The Liberal government is promising to bring the pandemic to an end while building the economy, fighting climate change, rolling out new child care deals with the provinces and pursuing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous governor general, unveiled those priorities today in a speech from the throne that pointed to progress in the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples.
“Already, I have seen how Canadians are committed to reconciliation. Indigenous Peoples are reclaiming our history, stories, culture and language through action,” Simon said In a speech delivered in English, French and Inuktitut.
“Non-Indigenous peoples are coming to understand and accept the true impact of the past and the pain suffered by generations of Indigenous Peoples. Together, they are walking the path toward reconciliation.”
Simon said that, to strengthen that relationship, the federal government will take action on health care and climate change and get to the root of what took place at residential schools across the country.
Since the early spring, several Indigenous communities across the country have reported the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.
Simon thanked MPs and civil servants for their work on fighting the pandemic, acknowledging the losses and hardships of the past 18 months.
“It has touched us all, including those in this chamber who lost a cherished colleague just a few days ago, Sen. Forest-Niesing. To her family and to all of you, my deepest sympathies,” she said.
“Priority number one remains getting the pandemic under control. The best way to do that is vaccination.”
Simon said that effort will require strengthening the health care system across the country and supports for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.
“To ensure no one is left behind, support will be extended or added for industries that continue to struggle,” she said.
Simon said the Liberal government is committing to supporting and promoting the French language, both in and outside of Quebec, by reintroducing the proposed Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English.
Earlier this year, the Liberal government said that because digital technology encourages the use of English over French, it would reinforce the place of French in Canada by using the act to guarantee the right to work in French in federally regulated private businesses with more than 50 employees.
“To support Canadian culture and creative industries, the government will also reintroduce legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act and ensure web giants pay their fair share for the creation and promotion of Canadian content,” Simon said.
The economy and the environment
“There is work to be done. On accessibility. On care in rural communities. On delayed procedures. On mental health and addiction treatment. On long-term care,” she said.
Improving the quality of life for Canadians, she said, means making life more affordable for everyone.
“While Canada’s economic performance is better than many of our partners, we must keep tackling the rising cost of living,” she said. “To do that, the government’s plan includes two major priorities — housing and child care.”
Strengthening the country’s economic rebound will require the federal government to continue working with provinces to establish a national $10 a day child care program, Simon said.
She said the government also sees immigration as essential to the post-pandemic economic recovery.
“That is why the government will continue increasing immigration levels and reducing wait times, while supporting family reunification and delivering a world leading refugee resettlement program,” Simon said.
Simon cited the Liberal government’s goal of capping and cutting oil and gas sector emissions while working toward a “net-zero electricity future.”
Guns, floods, conversion therapy
“The government will also strengthen action to prevent and prepare for floods, wildfires, droughts, coastline erosion and other extreme weather worsened by climate change,” Simon said.
The Liberal government is also pledging to continue its gun control efforts by implementing a “mandatory buyback” program for banned assault-style weapons and to work with any province or territory that wants to ban handguns.
Simon said the Liberal government will also ensure the ban on conversion therapy is realized.
After months of debate and some Conservative opposition, the last bill on this topic died on the order paper when the government called the September election.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole criticized the speech, saying the Liberal government spent more on pandemic assistance than the United States and has seen slower economic growth.
O’Toole said the Liberals are ignoring the plight of workers in the energy, auto and steel industries and that his party would provide those workers with a voice.
“We’ve seen a recycled set of promises going back to the first throne speech on reconciliation, other issues like that. The same language, no concrete actions,” O’Toole said after the speech.
“What we’d like to see — a focus on the cost of living crisis, get the country back to work, get expenses under control and work on national unity at the same time.”
Don’t count on us, says NDP, Bloc
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the speech showed the Liberal government has “run out of ideas and run out of steam.”
“We see a throne speech that does not respond to the urgency of the crisis that we are up against,” he said.
Singh said he did not see enough emphasis in the speech on affordable housing, measures to fight climate change and adequate funding for health care.
“This is not a speech that demonstrates a willingness to work together or shared values about building a better Canada,” Singh said. “We want to make it clear to the Liberals … Don’t take our support for granted. This is not a speech that looks like they are interested in working together.”
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the speech had a lot of buzzwords but little to say.
“There is just an assemblage of 24 pages of completely empty words,” Blanchet said.
“Even read slowly, the throne speech is short so that prompts me to conclude, unfortunately, that I have absolutely no reason to vote in favour of the throne speech. I have no reason to vote against the throne speech.”