On Wednesday, the 43rd Parliament of Canada returned after a one month prorogation by the governing Liberals and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
To begin the latest session, Governor General Julie Payette delivered a nearly hour-long speech to offer our first peek into the legislative priorities and issues of focus for the parliament session. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet did not attend in person after testing positive for COVID-19. The governor general herself gave the speech under a dome of controversy, mainly related to how she has treated her staff.
The main focus in the speech was the on-going COVID-19 response and the economic slog in the short term and going forward. Much of the speech outlined the health measures Canada is committed to, including access to a vaccine, funding for surge testing, and money for businesses that may have to shut down temporarily during an outbreak.
Overall, the speech was heavily weighted to health issues and the economy, while climate change and environment were interwoven in the government’s goal of adding one million jobs back to the economy. (Story continues below player)
Shaun Haney and Lyndsey Smith discuss the Throne Speech:
The agriculture sector made a brief appearance, though there were a few references to programs that will impact the industry and rural residents, including an old commitment to high speed internet for all Canadians, universal access to a family doctor, and support for mental health services.
Perhaps surprisingly there was no mention of the Clean Fuel Standard.
Brief mentions of agriculture came in a commitment for support for remote community food security and local food systems, and that farmers and ranchers would be recognized for their role in emissions reductions in relation to climate change and the price of pollution.
Of note, supply managed sectors got a shout out, as the government once again said it is committed to compensating these farmers for losses incurred by trade deals (i.e. the USMCA). Canada’s commitment to maintaining free trade through the World Trade Organization, and protection for migrant workers were also mentioned.
Prior to the speech, many farm leaders expressed doubt that agriculture would get a prominent place in the speech, but they were hopeful it would get more than a mention.
Several farm leaders stressed that agriculture can be a major contributor to Canada’s economic recovery.
“Ag should be identified as an important part of the recovery strategy,” noted Dennis Laycraft of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
In a letter to the PMO, Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, requested that agriculture and agri-food be mentioned in the throne speech. The letter noted “Canadian agriculture can serve as a powerful, fundamental economic engine that helps drive the Canadian economy as the nation begins to re-open. We believe that through the proper support, investment and innovation, Canadian agriculture can achieve explosive growth while also helping to feed countries struggling with domestic food production, and securing our own.”
Grain Growers of Canada president Jeff Nielsen also shared a “speech from the combine” ahead of the throne speech outlining priorities around business risk management, regulatory changes, trade, research, and internet connectivity.
While the speech did focus on “building back better, together,” it would seem the economic recovery is set to be largely driven through job training, retro-fitting houses and business to meet climate goals, an extension of the wage subsidy, and expansion of the Canadian Business Account.
You can read the entire Throne Speech here.