OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau ushered in a new era of minority Liberal rule Thursday with a throne speech brimming with humility, goodwill and promises of collaboration with opposition parties whose support he needs to ensure his government’s survival.
The speech from the throne, penned by the Prime Minister’s Office but read by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, offered few details of Trudeau’s agenda for his second mandate, beyond reiterating Liberal campaign promises: stronger action to fight climate change, lower taxes for middle-class Canadians, beefed-up gun control, steps towards national pharmacare and investments in infrastructure, public transit, affordable housing and health care.
But it also made pointed references to issues that are dear to the NDP and Bloc Quebecois. The Liberals will need the support of at least one of those two parties to pass legislation and survive confidence votes.
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Universal dental care, one of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s priorities, was cited as an idea “worth exploring” and one that Parliament was encouraged to look into.
In a nod to one of the Bloc’s priorities, the government promised that dairy farmers impacted by recent trade agreements will be “fully and fairly compensated” — with many receiving their first cheques this month.
Moreover, the speech emphasized that the government “is open to new ideas” from opposition parties.
The speech was more about tone than substance, attempting to demonstrate to Canadians that Trudeau’s Liberals, reduced to a minority on Oct. 21, have heard the message sent by voters after a particularly nasty, hyper-partisan campaign.
“Canadians have sent a clear message: from young people to seniors, they want their parliamentarians to work together on the issues that matter most to them,” Payette said.
“Parliamentarians: Canadians are counting on you to fight climate change, strengthen the middle class, walk the road of reconciliation, keep Canadians safe and healthy, and position Canada for success in an uncertain world. And with goodwill, humility and a willingness to collaborate, you can do just that.”
Payette exhorted MPs to “raise the bar on what politics is like in this country,” adding that, “after all, the government knows it needs to work with other parliamentarians to deliver results.”
The speech also recognized that the Liberals were shut out in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s oil and gas heartland where anger over Liberal environmental policies has fuelled talk of western separatism.
“The government has heard Canadians’ concerns that the world is increasingly uncertain and that the economy is changing,” Payette said. “And in this context, regional needs and differences really matter. Today’s regional economic concerns are both justified and important.”
The speech noted that “a clear majority of Canadians voted for ambitious climate action now,” and reiterated the Liberals’ pledge to maintain the national carbon price and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Net zero means greenhouse gas emissions are reduced so much that the remaining emissions can be absorbed by natural or technological means, leaving none to remain trapped in the atmosphere.
There was no direct reference to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is opposed by the Bloc, New Democrats and Greens as antithetical to the fight against climate change. The Trudeau government purchased the pipeline to ensure the project, which is to carry Alberta oil sands crude to the British Columbia coast for export overseas, goes ahead.
But, as hard as the government vowed to fight climate change, the speech promised it will “work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada’s natural resources sectors, many of whom have faced tough times recently.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press