Opposition parties feel out of place when federal throne speeches outline the liberal agenda

Immediately after the speech was read, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet signaled that his party would support what he called ’24 pages of completely empty words’

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threw a few bones to the opposition parties on Tuesday in a throne speech summarizing the election platform that produced another liberal minority government in a row.

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A vote on the throne will be the first test of confidence in the government, where the Liberal Party’s survival depends on the support of at least one opposition party.

Nevertheless, Trudeau made a small effort in the throne to secure the support of any of the other parties, and instead chose to broadly repeat the Liberal laws to end the fight against COVID-19 and rebuild a more resilient, more fairer and greener economy.

Voters’ anger over Trudeau’s decision to call an election in the midst of the pandemic shattered his hopes of winning a September 20 majority. He now apparently reckons that anger may deter the opposition parties from triggering a new election anytime soon, thus relieving him of the need to change his agenda to satisfy any of them.

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It’s a bet that seems to have paid off, at least on the throne.

Governor-General Mary Simon, the first Inuk person to serve in the role, centered the theme of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Tuesday’s speech from the throne with an introduction – delivered in English, French and Inuktitut – that she herself had written.

“I urge you to seek out the truth and learn about the living realities of the communities of First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” Simon said in the speech given in the Senate.

“Although each society is different, we all share a desire to draw together a path towards reconciliation.”

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She also touched on First Nations discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves in places with former residential schools in Canada earlier this year.

“We can not hide from these discoveries. They open deep wounds,” she said in French.

At the same time, she said there is hope.

Reconciliation is not a single act, nor does it have an end date. It is a lifelong journey of healing, respect and understanding, ”she said.

Immediately after the speech was read by Simon in the Senate hall, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet signaled that his party would support what he called “24 pages of completely blank words.”

“Support may not be the best word. We will live with this blank piece of paper, carefully read in three languages,” he said, adding that it is impossible to vote against “apple pie.”

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NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party is considered the most likely dance partner for the Liberals, panned the speech not to even mention his party’s priorities, including pharmacacare, continued pandemic support and increased annual health transfers to the provinces.

“This is not a speech that looks like they want to work together,” Singh said, warning Trudeau not to take NDP support for granted.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said his party would oppose the throne, which he claimed for not having laid out a plan to revive the economy, especially the sky-high cost of living.

Gov. Mary Simon will hold the throne of the Ottawa Senate on November 23, 2021.
Gov. Mary Simon will hold the throne of the Ottawa Senate on November 23, 2021. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Despite winning only a minority of seats, Trudeau claimed in the speech that the Canadians gave the parliamentarians clear direction in the September 20 election.

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“Not only do they want parliamentarians to work together to put this pandemic behind us, they also want bold, concrete solutions to meet the other challenges we face,” the speech read.

“This is the time for parliamentarians to work together to get great things done and shape a better future for our children.”

There were no surprises in the speech, which reiterated the promises made by the Liberals in their election platform and focused largely on economic recovery from the pandemic.

The cornerstones of that recovery will be more aggressive action to combat climate change, measures to produce more affordable housing, and concluding negotiations with two holdout provinces and two territories that have not yet signed the Liberals’ $ 10-a-day National Child Care Program.

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Reconciliation was also a major theme in the speech, which was held in part on Inuktitut, as well as in French and English, by Simon, the first native to hold the post of Viceroy.

She began the speech with her own reflections on the pain caused by the discovery last spring of what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves of native children at two former schools.

“We can not hide from these discoveries; they open deep wounds,” Simon said, adding that “despite the deep pain, there is hope.”

The speech promised, among other things, to create a national monument in honor of survivors from residential schools.

Simon also issued a personal call for action against climate change.

“Our earth is in danger. From a warming Arctic to the increasing destruction of natural disasters, our country and our people need help. We need to move the talk to action and adapt where we need to,” she said.

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Amid extreme floods and landslides in British Columbia, the speech reiterated the Liberals’ pledge to develop the first ever national adaptation strategy to help Canadians adapt to the changing climate.

It argued that economic growth goes hand in hand with protecting the environment and that it is now time to “go further, faster” in combating climate change.

It promised to “strengthen efforts to prevent and prepare for floods, wildfires, droughts, coastal erosion and other extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.”

The speech – held to a much smaller audience than usual by masked dignitaries, senators and MPs in an attempt to maintain physical distance – outlined only the broad outlines of the government’s agenda in a few details.

It argued that ending the pandemic “forever” is the best way to revive the economy.

But with employment now back at pre-pandemic levels and nearly 90 percent of Canadians fully vaccinated, the speech reiterated the Liberals’ plan to replace emergency aid that kept millions of Canadians and businesses afloat during the pandemic with more targeted assistance to those hardest hit by the health crisis.

– Additional reporting by Erika Ibrahim

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