Chris is a Senior Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Ottawa. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday, the government laid out its plan to get Canada back on track and move forward from COVID-19. With the Governor General reading the Speech from the Throne, Parliament has now officially reconvened and will begin to sit regularly (using a hybrid model of in-person and virtual sittings) with House of Commons Committees resuming after Thanksgiving.
As an immediate next step, the government will put the speech to a confidence vote where the Liberals will need at least one party to support them to prevent a fall election – with the NDP being most likely supporter based on commitments to climate, child care and pharmacare. It is also anticipated that the government will soon release its Economic Response Plan (mini-budget) to set in motion the new measures announced in the Speech from the Throne.
With the government expected to survive the upcoming confidence vote, they will look to table the next budget early in 2021. During the Prime Minister’s national address last evening, he noted Canadians need to collectively do everything possible to fight COVID-19, with hopes that some normalcy can return around Christmas.
Overview of main themes
1. Fight the pandemic and save lives/protect Canadians from COVID-19.
- The Government will support provinces in getting access to PPE’s and faster tests, and will create a Federal Testing Assistance Response Team.
- Government hopes all provinces will adopt the COVID Alert App.
- The Government will work to target additional supports for businesses that have to shut down due to a local public health decision.
2. Supporting people and businesses through the crisis as long as it lasts.
- The Government will launch a campaign to create over 1 million jobs, tools such as direct investments in social infrastructure, training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.
- Government will extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until next summer. Government will scale up the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to provide more opportunities next year. Over the coming months EI will become the sole system for unemployment benefits.
- Women have been hit hardest. Government will create an action plan for women in the economy, guided by a task force of experts.
- The Government will make a significant Canada-wide investment in childcare and build on previous investments. Government will also accelerate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy.
- The Government will expand the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs; improve the Business Credit Availability Program; and introduce further support for industries that have been hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries.
3. Build back better, to create a stronger and more resilient Canada (continue to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, build safer communities).
- The Government will work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to penalize those that neglect seniors, work with provinces to set national standards for long-term care, and take action to help people stay in their homes longer.
- Government will bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan (with a benefit modeled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement), an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities, and a better program to determine eligibility for programs and benefits.
- Government will ensure everyone has access to a family doctor/primary care, and continue to expand virtual care.
- They will continue to address the opioid crisis.
- The Government remains committed to pharmacare, will accelerate steps such as a rare-disease strategy, national formulary, and working with the provinces.
- Government will support regional routes for airlines.
- The Government will move forward with enhancements to the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, including Canada’s largest cities.
- The Government will strengthen local food supply chains, and ensure that supply-managed sectors receive compensation.
- Government will introduce a free, auto tax filing for simple returns.
- The Government will immediately bring forward a climate change plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal, and legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, including:
- Create jobs by retrofitting homes and buildings
- Invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters
- Help deliver more transit options
- Make zero-emissions more affordable – launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products
- Moving forward with the Clean Power Fund
- Support investments in renewable energy and new-generation clean energy
- Support manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future
- Recognize farmers, foresters, etc., as key partners in the fight
- Will continue policy of putting a price on pollution
- The Government will ban harmful single use plastics next year and modernize Canada’s Environmental Protection Act
4. Stand up for who we are as Canadians (progress on equality, fights discrimination, reconciliation).
- Move forward on work related to reconciliation, support capacity building, make additional commitments on clean drinking water, introduce legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples before end of year.
- Take action against online hate, implement an action plan to increase representation in hiring within public service, support contributions of Black Canadians.
- As part of both the short-term economic recovery and long-term plan for growth, Government will leverage the advantage we have on immigration.
What happens next?
The government does not want to trigger an election with this Speech from Throne, which is why they have leaned to the left on many of their unveiled policies in the hopes that the NDP will provide the support of their 24 MPs and prop up the government for the foreseeable future. However, Jagmeet Singh has stated that the Liberals do not automatically have the NDP’s support; they are still seeking to have the Canada Emergency Response Benefit extended and have paid sick leave offered to every employee across the country.
After some debate in the House of Commons on elements of the Speech from the Throne, the Speaker will call the question of confidence within the next week and a half. The Conservatives have already said that they will vote against the Speech from the Throne. Committees will be re-constituted soon, and the Senate will also open a new session. The Finance Minister is working diligently on a Fall Economic Update that will report on pandemic spending to date and begin to implement the government’s agenda, such as childcare and extending the wage subsidy program. Long term, the government will work towards Budget 2021 to articulate how the government will recover financially from the COVID-19 crisis.
Moving forward there will be opportunities to engage with MPs and government officials to discuss how your organization’s priorities may fit within government (or opposition) priorities. As noted, there will be a Fall Economic Update, a budget in spring 2021, and given that we’re still living with a minority Parliament, an opportunity to influence a party’s platform. The possibility of a federal election sometime in the next 6 months stands, and the team at Grassroots continues to monitor things daily.
If you are interested in discussing your organization’s communication and advocacy plans, please email us at email@example.com.