Throne Speech and Prorogation amount to failed exercises in diversion

Parliament has returned after an unnecessary prorogation with a Throne Speech that has been described as one of the worst ever and sounded more like electioneering than a parliamentary blue-print.  It contained mostly old initiatives and a few consumer friendly ideas that New Democrats have been telling the government about for years. 

The speech fell short on a number of fronts and didn’t even acknowledge the majority of challenges that relate to our aging population which is a big concern for most of the people I speak to in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.  True, there was mention of maintaining a monetary commitment to study dementia, but that only scratches the surface of the work the government could be doing to ensure our seniors are able to live with dignity.  

First Nations looking for a signal that this government will respect treaty obligations received no assurances.  They also worry the focus on on‐reserve education systems will be similar to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which laid out a lot of conditions and liabilities, but provided no resources to meet these. 

There was no job creation plan to address the fact that we have 1.3 million Canadians out of work to go along with the problems of runaway youth unemployment and underemployment.  There was nothing to mark an end to the billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry, but the government is still claiming they can’t afford to give a tax break to small businesses despite the fact that this is where most jobs are created.  

This is not the stuff of a government that is good on the economy which might help explain why, after years of singular economic focus, the Conservatives are starting to recognize that consumers are being pinched left, right, and centre.  They tried to paint the Throne Speech as being aimed at consumers, but we have heard this before and, for all their past promises, they have consistently failed to deliver. They have a history of voting against better protection for consumers and are fresh off raising tariffs that make over 1200 products more expensive.  There was also talk of ending geographic price gouging, but for people in Northern Ontario we will believe it when we see it at the gas pumps.

The irony of the speech was that it didn’t touch on the issue that Canadians are identifying as among the most important challenges facing our country – the state of our democracy and flagging trust in the institutions that are a feature of it – despite being delivered in the Senate which is something of a ground zero for the problem.  The Prime Minister can only hope for Canadians to lose interest in the topic since it is clear he is not willing to do much of anything to change the way the Senate works or how it serves him and his party so well in ways that have nothing to do with legislation. 

If Canadians want to do something about a Senate stuffed with party hacks and fundraisers, the Throne Speech was a clear indication that the Conservatives are not the party to do it.  The Prime Minister jetted off to Brussels immediately after the speech to avoid Question Period.  It is obvious that he is desperately trying to change the channel, but Canadians want and deserve some honest answers.  He bought himself a little more time when he prorogued parliament and again when he left for Europe, but that won’t change the fact that there are tough questions waiting to be answered and nobody else can do it for him.