Throne Speech: changes in continuity

Stephen Harper's Oct. 16 throne speech unveiled the government's plan for Canada. | Photo courtesy of Stephen Harper, Flickr

Stephen Harper’s Oct. 16 throne speech unveiled the government’s plan for Canada. | Photo courtesy of Stephen Harper, Flickr

A quick throne speech and on we go? The public brought together and their attention diverted? Some believe this is the kind of persuasive power throne speeches, like the one so carefully prepared by the prime minister’s closest collaborators and delivered on Oct. 16, hold. However, nothing is that simple.

The speech reveals the road the government will be taking for the next 12 to 15 months. It unveils what they consider to be key priorities at this point in time. This speech from the throne will also probably be the last one before the next federal election and we can surmise that it has been carefully thought out, informed by polls and written in such a manner as to strike at the heart of the people it wants to charm.

Because, as we know, in modern politics nothing is left to chance. Every self-respecting government takes great care to weigh each move it makes in order to ensure the favour of the electorate. Don’t think for a moment that those tactics are solely the domain of Stephen Harper’s government – partisanship aside, we must admit that all parties plan their agenda the same way.

That said, last week’s throne speech bears all the hallmarks of the present federal government’s usual approach. It included a good dose of measures aimed at job creation and a promise to get tougher on crime and protect communities. Those themes are dear to Conservative supporters. As I highlighted in my last column, the conservative government continues to be troubled by the decisions made in the courts about supervised injection sites – so much so that it promised a law that would allow citizens to express their views before an injection site could be opened in any given neighborhood. True to its habit of coming up with evocative names, the government called the bill the Respect for Communities Act.

This is the kind of promise sure to please party supporters who relish more conservative social policies. For those who are more interested in fiscal policies, there was room in the speech for an upcoming law forcing balanced budgets. However, as many provincial governments have learned, this type of law often comes back to bite its instigators when a financial balance becomes difficult to achieve. In fact, this law could become a poisoned chalice for future governments.

As expected, the government’s agenda placed consumer protection at the forefront. This seems like an area where the government is opening new tracks, but it is also an approach consistent with its populist agenda, one that can be traced back to the old Reform Party. The measures introduced will undoubtedly address some of the most frequent customer complaints. All of this has most certainly been ascertained by polls commissioned by the government.

And let’s not forget that the attention given to the Canadian middle class, in response to Justin Trudeau’s loud and clear intention focus on bettering this social class’s living conditions. The Conservative government seems to want to beat him to the punch before Trudeau’s ideas take root in the mind of the electorate.

The Throne Speech marks the semi-official start of the pre-electoral campaign slated for 2015. The dice have been thrown and the Harper government has thrown down the gauntlet for the opposition parties to navigate.

Translation Monique Kroeger