After Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August to prepare for a ‘reset’ of government agenda, the Speech from the Throne was read by the Governor-General yesterday, the Queen's vicereine in Canada, to formally open the second session of Parliament.
In the hour long address, Trudeau reiterated his COVID response plan that would remain in place ‘until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.’ Part of this plan included a commitment to job subsidies and continued spending. “This is not a time for austerity," the speech noted. The program will include a promise to create one million jobs for Canadians by “subsidizing wages, skills retraining and incentives for businesses to hire new employees, especially in environmentally focused sectors,” in addition to new benefits for the unemployed (the specifics of which are currently unknown). The Trudeau government’s program also will, as noted by CNN, stand in where the provincial governments are struggling the most, supporting senior care and daycares—the latter through a newfound pledge to establish a ‘national daycare program.’
In addition, the Speech, in the traditional Trudeau fashion, made several commitments towards ensuring equality and improving social justice in Canada, committing to opposing discrimination and racism (particularly within the context of COVID) and to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal and to ensconce into law a mandate to achieve “net-zero emissions by 2050.” "This is our generation's crossroads," read the Governor-General.
The Speech was immediately attacked by the Conservatives. The Head of the Opposition, having been absent due to having tested positive for COVID, was represented by Deputy Opposition Leader Candice Bergen. "We've looked at this Speech from the Throne and Conservatives cannot support it. It is another speech that is full of buzz words and grand gesture with very little to no follow-up plan," said Bergen in a press conference.
Bergen criticized the speech for only mentioning the oil and gas sector in passing, an industry that has been hard-hit by the epidemic due to the collapsing price of petroleum, leaving many workers jobless.
"There were no words that said, 'We value natural resources, we value our forestry workers, we value our agricultural sector.' They should have said all that and they didn't. We were hoping for something better," Bergen argued. "Conservatives continue to be the only party standing up for the West."
The Deputy Opposition Leader also targeted the Liberal government for continued government spending. "They're still talking about how budgets will balance themselves, so it's very, very concerning," Bergen said. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has recently affirmed that Trudeau’s planned response could "burden future generations with a crushing debt load."
Erin O’Toole, still quarantined, subsequently issued a response from the front porch of Stornoway. In particular, he criticized the Speech for failing to address Western alienation, arguing that Trudeau’s message of banding together amid the pandemic utterly failed to address the unity crisis in the West. O’Toole also gave focus to the Trudeau government’s absence of support for small and medium-sized businesses and the continued high price of ‘personal protective equipment.’
Given that Conservatives have ruled out support of the government, it falls to NDP or Bloc to prevent another election from being triggered.
Yves-François Blanchet, also currently isolated with COVID, issued a statement criticizing the lack of a significant increase in health care funding for provinces. "The Bloc agrees that this is an affront to the jurisdiction of the National Assembly of Quebec and does not warrant the support of Quebec," Blanchet said. "Mr. Trudeau has one week to provide unconditional transfers to Quebec for health care, otherwise the Bloc Québécois will vote against this throne speech."
Jagmeet Singh issued a similar statement, demanding criteria to be filled he would consider the possibility of NDP support. "We are making it very clear to the prime minister — if you want [NDP] support, if you want my support, then you have to stop the proposal to cut help to Canadians who cannot get back to work and make sure you put in place paid sick leave for all Canadian workers.
If Trudeau does not abide the demands of either party, we may find ourselves in an election year.