Eight Things to Watch for in the
Speech from the Throne
Today, the federal government will table its Throne Speech, marking the opening of a new Parliament.
Written by the governing party and delivered by the Governor General, the Throne Speech is delivered to tell parliamentarians what legislation the government intends to bring forward in that session.
Where the budget outlines what money will get spent, the Throne Speech explains what laws will get passed. It’s a valuable roadmap to the government’s agenda for the coming mandate.
1. Climate change
The commitments Canada makes in Paris will have to be reflected at home through the implementation of laws or regulations. The government will likely have little detail in the Throne Speech, but, clearly, this will be a centerpiece of its agenda.
Although the national effort towards Syrian refugees likely needs no new legislation, we can expect a strong declaration of purpose in the Throne Speech. It will be interesting to see if the government mentions the possibility of additional asylum seekers beyond the 25,000 already mentioned. That’s not that much more than our usual annual intake, and since the problem is so enormous in the refugee camps of Lebanon and Turkey, it seems possible Canada will be asked take in more. We’ll watch to see if the government is preparing for that.
3. Federal-provincial relations
With early signs of cooperation from the Premiers and an almost-unbroken line of Liberals at the helm in every province except Alberta and Saskatchewan, there may be chances for great cooperation on tough issues like interprovincial trade and climate change. After all, the federal folks will be offering a major infrastructure program and a new health care accord; those will be seen as pretty strong incentives for a new era of cooperation.
Mr. Trudeau’s government inherits the two largest trade deals since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Deal in 1988—the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the just-concluded Trans Pacific Partnership. Neither has been ratified yet. The government has indicated support for CETA, but it seems stalled in Europe and it will take extra efforts to close the deal. The TPP may also be held up by a dysfunctional U.S. Congress. We support both these deals and will be watching for clues about the government’s views and strategies.
One of the most controversial items we’ll be watching for is the possible changes to the Canada Pension Plan. Ontario, which launched a new system this year, took plenty of criticism for the high costs faced by employers. Premier Wynne has suggested that if the Prime Minister takes the plan and implements it nationally (taking on the criticism that will undoubtedly follow), she’d be willing to withdraw the Ontario plan. We support reforms that encourage people to protect their retirements but not by making struggling businesses pay today for people’s retirements decades from now. We will be watching this issue with care.
6. Environment and natural resources
Will this set us on a collision course or set us up for a breakout moment? The government intends to increase consultation on environmental assessments and other key economic decisions. There will likely be legislation to put this in place. Critics will protest that this will slow an already lengthy process. The government will respond that stronger environmental assessments increase public confidence and, therefore, support for natural resource developments. Considering how much of our economic future is on the line, it better.
7. Innovation funding
One of the most exciting elements of the government’s agenda is the heavy emphasis on innovation. In a global marketplace, Canadians can’t compete for low-wage jobs. Instead, we need to invent new technologies and new processes that lead the world. Supporting the businesses leading this charge is a critical role, one the new government looks ready to take on. We’ll be watching for new money and new strategies supporting Canadian innovation.
8. Aboriginal peoples
In his mandate letter to his Minister for Indigenous Peoples, the Prime Minister outlined a sweeping agenda heavy on education and social programming. We support those objectives but will be watching to see what, specifically, is in the plan to support economic development, Aboriginal business growth and employment strategies.