November 19, 2008
Deficit may be necessary, securities regulator to increase oversight
The Conservative government introduced a plan Wednesday aimed at protecting Canada from the “extraordinary global economic challenge and uncertainty,” and indicated that the country may have to run a deficit.
The plan, detailed by Gov. Gen. MichaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â«lle Jean in the 45-minute speech from the throne on Parliament Hill, calls for “hard decisions” to be made on government spending, and it promises sound budgeting to ensure the country avoids further deficits.
The throne speech, delivered by Jean in the Senate chamber before Prime Minister Stephen Harper, members of the House of Commons and other dignitaries, laid out the broad strokes of the Conservative government’s legislative agenda for Canada’s 40th Parliament.
In a sombre speech invoking the grim realities faced by previous Canadians in the First World War and the Great Depression, Jean said continuing unsustainable deficits “are quite rightly unacceptable to Canadians.”
“The structural deficits must never return,” she said.
“At the same time, in a historic global downturn, it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget in the short-term at any cost, because that cost would ultimately be borne by Canadian families.” [Ed. Note: It will anyways, as we pay off the deficits through taxes. Who does she think she's fooling?]
The statement likely signals a dramatic reversal of Harper’s campaign promise to run balanced budgets, despite external economic pressures.
The throne speech will also trigger the first confidence vote the new government will face in the House. In keeping with tradition, the speech did not provide specifics, which are expected to emerge in next week’s economic update by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
In the speech, the government also pledged to go line by line through federal programs to keep spending under control and focused on results.
“Departments will have the funding they need to deliver essential programs and services, and no more,” Jean said. “Our government will engage Parliament and encourage members to take a more active role in scrutinizing spending and suggesting areas for restraint.”
‘Canadians will prevail’
Canada also will work with the provinces to put in place a common securities regulator to increase oversight, Jean said.
“This is a time of extraordinary global economic challenge and uncertainty,” Jean said. “Just as they have faced difficulties before, Canadians will prevail.”
The government’s first priority, Jean said, is to work with international partners and use its experience in developing a strong model of financial regulation to repair and strengthen the international financial system.
“Just as these troubles began beyond our borders, so will their solution demand that Canada engage its partners and allies around the world,” she said.
The government will work to secure jobs through training and offer further support to the auto and aerospace industries, she said.
It also committed to expanded investment and trade, and making government more efficient and effective.
The Conservatives pledged to renew the Canadian military’s air, sea and surface fleets over the next two decades, while also creating new high-technology jobs in the process, she said.
On the environmental front, the government will also continue its “realistic, responsible” approach to addressing the challenge of climate change with its commitment to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, the speech said.
The Conservatives will work with all parties in Parliament to introduce other environmental and consumer-benefiting measures, such as increasing incentives for energy-saving home retrofits, Jean said.
Included in the speech were references to new anti-crime proposals, although Jean did not specifically mention Harper’s controversial campaign pledges to end provisional sentences for serious crimes and increase sentences for violent young offenders.
“Serious offences will be met with serious penalties,” Jean said. “Citizens need to know that justice is served and that it is served swiftly.”
The government has transformed Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan to focus on development and reconstruction, Jean said, while also planning to increase Canada’s role on the global stage in terms of promoting security and democracy.
Liberals won’t defeat government on speech: Dion
Although the prime minister enters the House of Commons with a bolstered minority government after the Oct. 14 election, the Conservatives still need the support of at least one opposition party to ensure the passage of legislation.
But opposition officials indicated it is unlikely that their members would seek to defeat the Conservatives so soon after the election and in the midst of the economic crisis.
Outgoing Liberal Leader StÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©phane Dion said he was looking for the speech to offer more specific measures on how to help the economy, but added his party would not bring down the government based on what he heard.
“It would be completely irresponsible to have an election now,” Dion told reporters following the speech.
The Liberal leader, who will leave his position once a successor has been determined by the party’s leadership convention, then blamed the previous Harper government for not acting to prevent the current economic woes.
“They were irresponsible and we’re seeing the consequences now,” he said.
Following Jean’s address, NDP Leader Jack Layton said the speech showed the Conservatives are “timid” in the face of a faltering economy and gave no indication on the direction the government would take on the hurting forestry and manufacturing sectors.
“We wanted to see a real stimulus package,” Layton told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton. “We didn’t see bold action.… It’s not a speech that we can support.”
Bloc QuÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©bÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©cois Leader Gilles Duceppe wouldn’t say if his party would support the government, but added there was nothing in the throne speech concerning the true victims of the crisis, such as laid-off workers and seniors worried about their pension and investment security.
“The way we always acted since we’re here in Ottawa is that we’re looking at every proposal at its own value,” Duceppe said.
“If we think it’s good for Quebec, we’re supporting. If not we’re opposing it and facing the consequences one way or the other.”
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