Conservatives look for messages of fiscal restraint, national unity in today’s throne speech

The federal Conservatives are looking for signs that the Liberal government will take steps to rein in spending and unite Canadians in today’s speech from the throne.

Deputy Conservative Leader Candice Bergen and Conservative House Leader Gerard Deltell held a news conference ahead of today’s speech, which will be delivered at 3 p.m. ET by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, to lay out their expectations for the government’s priorities.

The speech will be followed by an address to the nation at 6:30 p.m. ET from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Bergen said emergency spending was required to get Canadians through the pandemic crisis that shut down businesses and threw millions of people out of work. But the government must better manage the nation’s finances and take control of a ballooning deficit.

“We believe that support is needed, but there has to be fiscal restraint,” she said. “We’d like to see some fiscal management and some indication that the government understands this and will begin to manage the finances of the country in a responsible way.”

Deltell said emergency measures were necessary, but the Liberal government engaged in “superfluous” spending, making announcements about new money “every day, every week.”

Bergen said Liberal policies have failed to help many sectors, including manufacturing, fishing and forestry. They have also pitted Canadians against one another, and she is looking for a Liberal promise to unite Canadians with a message of hope.

Ethics controversy simmers

The throne speech comes as the Liberal government tries to get past an ethics controversy over the government’s decision to grant WE Charity a contract to manage a student volunteer grant program. Trudeau did not recuse himself from discussions around the contract, even though members of his family had close ties to the organization.

Parliament reopens today after Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month, saying the move was necessary to reset the government’s agenda that was knocked off course by the global pandemic.

The session kicks off with the scaled-back throne speech ceremony, with a smaller number of attendees in the Senate chamber due to physical distancing rules.

Two of the opposition leaders — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet — as well as their spouses, have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Deltell said while Canadians do not want an election, the Conservatives will not prop up the government if it fails to address critical priorities in the throne speech. A confidence vote on the speech means it could trigger an election.

“If it’s bad for Canadians … we will not be supporting it,” Deltell said.

The Conservatives are also pushing for more money for health transfers to the provinces, as well as rapid testing to detect COVID-19 as some jurisdictions struggle with long waits for tests.