Trudeau’s Throne Speech reads like a fairy tale. Can he make it reality?


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It was a Throne Speech unlike any other seen in this country, at a critical time for Trudeau’s government. With daily, positive cases of the coronavirus doubling in the last month, Trudeau needs to convince Canadians his government has what it takes to guide them through it.

And Trudeau’s job is on the line. If he can’t get his agenda passed in parliament, his government could fall.

What is a Throne speech and how was this one different?

In addition to highlighting the government’s priorities, the Speech from the Throne, as it is called, opens a new session of Parliament. Trudeau said he suspended Canada’s parliament in August in order to ‘reset’ his agenda as his last Throne Speech in December could have never envisioned such an historical health and economic crisis.

Trudeau’s government drafted the speech, but it was read by the Governor General, former astronaut Julie Payette, as the Queen’s representative in Canada.

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This speech was unprecedented for many reasons. For starters, two of Canada’s opposition leaders weren’t there to hear it. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, have tested positive for the coronavirus and are still in quarantine.

Far fewer members of parliament and senators were in attendance than usual, and all wore masks and were physically distant. Trudeau, seated to Payette’s right, wore a mask for the entire 55-minute speech.

What did Trudeau say about the pandemic?

The speech declared that Trudeau’s government would “trust science to lead the fight until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.” It laid out four pillars of Trudeau’s pandemic plan: save lives; support people and businesses through the crisis for as long as it takes; rebuild the country to be stronger and more resilient; and fight discrimination and racism, and promote equality.

Key to Trudeau’s healthcare strategy will be to pick up the slack where provincial governments are clearly facing challenges. He promised to boost funding in the areas of testing, long-term care for seniors and support for daycare centers and schools. He also pledged to create a national daycare program and a national, subsidized drug program.

What does that mean for the economy?

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With the mantra, “This is not a time for austerity,” the speech promised to create a million jobs for Canadians through a mix of programs, including subsidizing wages, skills retraining and incentives for businesses to hire new employees, especially in environmentally focused sectors.

In addition, Trudeau said he will continue to provide income support for the unemployed, including making it easier to qualify for unemployment and a new benefit for those who do not qualify.

Did the speech say anything about the environment?

Trudeau’s government has promised to be more environmentally focused and to that end it pledged to invest in greener jobs.

The speech also promised that Canada will immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal, and pass a new law mandating net-zero emissions by 2050.

There will also be a significant investment in electric cars and batteries in years to come, it said.

What do Canadians think of the speech?

Nearly every paragraph of this speech represents billions of dollars in spending. Those advocating for an expanded pandemic response were mostly pleased with the commitments.

But in a statement about the speech, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce warned the plan could “burden future generations with a crushing debt load.”

Other business groups were more supportive, saying Trudeau was doing the right thing by providing direct support to businesses.

Some environmental activists were disappointed, though, describing the promised actions on climate as not sufficiently concrete.

What happens now?

This could be an existential crisis for the Trudeau government because Throne Speeches are followed by votes of confidence, if they don’t pass parliament, the government falls.

Trudeau’s government is in a minority position. If it can’t win support from at least one of three opposition parties, the Throne Speech won’t pass parliament and Canada will likely have to hold another election.

The Conservatives have already said they will not support the Trudeau government. “We’ve looked at this Speech from the Throne and Conservatives cannot support it. It is another speech that is full of buzz words and grand gesture with very little to no follow-up plan,” said Candice Bergen, deputy opposition leader during a press conference right after the speech was delivered.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the further left New Democratic Party, would not commit one way or the other. Singh said he would ask Trudeau to spend more on financial support for those who can’t get back to work, and to provide paid sick leave for all Canadians.

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