Groups, politicians list priorities ahead of Trudeau throne speech

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- Herald file photo.

Interest groups and politicians are putting their priorities forward in the hopes they’re included in tomorrow’s Liberal government Throne Speech, which will be followed by a confidence vote in the House of Commons.

Last month the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, prorogued parliament to prepare for the speech, which will overview the party’s plans for post-pandemic recovery. While critics decried the prorogation and accused Trudeau of trying to block committees looking into allegations of ethical misconduct, the prime minister said the move was necessary to trigger a throne speech and confidence vote on the government’s plan.

There’s been speculation the Liberals will seek to overhaul the social assistance and employment insurance programs, which struggled at the onset of COVID-19.

Other political parties and interest groups have also been outlining their wants and needs ahead of Wednesday’s speech.

Nature Saskatchewan is one of them.

The organization is calling for a “green and inclusive” recovery in a letter to the editor sent out late Friday.

“Progressing to the goal of protecting 30 per cent of our land and oceans by 2030 could allow us to build a more sustainable economy, create good jobs and address climate change,” the organization wrote.

They’re part of a group of over 230 organizations urging the government to put nature at the heart of its recovery efforts.

“Our future depends on a new direction for Canada that will protect the planet and all of the species that share it with us,” the letter, signed by executive director Jordan Ignatiuk, read.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) also laid out its priorities last week.

In a press release issued Thursday, the CFIB said its latest survey indicated that small business owner’s priorities are creating a more competitive tax environment, a broad-based recovery plan that promotes economic growth across the economy, keeping spending under control and reducing red tape.

The organization said that some steps can include delaying any planned tax increases, not making any temporary changes to employment insurance permanent without consultation and keeping non-COVID-related spending in check.

“Business owners have endured a lot over the past six months, from closures to devastatingly low sales and new costs, and now they’re facing a long and uncertain winter. They need to know the government is behind them with policies that will support their survival, not just in the short term, but long term as well,” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice-President at CFIB.

“Small businesses understand the need to have larger than normal deficits to deal with COVID-19 but don’t want to see extra spending outside of that. They want a strong focus on economic recovery, which includes keeping today’s and tomorrow’s taxes reasonable. Now is not the time to put in place costly new programs that will result in tax hikes down the road.”

It wasn’t just interest groups speaking out. Last Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe sent a letter to the prime minister outlining the province’s priorities.

He called for the carbon tax to be paused until the Supreme Court has rendered a decision on its constitutionality, and expressed concern that the promised ambitious green agenda is “code for shutting down our energy industry.”

Moe wrote that he hopes the government will commit strongly to ensuring a sustainable oil and gas sector in the Throne Speech.

He asked for support towards the deployment of nuclear small modular reactors and for the province’s $4 billion irrigation project while calling for a change to equalization programs.

“Through addressing these priorities in the upcoming Throne Speech, your government would be taking meaningful steps to address the priorities of Saskatchewan people,” Moe said.

“Importantly, addressing these priorities would also be significant in addressing the sentiments of western alienation that exists amongst many Saskatchewan residents and western Canadians.”

O’Toole and Trudeau speak ahead of Throne Speech

Trudeau also spoke with other federal leaders ahead of tomorrow’s speech. The Conservative party released their readout, or overview, of that call late last week.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called for a ramping up of COVID-19 testing capabilities nationally and that Canada should be more self-reliant ahead of a possible second wave by producing more personal protective equipment and medical equipment domestically.

He also called for additional small business support, including rent relief for businesses, as opposed to landlords, and additional support for workforce recovery on sectors such as tourism that will be impacted longer-term.

According to the readout, Trudeau said he desires to “build back better” and highlighted net-zero targets and a more sustainable economy as his goals.

O’Toole raised concerns about challenges faced by the oil and gas industry, calling on an end to Bill C-69 and for less restrictive conditions on Canadian energy products, arguing that Canadian projects are more environmentally and ethically sound than those from other countries.

The two leaders discussed funding for health care. O’Toole said additional funds shouldn’t come with strings attached, as every province approached health care differently. Trudeau expressed concern with a lack of accountability.

According to the readout, Trudeau said that after his Speech from the Throne, new legislation would be introduced address the end of CERG, and that old legislation related to medical assistance in dying, sexual assault training for judges and conversion therapy would be re-introduced.

The two agreed that the situation regarding Indigenous and on-Indigenous fisheries in Nova Scotia needs an urgent solution to de-escalate tensions.