Overnight the Trudeau government delivered its much anticipated Throne Speech. The speech, which was delivered in the House of Commons Thursday afternoon, is the opportunity for the government to start outlining its economic and legislative priorities for the year. What follows are five things you need to know about what the throne speech has to say.
1. “An enabling law for Bill C-76 [Ship Container Container Security Act]”
So where did we leave off with the government’s plan to increase border security? In the fall, the Trudeau government had a very basic idea that border authorities need a more structured system to screen in cargo containers before shipping them out the country, an idea that will make life harder for everyone else that imports these goods. It was the government’s long-awaited key piece of the Beyond the Border agreement with the U.S.
But keep in mind the bill is still a very long way from becoming law. Following a Throne Speech, or more often, a Throne Speech delivered right after the spring parliamentary session is over, any major bills first need to move through the first reading of the Commons. In the current case, the bill will probably be just as mired in committee as anything else. And then there’s the matter of what happens if the bill didn’t make it through committee, or got shot down by MPs; Trudeau couldn’t just pick it up from where the committee finished its work.
Trudeau’s idea, in other words, is still a “precautionary principle,” and one that at first glance could sound like something he wanted to pitch before the June 2019 federal election. The government would have to use common sense to decide whether to enforce a piece of legislation that’s only just been sent back to committee for discussion.
2. “The Power of the Passport”
Turning our doors away from the foreign visitors who might be having a nervous moment. This is a really important policy. The government’s budget bill detailed a bold idea, and this new government is determined to make it happen.
3. “Constructive dialogue to improve the maternal, newborn and child health”
In the throne speech, the government reaffirmed its commitment to working with the provinces and territories to improve the maternal, newborn and child health outcomes in Canada, something that was a key feature of the Trudeau’s 2015 election platform. The women-specific commitment came with no new concrete commitments beyond a reiteration of existing programs and projects. There was also no new money for the issue.
4. “Canadian Values”
Any legislation that’s going to be passed by the government likely requires a revision of the entire Liberal party’s version of national identity. This piece of the throne speech reveals that while the Trudeau government has reaffirmed its commitment to accepting Syrian refugees, they are not seeking to change anything else about the Canada that exists today. A change to our national identity, rather, would have to be the result of a court ruling, which makes this a pretty distant possibility. The most likely option is less radical.
5. Transit funding
Getting rid of the “backyard” Tory budget cuts that cut transit funds. Had the Liberals simply chosen to renew transit programs originally intended for existing projects, they would have only begun to pay the price for the broken promises that made them win the 2015 election. Instead, the new government is being realistic, announcing that funding for transit projects will be tied to three measures: meeting current fare hikes, being able to raise costs for commuters without them being able to sue and of course, being able to stop Tory-approved transit cuts.