The Morning Brief – 09.23.20

By Bruce Carson


The Path to the Speech from the Throne (SFT) – Part 4

The Need for Practical, pragmatic Promises and Solutions

Focus on Health, Support Growing the Economy and Jobs

Perhaps this is as good a time as any to move away from the thought that a general election would follow from the vote on the SFT. It may not now, given the rise of the virus, its impact on parliamentarians, but as usual with these matters, one never knows.

Even a week, or two weeks ago, it looked highly possible that Prime Minister Trudeau, having set out his bold new plan or vision for Canadians on September 23, would visit the Governor General, seeking dissolution of this parliament.

It was always doubtful that opposition parties would combine in a non-confidence vote to bring the government down, particularly with NDP leader Singh calling at least some of the shots dealing with SFT content.

However, with what some have called the second wave of COVID-19 attacking numerous Canadians, political party leaders, MPs, staff and security personnel, it is doubtful that Trudeau would decide this is an ideal time to call an election, even if Mr. Horgan has called one in British Columbia.  Canadians are rightly concerned about their health and their ability to financially withstand another possible shut down of the economy.

Arguably, the Liberal leader and his party triggering such an election, still within the first year of a minority parliament would be punished by voters. This is not 2000, when Prime Minister Chretien stopped in Winnipeg, in the middle of a flood, threw a couple of sandbags and returned to Ottawa to call a general election.

If the government is going to fall it will probably be as a result of a non-confidence vote on either the fall economic update or the spring 2021 budget, unless, of course Mr. Trudeau decides to prematurely terminate his own government.

One last point, late Senator John Godfrey used to say that one of the greatest things about being a Senator was hearing three words after a general election; ‘good morning Senator.’ One could transpose this to Trudeau as with every day without an election, he is greeted with ‘good morning prime minister.’

Dealing with the SFT, Bloomberg in an article a couple of days ago wrote that the speech will contain a three part agenda. First, focus on health care, second, medium term commitments to support Canadians and third, a resiliency agenda to spur recovery and rebuild the economy.

It seems that decarbonisation and build back better have been moved off the front policy burner displaced by a more practical approach focusing on mending the holes that the pandemic exposed in Canada’s health, social and economic safety net, while ensuring that the 1.1 Canadians who lost jobs because of the pandemic are financially protected.

With health care, the focus will be on testing and tracing as well as ensuring long term care homes for Canada’s elderly are safe and secure from the ravages of another wave of COVID -19. While there is $19 billion on the table from the Safe Restart program agreed to by provinces, territories and the federal government, securing the safety of long term care facilities will have to become a joint federal-provincial venture, with a possible carve out for Quebec.

The SFT will, no doubt, address the provision of childcare, but again, this is a matter that lies within provincial jurisdiction. If spaces are to be created across Canada, more must be done than simply throw money at the problem. This is an equality issue and should be treated as such by our leaders.

Experience in the 2004-2005 era was that money sent to the provinces from the federal government for childcare, did not so much result in an increase of spaces, but in badly needed raises for child care workers. So again, if the goal is more spaces, implementation of the promise will be the key to success.

The SFT must address the issue of equality and inclusion for those whose lives have been hurt by the pandemic; women, Indigenous people, racialized Canadians and young people. Again, this must be more than a simple promise; it must be acted upon with a full implementation plan.

Recent actions by the government on homelessness and equality of opportunities for Black entrepreneurs are a good start, but more must be done.

With regard to the environment, climate change and emission reduction, the SFT should recognize the contribution of the energy sector to Canada’s economy and focus on technology and innovation as a means to reduce emissions.

Jack Mintz during the Government Analytics webinar last week declared that “we will have an energy transition” and technology should be the answer and Canada can develop and provide those technologies to the world. Carbon capture and storage, small modular reactors, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel and battery storage are all areas where Canada should be showing leadership. In an article published in the Globe yesterday Deborah Yedlin, Peter Tertzakian and Kevin Krausert agreed that an energy transition is happening in Canada.

An example is the agreement being worked on between Ontario and the federal government to invest in electric vehicles and using Canada’s resources to develop battery technology.

The government should signal that it is pressing forward with a digital agenda. Kevin Lynch and Paul Deegan in a recent article exhort Canada to become a leader in digital transformation, advocating 5G deployment in urban and rural areas. David Dodge has commented that we must realize we live in a digital world.

An area that has received scant attention in the lead up to the SFT is the challenges faced by Canada’s Indigenous people. This was a policy area where the Trudeau government showed great promise in 2015, with the possibility of transformational change. However, Trudeau’s mantra that there is no relationship more important to his government than with Canada’s Indigenous people has grown tired and without real purpose.

The SFT should contain a pledge from the government to do better. It is time for action on the many outstanding issues, not just “pretty words” as NDP leader Singh often describes Trudeau’s rhetoric.

Will we see the beginning of a guaranteed annual income in the SFT; many argue that the time for this program is now.

The question that will be asked after the SFT and Trudeau’s speech this evening has to be, was this worth it? Was the SFT and Trudeau’s follow up speech worth shuttering parliament so that great minds could concentrate uninterrupted on the future of Canada’s economy and social structure or was it just a mechanism to shut down the WE Charity investigations by House Committees?

To Come

  • Speech from the Throne
  • Prime Minister Trudeau addresses Canadians this evening
  • The Supreme Court of Canada continues hearing arguments on the carbon tax case
September 29
  • First presidential debate
September 30
  • GDP numbers for July to be released