Liberal government launches third term with throne speech focused on lingering COVID-19 crisis
The Liberal government begins its third term today with a speech from the throne by Governor General Mary Simon – and a plan to pass a flurry of laws before the Christmas recess.
Just over a year ago, Simon’s predecessor Julie Payette gave a Speech from the Throne in a nearly empty Senate chamber as cases of COVID-19 escalated and the economy looked for its best trouble.
The Liberal government – faced with lingering questions about its handling of a summer scholarship contract with WE Charity – had just prorogued Parliament to press the reset button for a second term that had been consumed by COVID-19 and the fallout from this contract.
Today the situation is quite different. Payette is gone, social distancing rules have been relaxed. The pandemic is not over, but the country’s high vaccination rate has brought COVID-19 under control.
The government is on a reasonably solid political footing following its return to power in the September elections. The economy, plagued by booming supply chains and rising inflation, faces its own share of challenges, but government largesse has supported household savings.
â€œTheir second term was really swallowed up by COVID-19,â€ said Lori Turnbull, associate professor of political science and director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. “So this is a real time of reset for the government, even more than a typical speech from the throne would be.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Liberal Government House Leader Mark Holland said Simon’s speech would focus on the health crisis and new programs to help a beleaguered country.
“He will focus very strongly on the circumstances of the pandemic and put the pandemic behind us and the growth continues,” he said.
Holland said the speech would herald new financial support for sectors that are still “negatively affected by the pandemic”. In the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to extend the Hiring for Canada’s Stimulus Program – which subsidizes businesses that hire new workers – until March 2022, and to support an arts and entertainment sector. hard hit culture.
Today’s speech also provides the government with an opportunity to telegraph some of its top legislative priorities.
After months of lobbying from the opposition NDP, unions and other groups, the Liberal government is expected to soon introduce a bill requiring all federally regulated workers to have access to at least 10 days off. sickness paid. The liberal election platform said the goal is to resolve the “dilemma” of workers “going to work sick or not having enough money to put food on the table.”
To curb anti-vaccination protests in hospitals and other health care facilities, the Liberal government will introduce legislation to criminalize such protests.
â€œThese are the people who are on the front lines in keeping us safe. I think it’s the smallest thing we can do to make sure they themselves are safe in their jobs,â€ said Holland.
“We have seen how they have been threatened in a number of different circumstances. It is totally and totally unacceptable.”
The ban on conversion therapy
The government is also expected to resubmit its bill to ban conversion therapy, which would criminalize the dangerous practice of attempting to forcibly â€œconvertâ€ LGBTQ people to heterosexuality.
After months of debate and some Conservative opposition, the last bill on this subject died on the Order Paper when the government called the September election.
“I see no reason why we should delay this matter at all,” Holland said, adding that he wanted all of these bills passed by Christmas.
Greg MacEachern is a Liberal strategist and Senior Vice President at Proof Strategies. He said that while there is reason to believe Canada is turning the tide of the pandemic, the government cannot afford to look complacent.
“Election pressure is removed from government in exchange for a much bigger problem and, for most Canadians, much more meaningful, and that is our health and well-being and how we are getting back to ‘normal’ “” MacEachern told CBC News.
The pressure to get things done
MacEachern said the Liberal government should use the time it has until Christmas – when partisanship may be at its lowest after the election – to deliver tangible legislative results.
He said the Speech from the Throne is also an opportunity to use the national stage to urge Ontario to join an early learning and child care framework that will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to provinces to help reduce the cost of child care. New Brunswick has yet to sign the child care framework.
MacEachern said liberals must avoid the political trap that has ensnared US President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats – the perception that little has been accomplished after a year of surveillance.
“It’s not about signaling virtue. People don’t want lofty goals right now as they’ve been staring at the four walls of their living room for 18-20 months. They want real results,” a- he declared. “It is really important that the government show rather than say.”
CBC News will broadcast live the Speech from the Throne delivered Tuesday by Governor General Mary Simon. Here’s the procedure to follow :
- CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton will host a special live on CBC News starting at noon ET on CBC News Network and CBC Television. You can also stream it on CBC Gem or the CBC News app.
- Susan Bonner and Chris Hall will host the CBC Radio One and CBC Listen specials starting at 1 p.m. ET.
- CBCNews.ca will broadcast live events and post regular updates.
In a minority parliament, the Liberal government needs at least one of the opposition parties to support its bills to get them through the House of Commons.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Monday he was ready to cooperate and “speed up” legislation on sick leave, a ban on conversion therapy and new protections for healthcare workers – but he will not support any bills that reduce COVID-19 income supports.
“If they are going to hurt people, we are not going to support these bills,” Singh told reporters.
MacEachern said the NDP must strike a delicate balance between helping pass the legislation it championed in the last campaign and avoiding the appearance of being “liberal dogs” – which would fuel a Conservative-led story about a Liberal-NDP â€œcoalitionâ€. in the works.
“It is a difficult path to trace,” he said.
Turnbull said the NDP would likely back the government on “just about anything” to keep the minority Parliament alive and avoid an election. She added that such support should not be interpreted as a healthy form of cooperation between the parties.
“Mutual Hellish Landscape”
Basically they’re saying, ‘We’re going to yell at each other and keep throwing mud at each other and scoring points, but we’ll pass your legislation because we don’t want to go to an election because we don’t have one. money, â€Turnbull said.
“It’s not cooperation. It’s like some kind of mutual hellish landscape.”
As for the Tories, Turnbull said O’Toole should welcome Parliament’s return because, as leader of the official opposition, the Commons “gives him some legitimacy” as he battles an internal challenge. to his leadership.
“Parliament is a safer place for him than the media,” she said.
Tory wrangling over the House of Commons vaccine mandate – and further claims by Hollande and other liberals that some Tories are dodging the requirement with questionable medical exemptions – have put O’Toole on the defensive, a said Turnbull.
Speaking to reporters last week, O’Toole said he wanted Tory MPs to focus not on its future but rather on the economy, “a corrupt and cover-up Liberal government” and what ‘he calls “a professional approach to dealing with the pandemic.”