The Speech from the Throne
Parliament finally resumed with a new Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. This Throne Speech came just ten months after the last one. The government promised the speech would reset their agenda, which was supposedly what justified the prorogation of Parliament. Instead, the speech largely rehashed old promises. This seems to confirm what many people, myself included, believe the reason for prorogation really was: to shut down committees investigating the government’s conduct in relation to the WE charity.
The speech made many promises but provided few details. The government promised to “create” a million new jobs, but came with no details on how that will be accomplished. There was no mention of oil and gas, pipelines, forestry or agriculture. The Western Canadian resource industry is not looking for handouts like auto manufacturers in Ontario. We just need government to get out of the way so that we can get back to generating jobs and prosperity across this country.
Our new leader, Erin O’Toole, has been very vocal about western alienation. We expected the west’s concerns to be acknowledged in the Throne Speech, but it seems as though Western alienation and concerns about national unity simply do not exist in this Prime Minister’s mind.
Given the speech’s immense shortcomings, I joined my Conservative colleagues in voting against it. However, it passed this week with NDP support. As I have remarked before, this government often operates as a majority, with the NDP supporting them at every confidence vote.
Canada Recovery Benefit
In order to address the millions of Canadians who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown last spring the government introduced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This program was designed for those not covered by Employment Insurance (EI) and paid $2,000 per month. At one point eight million Canadians were collecting CERB. These payments are one the many reasons why our budget deficit now exceeds $400 billion and is climbing by the day. Many small businesses have been advocating for the government to move away from CERB because it was more lucrative for some workers to stay home and thereby was making it difficult for businesses to find workers.
In August, the government announced it was phasing out CERB and replacing it with the Canada Recovery Benefit which would only pay $400 per week. The first bill introduced in this new session of Parliament increased the payment from $400 per week to $500 per week or the equivalent of the previous program. This new program is to run for the next six months. In addition the government announced that the Business Wage Subsidy would be extended until next summer.
It has now been 18 months since this government delivered a budget. Since that time hundreds of billions of dollars have been allocated to deal with COVID-19 and the Finance Minister has resigned and gone back to private life in Toronto. New Finance Minister Freeland indicates that Canadians can expect to end 2020 without seeing a budget. With a total budget deficit this year likely close to half a trillion dollars, I believe this is totally unacceptable.
The Government of Canada finally approved a faster COVID-19 test this week, but we may still be a long way from actually acquiring it. UK residents have access to free at-home tests; the US FDA approved a home test kit back in April; Germany has commercial tests available online.
This is what the Prime Minister has claimed is his top priority. Yet nothing was done while people continue to wait in queues for hours and then days for results. It was only after immense pressure from our Official Opposition, media attention, and falling poll numbers that the Prime Minister finally took action on this pivotal issue. We call upon the government to get these tests into the hands of Canadians as soon as possible.
The Government had planned to not resume parliamentary committees that were studying the WE Charity scandal. Our negotiating team made it clear that this was a complete non-starter for us. The government relented this week, and committees will be resuming.
Will there be an Election?
In my last e-newsletter, I included a survey asking if now was the right time for a federal election. The results were: Yes: 69.3 per cent; No: 30.7 per cent.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. As I noted above, with NDP support the Liberal government was able to survive its Throne Speech confidence vote, despite my Conservative colleagues and I voting against it. We will continue to be ready to fight an election should the Prime Minister call one.
Video Town Hall
I’ll be hosting video town halls over Zoom over the coming months. Please reply by email if you’re interested in joining a meeting and speaking with me and fellow constituents in a group setting.
We don’t call the shots in Opposition. With NDP and Bloc Quebecois support, this government often operates as a majority rather than a minority. However, sharing your questions and comments with me allows me to bring real-world examples to the House of Commons, and helps determine what questions we ask of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
If you have something to share, don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.