Throne Speech 2019: More Positioning Than Policy
The Throne Speech opens a new session of Parliament. No speech, no Session. The Throne that the Governor General “GG” (as he/she/they is known in a town full of acronyms) sits on, is not in a throne room; but in the Senate Chamber. The GG is a stand in for the Sovereign. The elected MPs trudge from the House of Commons to the Senate Chamber to be delivered of the Speech that will define their working lives for the months ahead.
The Throne Speech is delivered in the detached, sometimes bemused tone usually reserved for someone reading a turgid greeting card. These speeches have come to be known as “drone speeches” from a time when a drone was something boring, not an airborne reconnaissance vehicle. This year’s version did not disappoint.
Platitudes, headlines, guiding principles, the speech had it all…. including promises to:
- Cut taxes for all but the wealthiest Canadians;
- Continue investments in affordable housing;
- Move forward with the new NAFTA, and ensure those in the supply management sectors will be fully and fairly compensated;
- Ban military-style assault rifles and allow municipalities to ban handguns;
- Introduce and implement national pharmacare;
- Make it easier for people to access treatment for opioids and substance abuse;
- Help make energy efficient homes more affordable, and introduce measures to build clean, efficient and affordable communities;
- Achieve net-zero emissions by 2050;
- Work with business to make Canada the best place to start and grow a clean technology company;
- Make it easier for people to choose zero-emission vehicles;
- Work to make clean, affordable power available to every Canadian community;
- Cut the cost of cell and wireless services by 25%;
- Make before and after school care more accessible and affordable;
- Review rules in the new digital space to ensure fairness;
- Undertake a series of actions to implement reconciliation with Indigenous people, including continuing the work of eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021 and ensuring safe drinking water in First Nations communities.
The “devil is in the details” as they say. The goal here was not to describe precise programmatic elements. The goal was to signal where a way forward might be found to gain the support of this Party or that so the minority Liberals can govern for the next eighteen months, (the average life of a minority government).
Most of the Speech will appeal to voters on the left and centre-left. While one would think that the provisions listed above would lead the NDP to support the Throne Speech, for the NDP there is never enough. The Bloc’s support is likely, and the Conservatives will oppose, however their own internal (leadership) challenges may neuter them in the months ahead. The Speech will do nothing to mollify the west – Liberals have made a calculated political choice here.
A Throne Speech for a minority government is an agenda setting out in broad terms what can be done, not always what should urgently be done. The good news is there may be sufficient consensus to get a few things accomplished before Canadians head to the polls again.
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