Wage subsidies, job creation and increased COVID testing highlight Liberal promises
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government committed to spending billions of dollars to invest in programs and services to help Canadians during the pandemic and beyond in Wednesday’s throne speech.
The government is calling on members of Parliament to support the changes outlined. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Canada, the speech stressed the importance of protecting Canadians during these difficult times.
“The pandemic is the most serious public health crisis Canada has ever faced,” said Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who delivered the throne speech in the Senate chamber on Wednesday. “The last six months have laid bare fundamental gaps in our society, and in societies around the world.”
The throne speech not only opens a new session of Parliament, it also highlights the government’s promises for the fall. The speech outlines the government’s approach in four foundations, including support for businesses during the pandemic, as well as plans to fight the pandemic, build a more resilient Canada, and stand up for Canadian heritage.
These are the commitments the Trudeau government made in its throne speech.
Expanded COVID-19 testing across the country.
The government promised to help provinces increase their testing capacity. This includes working towards faster tests that are safe to use. The government also committed to creating a federal Testing Assistance Response Team to quickly meet a surge in testing needs, including for remote and isolated communities.
“The federal government will be there to help the provinces increase their testing capacity. Canadians should not be waiting in line for hours to get a test,” Payette said in the speech.
The Liberals also promised additional financial support to businesses that had to temporarily shut down due to the pandemic. This will help ease the pressure on public health authorities in local communities to make decisions on short-term closure orders.
The government also said that it will continue to work on getting personal protective equipment to Canadians who need it.
The government also committed to a comprehensive vaccine strategy to ensure that Canadians will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is ready.
“Canada is exploring the full range of options. The government has already secured access to vaccine candidates and therapeutics, while investing in manufacturing here at home,” read the text of the speech.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force will be looking into how to best roll out vaccines once they are ready.
Expanding the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Youth Employment and Skills Strategy
The Trudeau government announced that it will be extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy into next summer. It also announced a “scaling up” of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to provide more paid work experiences next year for young Canadians. The expansion of the two programs was announced as a way to create over one million jobs and restore employment to previous levels.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on Canadians has already been worse than the 2008 financial crisis. These consequences will not be short-lived,” read a segment of the speech. “Canadians should not have to choose between health and their job, just like Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.”
The speech did not provide further details on how the government plans to expand these programs.
A plan to help women get back into the economy
The government promised to create an Action Plan for Women in the Economy to help more women get back to the workforce. It plans to deliver a feminist, intersectional response to the pandemic and economic recovery. No further details were given.
The Liberals also committed to a long-term investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child-care system. The government promised to work with all provinces and territories to ensure that high-quality child care is accessible to everyone.
Along with these commitments, the government promises to subsidize before- and after-school programs. The government will also accelerate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, a program that seeks to double the amount of women-owned businesses by 2025.
New Disability Inclusion Plan and universal pharmacare program
The throne speech outlines promises to implement a new Disability Inclusion Plan. The new plan will have a new Canadian Disability Benefit, an employment strategy for disabled Canadians and a better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs.
The federal government also committed to a universal pharmacare program to provide affordable health care to Canadians.
Plans to address racism and gaps in the social system
The Liberal minority government promised to invest in programs to address racism, gender-based violence, homelessness and affordable housing.
A promise was made to accelerate investments in shelters and transitional housing. The government also promised to create a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, but no further details were given in the speech.
The government will make “substantial investments” in housing for Canadians. It plans to add to the National Housing Strategy that was created in 2017 to increase investments to rapid housing in the short term. The government promises to work with not-for-profits and co-ops in the mid- to long-term.
“Housing is something everyone deserves, and it’s also a key driver of the economy. Construction projects create jobs, and having a home is critical so people can contribute to their communities,” said Payette.
Later on in the speech, the Liberal minority government promised to “redouble” its efforts to combat systemic racism in Canada. This will include taking action on online hate, implementing an action plan to increase representation within public service and taking steps to support the economic contributions of Black culture and heritage.
“Many people — especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians — have raised their voices and stood up to demand change. They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees,” reads the text of the throne speech.
The government also promised to introduce legislation to take action to address systemic inequalities within the criminal justice system. It also promised to enhance civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies across Canada, which includes the RCMP. This includes modernizing training for police officers and “moving forward” on RCMP reforms. The government will also work to co-develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing as an essential service.
Expanding reconciliation efforts
The throne speech outlines promises to continue efforts to reconcile with Indigenous peoples across Canada.
“The government will walk the shared path of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and remain focused on implementing the commitments made in 2019,” reads the text of the throne speech.
These commitments include accelerating work on the National Action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice and implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The government also promised to close the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities and to co-develop an Indigenous health legislation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. The government also promised to make additional investments to ensure clean drinking water in First Nations communities.
Taking action on climate change
The government promised to bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal. It also promises to legislate a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, ban single-use plastics in 2021 and ensure that most plastic is recycled.
The Liberals also plan to modernize the Environmental Protection Act. No details were given in the speech on how it plans to do that.
“Canadians also know climate change threatens our health, way of life and planet. They want climate action now, and that is what the government will continue to deliver,” Payette read.