Throne Speech Opens 2nd Session of the 43rd Parliament

On September 23rd, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber, opening the second session of the 43rd Parliament of Canada. The throne speech outlined the plans of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government for their next four years in office, touching on a variety of topics, from COVID-19 supports, to affordable housing, to national pharmacare, to climate change. The speech outlined four main tenets:

  • Protecting the health of Canadians
  • Supporting Canadians and businesses
  • Building back better through a stronger middle class
  • Defending Canadian values in a manner that benefits everyone

What is the Speech from the Throne?

Also referred to as the throne speech, the Speech from a Throne is given at the start of every session of the Parliament of Canada. It is essentially a statement of intents and commitments of the party in power. It addresses what the government has achieved, what they are currently doing, and what they plan to do.

Key Highlights

Below are some of the key highlights and commitments made by the Liberal government in the throne speech in relation to the speech’s four main sections.

Protecting the Health of Canadians

  • Help provinces increase their COVID-19 testing capacity and get faster testing
  • Create a federal Testing Assistance Response Team to meet testing demands, especially in remote and isolated communities
  • Target financial support to businesses that had to temporary close down
  • Canada’s vaccine strategy is to get Canadians a vaccine as soon as it’s ready, using the Vaccine Task Force and the Immunity Task Force

Supporting Canadians and Businesses

  • Create over one million jobs through directly investing in the social sector and infrastructure, skills training, hiring incentives and more
  • Extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) into next summer
  • Expand the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy so that young Canadians can get paid work experience next year
  • Switch recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to an enhanced employment insurance (EI) program
  • Create a Canada Recovery Benefit for Canadians who do not qualify for EI
  • Create an Action Plan for Women in the Economy so that more women can return to work
  • Invest and create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system
  • Subsidize costs for before- and after-school programs
  • Help more women grow their businesses by accelerating the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy
  • Help vulnerable businesses by expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account, improving the Business Credit Availability Program, providing financial support to industries that have been impacted the most, and more
  • Strengthen the middle class through targeted investments
  • Tax extreme wealth inequality by limiting the stock option deduction, tackling corporate tax avoidance by digital giants, and more

Building Back Better

  • Amend the Criminal Code to penalize those who neglect seniors or put seniors in danger that are under their care
  • Ensure that seniors in long-term care get the best support possible
  • Find ways to help seniors stay in their homes longer
  • Increase Old Age security that is given to seniors once they turn 75
  • Boost the Canada Pension Plan survivor’s benefit
  • Create a Disability Inclusion Plan
  • Make sure that everyone has access to a family doctor or primary care team
  • Expand virtual care access and capacity
  • Address the opioid epidemic
  • Increase access to mental health resources
  • Create a national pharmacare program
  • Give cities the power to restrict or ban handguns
  • Curb the flow of illegal guns coming into Canada
  • Invest in shelters and transitional housing to ensure the safety of women and remain committed to a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence
  • Invest in a variety of infrastructure, especially those for Indigenous Peoples and northern communities
  • Ensure that all Canadians have access to high-speed internet through the Universal Broadband Fund
  • Work to eliminate chronic homelessness
  • Enhance the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive
  • Work directly with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation partners in efforts to address food insecurity
  • Invest in training workers
  • Provide free, automatic tax filing for simple returns
  • Exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal and work towards a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Continue with the Clean Power Fund
  • Support and recognize sectors that are working towards net-zero emissions
  • Address climate change with a variety of solutions, including
    • Expanding urban parks and green spaces
    •  Protecting a quarter of Canadian land and oceans in 5 years
    • Planting two billion trees
    • Banning single-use plastics in 2021
    • Modernizing Canada’s Environmental Protection Act
    • Creating a Canada Water Agency
    • Building resilient water and irrigation infrastructure
    • Investing in the Blue Economy

Defending Canadian Values

  • Work with Indigenous peoples in a variety of ways, including
    •  Co-developing health, mental health and wellness legislation with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation
    • Working on the National Action Plan as a response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice
    •  Beginning the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
    • Investing in clean drinking water in First Nations communities
    • Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples before the end of 2020
  • Address systemic racism by:
    •  Tackling online hate
    • Increasing the economic power of specific communities
    •  Working on the collection of disaggregated data
    • Increasing representation in hiring and leadership roles in the Public Service
    • Supporting the artistic and economic contributions that have been made by Black Canadians
    • Addressing systemic inequalities in all sections of the criminal justice system
    • Providing enhanced civilian oversight on law enforcement agencies
    • Updating standards on the use of force
    • Reforming RCMP by moving towards community-led policing
    • Creating legislation for First Nations policing
  • Strengthen the Official Languages Act
  •  Support family reunification
  • Invest in more international development and support
  • Lead the Ottawa Group to reform the World Trade Organization

What This All Means/Next Steps

Debate on the throne speech will happen for six days and then it will be voted on in the Commons. At this time, a vote on the speech has not been scheduled.

With Liberals having a minority government, the speech would need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties. This will give them the 16 extra votes they need to have the majority of Commons support. If this happens, the Liberals remain in power for another four years. If this does not happen, then an election is triggered. Prime Minister Trudeau has implied that should this happen, he will be campaigning on the items outlined in the throne speech.

Response

Bloc Quebeçois

In order for the speech to have support from the Bloc Quebeçois party, Bloc Quebeçois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault,  said that the Liberals must amend the speech to provide provinces $28 billion more every year for health-care transfers. They’ve given the Liberals a week to add this in the expectation that the speech will be voted on next week.

Support from the Bloc Quebeçois will give the Liberal government 32 votes.

Conservatives

Shortly after the throne speech was delivered, the Conservative party expressed that they will be voting against it. Conservatives expressed that the speech left many Canadians out. They also felt that there should have been more about national unity and the resource sector.

Support from the Conservatives would have given the Liberal government 121 votes.

New Democratic Party (NDP)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh did not outright oppose the speech. Instead, he expressed that for his party to support it, legislation must be added that guarantees that there will be no reduction in employment insurances benefits for Canadians that need it the most. The NDP would also like it added that individuals who contract COVID-19 can get paid sick leave in a manner that is accessible and does not exclude anyone. While the NDPs would support such bills and legislation, it’s not certain that adding these guarantees that they will vote in favor of the throne speech.

On Thursday, following the delivery of the throne speech, new legislation was introduced to increase EI payments from $400 a week to $500 a week (which is currently what CERB provides), that may help secure a vote of support from the NDPs. The bill will be debated on Monday and Tuesday.

Support from the NDPs will give the Liberal government 24 votes.

Green Party

While not one of the main opposition parties, the Green Party has had a response to the throne speech. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May stated that she and her two MPS will not be voting on the speech if there is no commitment to decrease Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Support from the Greens will give the Liberal government 3 votes. However, this does not get Trudeau the votes the Liberals need to get majority as it does not give them the 16 votes they need.

Resources and References

Parliament resumes full operations today with debate on throne speech from CBC

Throne speech appears poised to pass vote after COVID-19 benefits boost from Global News

Liberal throne speech promises billions of dollars for child care, housing and seniors from The Star

Speech from the Throne from Government of Canada

43RD PARLIAMENT, 2ND SESSION from House of Commons

Feds promise COVID-19 aid to continue, national child care in throne speech from CTV News

Throne Speech 2020: 10 Key Highlights From The Liberal Plan For Canada Amid COVID-19 Crisis from HuffPost