FRANCOPRESSE – The fight against COVID-19 and its social and economic consequences marked the Speech from the Throne on September 23. The text marking the opening of the 43e legislature, which will be subject to a vote of confidence, does not meet all the demands of the opposition parties.
Bruno Cournoyer Paquin – Francopresse
“Protecting Canadians from COVID-19 [est] the top priority ”of the government, underlined the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, during her reading of the throne speech. Consequently, the government does not intend to cut spending; “Now is not the time for austerity,” she added.
For political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard, professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, “we are reporting that we are very far from austerity, but we do not set ourselves a fiscal framework for the rest of things, so I think that people who are already worried about the debt will not find anything to reassure themselves ”.
Professor Geneviève Tellier, from the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, opines that “those who wanted more budgetary discipline” will not find their account. “This is clearly the speech of a government that wants to take the opportunity to make major reforms in social programs,” she adds.
From an ambitious recovery to a “watered down” plan
The government’s plan for the coming year is based on four “pillars”: the fight against COVID-19, helping Canadians, economic recovery and strengthening Canadian values.
Stéphanie Chouinard recalls that after the prorogation of Parliament, the government was preparing to announce an ambitious plan, centered on the way out of the crisis and on economic recovery. But the deterioration of the health situation has changed the situation: “I have the impression that the daring, ambitious and green plan that we had been promised had to be watered down a little to come back a little on the way we were going to protect. Canadians and the Canadian economy in the coming months. ”
Professor Geneviève Tellier suggests instead that what was presented on Wednesday looks more like an election platform than a Speech from the Throne: “Often, a Speech from the Throne is more precise than an election platform, or at least, it will look for less elements, it is smaller. Here, we have a Speech from the Throne that is much more ambitious than the electoral platform that was presented in 2019. ”
As for the fight against COVID-19, the government is committed to continuing support policies for the provinces, promising in particular to increase its support for screening measures. It also proposes to increase its financial support to the companies most affected by the health crisis.
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The government is committed to continuing its financial support measures for Canadians, notably extending the Emergency Wage Subsidy until summer 2021. It reiterates that the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) will be replaced by a system of expanded eligibility employment insurance.
The Trudeau government is also proposing a “significant, sustained and long-term investment in the establishment of an early learning and child care system across Canada.” He adds that he is considering setting up a national drug insurance system.
“We are talking about major investments in daycare services, before and after school services. That, for women, especially outside Quebec, it will be a major change when it is implemented ”, specifies political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard.
Geneviève Tellier reiterates that the government has tried to “seize the crisis to launch an ambitious program of new social programs”. It also highlights the commitments on drug insurance, daycare, pension reform, employment insurance and long-term care. “It could change a lot of programs in a major way.”
There are certain absences in this Speech from the Throne, nuance Geneviève Tellier; including federal health transfers of $ 28 billion requested by the provinces. Similarly, the Speech from the Throne does not propose any envelope for cities.
Stéphanie Chouinard, for her part, observes that “for a government that said it was also inclined to worry about young people, I found that there was not much for young Canadians. I find it a little ironic that there is mention of improving the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (SECJ). In the wake of the UNIS affair, it is almost ironic. If that was the way to reinvest in young people, why isn’t that what we recommended last summer? ”
Towards a green economic recovery
In terms of economic recovery, the government proposes to create more than a million jobs by investing “in the social sector and infrastructure”, by supporting the training of workers and by helping employers to retain their workforce. .
The government’s recovery plan includes an important component in the fight against climate change, proposing, among other things, to support the energy-efficient renovation of buildings and to invest in the electrification of transport.
For Stéphanie Chouinard, “we are talking about the fight against climate change, but there are several promises that remain rather vague.” We will have to wait for the government’s next economic statement to see how these promises will materialize, especially with regard to public transit, electric cars and the promise to change the Canada Environmental Protection Act.
What attracts the attention of Geneviève Tellier is that the government seems to want to put in place a real economic plan: “For the first time [depuis le début des années 2000], there is a plan to attract companies ”in the manufacture of zero-emission products, through the creation of an investment fund and tax measures for companies.
According to her, this strategy shows that Canada is trying to “become a leader on the international scene as a destination to invest in these projects”, which constitutes a different vision of the economy and economic recovery than those put forward by the Harper government and the first Trudeau government.
The Speech from the Throne also proposes to continue reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, to fight against systemic racism and to “strengthen” Official Languages Act “Taking into account the particular reality of French”.
The Speech from the Throne is a test of government confidence and must be adopted by a majority of members of the House of Commons. Its adoption is the first item on the agenda of a new parliamentary session. As the government is currently in the minority, it will have to obtain the support of at least one of the opposition parties to obtain this majority.
Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Candice Bergen, ad at a press conference that his party would not support the Speech from the Throne, citing among other things the excessive debt that the measures advocated by the Liberals would lead to.
The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves François Blanchet, in a intervention following the Prime Minister’s speech to the nation, poses an ultimatum by giving the Trudeau government one week to agree to “unconditional” transfers of federal health funds to the provinces, otherwise the Bloc will vote against the Speech from the Throne.
For his part, the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, indicated repeatedly in press conference that there were two conditions sine qua non so that its formation supports the Speech from the Throne: first, to maintain the current level of the PCU and to maintain without cuts in the financial support of Canadians. He then asks the government to establish a paid sick leave program, as a second wave of COVID-19 approaches.
Singh, however, did not indicate whether his party would support the Speech from the Throne, stressing that it was only “words on paper” and that he wanted to see concrete actions from the government before siding. ‘engage in this regard.
On September 24, the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, ad the tabling of Bill C-2, which introduces the Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit (PCRÉ). It keeps benefits at $ 500 per week, as does ECPs. In addition, the minimum payment for Employment Insurance benefits will be increased from $ 400 to $ 500.
According to Stéphanie Chouinard, it is likely that the Speech from the Throne will be adopted, “but it will be hot. I don’t have a crystal ball… What I’m seeing is that we can’t find the grocery list of the New Democrats, who the Liberals were obviously counting on to get the Speech from the Throne through. ”
She indicates that one question remains central: if the paid sick leave requested by Mr. Singh is not found in the Speech from the Throne, “will an opposition party want to risk blaming it?” a general election in the context of a second wave [de COVID-19]? ”
A vote of confidence will take place between now and Thanksgiving.