.