A Throne Speech that offers little might well be termed “Much Ado About Nothing”.

October 18, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  If you have nothing new to say, then don’t say anything at all.  The only new idea in this week’s much ballyhooed ‘Speech From the Throne’ is the proposed ‘balanced budget’ legislation – a perfectly idiotic notion.  Talk about dumb laws!  Is Mr. Flaherty incapable of balancing the budget without a law?  Jean Chretien and Paul Martin ran surplus budgets so the Liberals hardly need this.  Or, does Mr. Harper really expect Thomas Mulcair to win the next election?   I recall how Stephen Harper enacted a four-year fixed-term election law in 2007, then proceeded to break it by calling an election the following year.  What a waste of breath!

And it is not good politics to promise something you know you won’t be able to deliver - something for which you might be held accountable at the next election.As for the promise of matching US prices on goods sold here.  Didn’t we learn about meddling in markets from Trudeau’s problematic mid-seventies Anti-Inflation Board?   And it is not good politics to promise something you know you won’t be able to deliver – something for which you might be held accountable at the next election.  But even if the government managed to match prices, we’d still need to add the dreaded HST onto the Canadian prices – and Harper would need an army of bureaucrats to make it work.  And how will Mr. Harper deliver this new initiative when he is freezing budgets and slashing the public service at the same time?  Doing even more with even less? 

And speaking of frozen budgets, where will the money come to compensate Ontario and Quebec farmers and cheese makers as they become a casualty of the new trade agreement with the EU, which Mr. Harper has just initialed.  Sure, the western beef producers are licking their chops in anticipation of all the extra meat they can sell in Europe, but only if it isn’t contaminated with e-coli from Alberta’s  XL Foods. 

And where will the money to properly fund the clean-up and restoration at Lac-Magantic come from?  While the Throne Speech noted that the federal government is reviewing rail transport policies for hazardous goods, it neglected to mention the federal complicity in that disastrous railway accident (see my July 15, 2003 column).  And Lac-Magantic, like just about everything else in the Speech, is really yesterday’s news.

The cost of the clean up of the railway tragedy in Lac-Magantic is going to have to come out of the budget this government is going to have to bring in soon.

It’s not that there isn’t an abundance of worthwhile ideas, any one of which would have brought new life to this government at its mid-term.  What about a new industrial strategy to rebuild the manufacturing sector in Canada, given the ravages of the last recession, the challenges of uncompetitive exchange rates, and trade policies which too often favour our trading partners?  What about action on the environment, which has never been a priority for this government?  The couple of lines promising some illusory ‘absolute reductions in greenhouse gases’ is hardly going to convince Mr. Obama that Canada has an environmental plan worthy of him approving the Keystone pipeline. 

Conservatives might have tried to address the growing inequality in incomes and wealth for Canadians and Canadian families.   It would have been re-assuring for the federal government to commit to ensuring sufficient inspections to finally eliminate the periodic contamination of our meat at processing plants like XL Foods in Alberta, which handles a third of Canada’s processed beef.  And if this government wanted to win back the hearts of the middle class, instead of tinkering with cell phone charges and cable TV, the Conservatives might have tried to address the growing inequality in incomes and wealth for Canadians and Canadian families.  

Speaking of incomes, what about helping to ensure income security for the growing number of young people passing through their productive years without any provision for their retirement.  Despite repeated calls from the provinces, this federal government has refused to modify the CPP, to make it do what it was originally designed to do – provide adequate pensions for the millions of Canadians who will approach retirement without an adequate nest egg.  Ontario is mulling the idea of establishing its own pension plan to complement, or perhaps replace, the national CPP.  Quebec has been operating its own plan since 1966.

Stephen Harper beetled out of the Senate Chambers on Wednesday and flew to Europe to finalize the EU trade deal the very next day, and so missed the first question period of the new legislative session.  The opposition parties wasted no time on the Speech.  They were only interested in the juicy details about Senate-gate and the PM’s role.  Did he really not know about that whopping cheque his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had given to Mike Duffy?  Proroguing Parliament, the long summer break and a new speech from the throne were meant to help reset the direction of this government as it heads towards the 2015 federal election.  And it might have worked if only Mr. Harper had something worthwhile to say, and perhaps if the talented Mr. Wright were still there to help write the speech.

Ray Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office and held executive positions with Liberal Party riding associations.  He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


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2 comments to A Throne Speech that offers little might well be termed “Much Ado About Nothing”.

  • Bob Zarichansky

    Don`t hold your breath waiting for Europe to scoop up our agricultural products. Overproduction there has always been an issue and as the Canadian government has no serious interest in controlling the plethora of the Genetically Modified Organisms here, we`ll be left without significant sales as a result of their more stringent policies. That will be good news for our medical industry as hospitals fill when we see the deleterious affects of GMOs roll out.

  • Fred Pritchard

    This government has been out of ideas for years. Case in point, we know a young person, 22 who just graduated from college but can’t find work in Guelph. Even dishwashing jobs require interviews with 10 people wanted to work for $10.25 an hour.

    We were talking about the nonsense from Harper in his speech. The young unemployed man said “what do I care about bundled TV channels, I don’t watch TV, and couldn’t afford one even if I did, I would rather have a job”. This is the focus the Government should spend it’s time on, not this consumer crap.