by: Surjit Singh Flora
The A sweeping set of benefits and initiatives marked Governor General Julie Payette’s anticipated Throne Speech on Wednesday, which opened the second session of the 43rd Parliament.
The Throne Speech, which outlines the government’s agenda and elaborated on the details of its plan to support Canadians in the face of COVID-19, included an array of reveals focusing on infrastructure upgrades, federal benefits, job opportunities and a sustained effort to combat systemic racism throughout the country.
“Our realities have changed.
Payette said, therefore, our approach must. This epidemic is the worst public health crisis in Canadian history.
The speech, which emphasized that the free government methods must be changed to bridge the fundamental gaps in society, comes as key provinces grapple with rising COVID-19 case counts and fear over a “second wave” of the virus that may stretch into the winter.
Payette’s speech emphasized a range of benefits aimed at supporting middle-class workers, including an extension of the country’s emergency wage subsidy program until next summer, creating one million jobs, and accelerating national long-term care standards and the national drug care plan. The same sentiments were echoed by PM Justin Trudeau in a televised speech later that evening.
Payette outlined the four foundations that will steer the federal government’s priorities, including plans to invest in infrastructure, such as public transportation, energy-saving renovation, clean energy and broadband in rural areas over the next two years.
Besides, Trudeau has promised new benefits for people with disabilities and made Canada’s largest investment in employee training in history, with a plan to surpass Canada’s climate target by 2030 and establish a net-zero emission right by 2050.
“Right now, we have an opportunity to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better,” Trudeau said Wednesday afternoon.
“When it comes to our health, the economy, jobs, equality, and the environment, we must take bold action.”
The foundations laid out in Wednesday’s speech emphasize the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, support for workers and businesses, strengthening the middle classes and defending Canadian values.
Payette said the federal government needs to do more to deal with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The Liberal Party vowed to support the provinces to improve their testing capabilities and reduce the waiting time for testing. Wednesday’s speech came ahead of an announcement by Doug Ford’s Ontario government to expand COVID-19 testing to pharmacies throughout the province, to reduce waiting times for residents.
The feds also announced that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) would expire at the end of the month, and Canadians will have to look to the enhanced Employment Insurance (EI) program for financial support.
The Liberals have promised additional financial support to businesses that will have to shut down due to a local public health decision temporarily.
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended through next summer to help businesses overcome the pandemic’s financial strains. The government also again promised a transitional Canada Recovery Benefit for those who won’t qualify for benefits under a new expanded employment-insurance system to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by the end of this month.
The announcement of more significant support for frontline workers and long-term care homes was appreciated by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), who said Wednesday that the measures were appreciated, though more support is needed for Old Age Security and others of concern to their members.
“The impact of COVID-19 on our older population has been immeasurable,” says Bill VanGorder, CARP’s Chief Policy Officer.
“Seniors in every corner of our society are at significant risk in many ways—poor mental health from social isolation, financial insecurity and the obvious threats to their health are at the top of the list of urgent issues the government needs to act on now as we plan our path forward as a nation. We’re relieved to see some of these concerns reflected in today’s speech.”
The federal government has also vowed to fund early learning programs and a national pharma care program.
In terms of building back better employment opportunities, the feds will launch a campaign to create more than one million jobs and restore employment to previous levels. A strong focus will be on cleantech and green projects, continuing a prior commitment to climate action.
The feds vowed that thousands of jobs would be created to retrofit homes and buildings with green technology, cutting energy costs for Canadian families and businesses. The government will invest in more charging stations for electric vehicles.
The government will set up a fund to attract investment to produce zero-emission products and halve the corporate tax rate for companies that create clean technologies, thereby enabling the sector to create more jobs and making Canada a world leader in clean technologies.
On defending Canadian values, the Liberals say that collective experiences will inform a fight against racism of marginalized communities and Indigenous Peoples.
Addressing hate speech online, providing more economic support for specific communities, and increasing public procurement diversity are all on the Liberals’ agenda.
As Black Canadians and Indigenous people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, the government promised to take steps to ensure that criminal justice is used to keep people safe, and not to be discriminatory or counterproductive.
But for all the promises PM Trudeau made four years ago, it seems like this is the same Trudeau in a new COVIDthemed wedding suit, some critics claim. It’s easy to make the promises, but the Liberals have zero chances of actually putting forward a plan to do these things, said federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
“I know that COVID-19 has exposed a lot of problems, but these aren’t new problems,” Singh said in a statement late Wednesday.
“A lot of them existed before the pandemic. And Justin Trudeau has been in power before with a majority government and hasn’t made these things better… he’s had six years to deliver something and has not done it.”