Clear picture of Tory agenda emerges in June 3 throne speech
In the fall, legislation will be tabled to scrap long-gun registry
OTTAWA — One month after Canadians gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper a majority mandate in the House of Commons, the governing Conservatives have revealed they will use the power to reduce taxes, eliminate the deficit in four years, crack down on crime and reform the Senate.
The pledges are among a range of initiatives the Conservatives outlined in a Throne Speech read by Gov. Gen. David Johnston in the Senate on Friday, as the crop of 308 recently elected MPs elbowed for a spot in the crowded chamber.
The speech, read at a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance, was the first by Johnston, who became Governor General last October.
“Canadians have expressed their desire for a strong, stable national government in this new Parliament,” Johnson said, as he read the 16-page speech.
“With this clear mandate, our government will deliver on its commitments.”
Johnson said the government will implement its next budget to build on progress already made.
“It will continue to focus on jobs and growth. It will bring the federal budget back into balance. It will invest in our system of universal health care. It will support the communities and families that work so hard to care for each other. Our government will defend the rights of law-abiding citizens, and it will promote Canadian values and interests at home and abroad.”
Also, in recent days, the government had also given public signals about other priorities the Tories have decided will be at the forefront of their agenda.
In the fall, legislation will be tabled to scrap the long-gun registry. The Tories tried unsuccessfully to do this last September through a private member’s bill, and will now be able to abolish the registry because they have enough votes in the Commons.
The Throne Speech outlined a range of Conservative government priorities now that it has the majority to ensure passage of bills that were held up in the previous minority Parliament.
The speech pointed to the government’s upcoming budget — to be tabled Monday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty — as a critical element of its plans for sustaining the economic recovery.
The budget will contain all of the proposed initiatives that were in the March 22 budget that went nowhere because of the May 2 election that was called just days later.
Some highlights of the throne speech include:
• $9 million over two years for “expanded adult education” in the three territories;
• a promise to dump the federal government’s long-gun registry;
• elimination of the federal government’s deficit by 2015, one year earlier than first forecast;
• development of national conservation plan and the creation of more protected areas;
• improved environmental assessment of resource projects, while ensuring “meaningful consultation with affected communities, including Aborginal communities;”
• tougher criminal laws to “combat crime and terrorism:”
• concerted action “to address the barriers to economic participation that many Aboriginal Canadians face;
• promotion of clean water and clean energy technologies for Aboriginal and northern communities;
• the elimination, in three years, of per-vote subsidies for national political parties;
• completion of the Dempster Highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami gave the Throne Speech a generally positive review, saying it was “a strong statement in support of the Arctic, and Aboriginal Peoples” in an ITK news release.
But she said the speech did not discuss climate change.
“There were many references made to Canada’s natural environment, however I did not hear anything about the issue of our time — climate change — and how adaptation measures are needed now for Inuit communities in the Arctic,” Simon said.
She also noted words in the speech that say “our government has made Canada’s North a cornerstone of its agenda.”
“We will look forward to these words being transformed into concrete action in the forthcoming budget, and in the weeks and months to come, Simon said. “I was pleased to see a commitment to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. The action needed to address barriers to economic participation in the Arctic communities means improving our education system.”
The tax cuts announced will be of benefit to Inuit, who are all taxpayers, she said.
As well, the promised support to improve Canada’s telecommunications is “vital for the Arctic” because internet speeds in Inuit communities are slower than in southern Canada, she said.
With files from Nunatsiaq News.