Trudeau’s program includes promises to ban “military-style” assault weapons, to cut taxes on the middle class, to slash cellphone bills, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to “take steps” to implement a national prescription drug program. It also includes several promises from his first term, such as ending all long-term drinking water advisories on indigenous reserves by 2021. The speech, which was light on details, said the government intends to move forward with the proposed replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Whether Trudeau can deliver on any of his promises is a different question. Voters dealt a rebuke to the telegenic Liberal Party leader in October’s federal election, leaving his party 13 seats short of a majority and reliant on the backing of opposition parties to pass bills.
Trudeau has ruled out a formal coalition, opting instead to marshal support from his political rivals on a case-by-case basis.
In the speech, he called for collaboration across party lines.
“In this 43rd Parliament, you will disagree on many things,” Payette, a former astronaut, said while reading the speech. “But you will agree on a great many more. Focus on your shared purpose: making life better for the people you serve.”
Trudeau included in the speech a brief nod to one of the key challenges facing the prime minister: a growing sense of alienation in Canada’s oil-producing prairie provinces fueled by opposition to Trudeau’s environmental policies.
“Regional needs and differences really matter,” he asserted, offering “unwavering support” to the Canadians in the natural resources sectors that have faced “tough times.” But the speech also acknowledged that the government intends to take “ambitious climate action now.”
The throne speech is considered one of the first opportunities for a government to test its support in the House of Commons. Typically, after some debate, the prime minister’s proposed agenda is put to a vote; if it fails, opposition parties can try to form a government, or the country can go back to the polls.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who has faced calls from within his party to step down as leader, found little to applaud in Trudeau’s proposals. Speaking to reporters following the speech, he said that it left him “disappointed” and was “an insult” to those in the key oil-producing regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Justin Trudeau has divided this country; he has pitted region against region,” Scheer said. “That is not the way to keep this confederation together and we will show Canadians a better way.”
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said the speech was filled with too many “pretty words” and not enough “concrete actions,” but he would not rule out working with the Liberals.
Yves François-Blanchet, the leader of the separatist Bloc Québécois, said that his party would vote in favor of the speech, providing the Liberal government the needed support to stay in power.
This year’s throne speech departed from the norm. Traditionally, the Usher of the Black Rod — a senior parliamentary officer whose origins date back more than 600 years to the British House of Lords — strides down the hall from the Senate to the House of Commons and raps on the door three times with his ebony staff to summon lawmakers.
With Parliament under renovations, the Senate and the House of Commons are no longer in the same building, so the half-mile procession took place by shuttle bus.