Speech from the Throne – What is said and what it means
Today, the federal government unveiled the broad details of its legislative agenda in the Speech from the Throne presented by Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette. These speeches outline high level proposals but are often very short on details. This was no exception. The details of the proposals will role out in the coming days and months.
Traditionally the speech includes plenty of pomp and ceremony and is attended by senators, members of parliament, Supreme Court justices and various dignitaries. This time numbers will be restricted, according to senate officials, and most parliamentarians are being asked to view the speech off-site.
This update provides information on the details of the Speech itself. PM Trudeau,
What was in the speech
The speech did touch on a few issues that are important for franchised businesses across Canada.
Through the Speech the government is promising to extend emergency support for Canadians hit by the COVID-19 crisis while building a more resilient economy that empowers women, fights climate change and tackles systemic racism. Specific highlight the Government want to showcase included:
- accelerating steps toward a national pharmacare program;
- extending CEWS through to next summer;
- banning single use plastics in 2021
- creating 1 million jobs;
- exceeding Paris 2030 climate targets;
- UNDRIP legislation before end of 2020;
- Canada-wide child care program
The Throne Speech does not extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is set to expire later this month. Instead, it says the recently announced enhancements to Employment Insurance will be the focus of its income support plan and that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy – which flows through employers to help cover staffing costs will be extended.
CERB ending and EI changes
The Liberals plan to wind down the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has paid out almost $78 billion in benefits to nearly 8.8 million people. Anyone covered by employment insurance will move to that program with access eased, they say. Those who don't qualify, such as self-employed and gig workers, will be pushed to a new 26-week "recovery" benefit. The throne speech says that new benefit, which Parliament still has to approve, will be a transitional program before moving every worker in the country onto EI.
What was missing from the speech was detail about the promises at a time when companies and workers are looking for specifics amid widespread uncertainty.
CEWS extended until summer 2021
“One way the Government will create these jobs is by extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy right through to next summer. The Government will work with businesses and labour to ensure the program meets the needs of the health and economic situation as it evolves.”
The wage subsidy extension is part of the government's vow to create a million jobs, which would restore employment to pre-pandemic levels. It is also promising to "scale up" its strategy to help young people gain skills and find jobs.
Expanding the CEBA Loan program
In the economic section of the speech the government said “This fall, in addition to extending the wage subsidy, the Government will take further steps to bridge vulnerable businesses to the other side of the pandemic by:
- Expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs;
- Improving the Business Credit Availability Program;
- And introducing further support for industries that have been the hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.
Ban on single use plastics
“The Government will ban harmful single-use plastics next year and ensure more plastic is recycled. And the Government will also modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.” This is the same timeline that the Trudeau government spoke about prior to the pandemic.
National Child Care
The speech does make a long-standing commitment that Liberal governments have made for years that government will make “a significant, long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child-care system.” This is a long-standing goal that has been made in many Throne Speeches over the years. Time will tell if this commitment is implemented.
What wasn’t in the speech
Commercial rent – there was no mention of a commercial rent program which is concerning. The language in the speech and from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Small Business Minister Mary Ng over the past few days implies that the government views the extension of the CEWS and the expansion of the CEBA loans to be replacements for the troubled Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program which ends at the end of September.
National Addresses from the PM and Opposition Parties
PM Trudeau will be addressing the nation tonight. CFA will provide more detailed reaction and a deep dive into what the speech means along with more reaction from the Opposition Parties and other stakeholders. The Opposition responses have been complicated by the fact that Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have had tested positive for Covid-19, and are isolating.
CFA will have more detailed analysis of the Opposition and other stakeholder reaction in tomorrow’s COVID-19 Update.
Fiscal Update coming
The speech included signs the government still plans to pursue some pre-existing commitments, including implementing national pharmacare, restricting handguns, improving rural broadband access, and investing in public transit and energy efficient retrofits.
The government committed to presenting a fall economic update, including fiscal projections and more details on promises to tax the extremely wealthy, and implementing fairer revenue sharing including from tech giants, while emphasizing that in the meantime the Liberals will use whatever "fiscal firepower" it takes to get through the immediate crisis.
"The economic impact of COVID-19 on Canadians has already been worse than the 2008 financial crisis. These consequences will not be short-lived," the speech read. "This is not the time for austerity."
NDP Reaction – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he hasn't decided yet whether or not he will support the government in the confidence vote that comes as a result of a Throne Speech. "We are making it very clear to the prime minister, if you want New Democrat support, if you want my support, then you have to stop the proposal to cut help to Canadians who cannot get back to work," referring to the Liberal intention to transition CERB recipients on to EI. The NDP is asking for an enhancement and extension of the CERB along with a federal program that gives employees 10 paid sick days per year.
Conservative Reaction – The Conservatives will not be supporting the government. Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said "We’ve looked at this speech from the throne and Conservatives cannot support it. It is another speech that is full of Liberal buzzwords and grand gestures, with very little, to no follow-up plan."
Confidence Votes to come
The Throne Speech triggers a string of automatic confidence votes. The government must win the votes otherwise it will trigger a fall election. Those votes will happen as early as next week
Recent Polling Data
Liberal support has stabilized into a relatively modest lead over the Conservatives in national polling. The Liberals would very likely win the most seats if an election were held today, but they are straddling the line on whether it would be a majority or minority government. The Conservatives have improved their position since the arrival of new leader Erin O'Toole, but still have some ground to make up to get back to where they were on election night in 2019. The New Democrats have been trending modestly upwards over the summer while the Bloc Québécois and Greens have held steady.
Poll averages based on September 23 poll
- LIB: 35.8% (-0.6)
- CON: 31.0% (+1.0)
- NDP: 17.7% (+0.5)
- BQ: 7.0% (-0.2)
- GRN: 6.2% (-0.2)
- OTH: 2.3% (-0.6)
Numbers in brackets denote changes in party support since Aug. 21, 2020.