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This article was published 23/11/2021 (185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA—The throne speech to open Canada’s 44th Parliament is in the books.
Here are five things that sum up a day of pandemic-subdued pomp on the Hill, and the speech that’s meant to outline the Liberal government’s agenda for its third mandate in power.
New Governor General brings a new vibe
Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General strode into the Red Chamber with flashes of purple dyed in her otherwise silvery hair. She took her seat in the throne at the far end of the room, while in the corner an Inuit elder tended a small fire called the Qulliq, a traditional lamp made of moon-shaped soapstone that burns oil mixed with moss and cotton.
When Simon spoke, she delivered the speech in the French and English familiar since Confederation on such occasions. But in a parliamentary first, she also read in Inuktitut, an Inuit language spoken where Simon grew up in the northeastern Quebec community of Kujjuaq.
And she began the speech with a reminder that the “true history” of Canada involves lands taken from Indigenous nations without permission, and delivered an appeal to all Canadians: do not “hide from” horrors like the discovery of mass graves at residential schools this year.
“We must turn the guilt we carry into action,” she said.
Yes, the pandemic. But!
The Liberal government’s throne speech was clear that Job No. 1 remains dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But the speech was also mostly forward-looking, declaring the government’s general vision to “rebuild” beyond the crisis and “get big things done.”
According to the speech, that included new policies to fight climate change, such as the promised cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the heavy-polluting oil-and-gas sector.
The speech also ran through Liberal pledges to “strengthen our health-care system,” make housing more affordable, secure deals to fund $10-a-day child care in all provinces and territories, increase annual immigration, and promote diversity and inclusion in Canadian society.
Opposition parties didn’t have to ponder their reactions too long. Within minutes of Simon’s speech, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stood in the foyer of House of Commons to declare it was “empty.
“It was a government run out of ideas, that has run out of steam.”
Yves François Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois Leader, agreed. He said the speech was less clear than a series of campaign promises and that it could have been written by a college student in half a day.
Missing: A bunch of stuff
There were also notable Liberal promises from the recent election campaign, which have been repeated since, but were not in the roughly 3,000-word speech on Tuesday.
Singh pointed out the speech did not mention the Liberal pledge to scrap subsidies that promote fossil fuel production by 2023. It also didn’t mention a law the Liberals have already started working on to support workers shifting out of the fossil fuel sector into green jobs. Nor did it mention the national pharmacare plan the Liberals have previously promised.
“It leaves me and it leaves Canadians wondering: what is their real goal? What is their priority?” Singh said.
The speech also steered clear of any direct reference to the crisis of sexual misconduct that has enveloped the Canadian military — and which the Liberals’ new defence minister has vowed to confront.
And Erin O’Toole, the Conservative Leader, decried how the speech failed to address rising inflation and concerns in Western Canada about federal climate policies. “We’ve heard nothing from this government,” he said.
The government won’t fall over this
Regardless of opposition criticism, it appears the Liberal minority government is safe from a potential confidence vote over the speech. While O’Toole said he would oppose the speech, and Singh said he might vote against it, the Bloc’s Blanchet said he wouldn’t allow the government to fall over such an indistinct document.
“We will live with this empty piece of paper gently read in three languages,” he said.
With files from Tonda MacCharles
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga