OTTAWA – The minority Liberal government has unveiled what it calls an “ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality” that pledges to create over one million jobs and expand or introduce benefit programs and supports for nearly every sector of society.
But while today’s throne speech makes it clear the Liberals intend to make good on earlier promises to combat climate change, economic inequality and systemic racism, they’re also acknowledging that not much can be done if the COVID-19 pandemic is not brought under control.
Direct measures to combat the possibility of a second wave drowning the country include promises to help boost testing capacity and targeted support to businesses ordered shut by local public health authorities.
And in the meantime, they’re pledging an expansion of the employment insurance system, extending the federal wage subsidy program through to next summer and more money for some of Canada’s hardest-hit sectors.
They’ll also get to work on new national strategies for child care, long-term care homes, a disability benefit program and legislation for their goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
The suite of promises comes without a price tag and few timelines, with the Liberals saying the course of events will determine what gets done when _ and that they’ll make protecting and supporting Canadians their top priority.
Conservatives, Bloc will not support throne speech
Candice Bergen, deputy leader of the opposition, confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the Conservatives will not be supporting the throne speech.
Bergen filled in for party leader Erin O’Toole who was unable to attend the Conservative Party’s reaction event after contracting COVID-19.
“The only thing that we’ve seen from this speech from the throne is that this was the way for Trudeau to cover up his scandals. It was a way for him to shut down the committees,” stated Bergen.
“Now he is promising grand gestures, interfering in provincial jurisdictions, not supporting the provinces when they have asked for supports and raising taxes.”
Bergen also draws concerns from a section in the speech that stated “the government will go into debt so that Canadians don’t have to.” She claims it’s a sign the Liberals believe budgets will balance themselves and that Canadians should be very concerned.
The Bloc Quebecois joins the Conservatives in not having confidence in the throne speech. The party is angry over what it considers plans to intrude in provincial jurisdiction.
Leader Yves-Franois Blanchet tweeted out on Wednesday afternoon saying the government has not listened to the urgent and legitimate demands of Quebec and the provinces.
No decision yet from NDP
The fate of the Liberal government may come down to the federal NDP.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party hasn’t decided whether it can vote to support the minority Liberal government’s throne speech.
He says he wants to see the Liberals to abandon plans to phase out the $500-a-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit for those thrown out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a promise to provide workers paid sick leave.
Singh wouldn’t say clearly whether those are conditions for backing the Liberals in a confidence vote on the speech, which will come after a debate in the House of Commons.
Singh says the speech, promising everything from help for provinces to expand their COVID-19 testing capacity to action against systemic racism, is full of nice words but he wants concrete commitments.
He says he wants a bill before Parliament on extending the CERB and providing sick leave.
(With files from Moises Canales and The Canadian Press)