After a lengthy prorogation, Parliament finally resumed with a new Speech from the Throne on September 23rd.
This Throne Speech came just ten months after the last one. The government promised the speech would reset their agenda, which was supposedly what justified the prorogation of Parliament. Instead, the speech largely rehashed old promises. This seems to confirm what many people, myself included, believe the reason for prorogation really was: to shut down committees that were investigating the government’s conduct in relation to the WE charity.
The speech made many promises but provided few details. The government promised to “create” a million new jobs, but came with no details on how that will be accomplished. There was no mention of oil and gas, pipelines, forestry or agriculture. The Western Canadian resource industry is not looking for handouts like auto manufacturers in Ontario. We just need government to get out of the way so that we can get back to generating jobs and prosperity across this country.
Our new leader, Erin O’Toole, has been very vocal about western alienation, and we expected the west’s concerns to be acknowledged in the Throne Speech. Unfortunately, it seems as though Western alienation and concerns about national unity simply do not exist in this Prime Minister’s mind.
Given the speech’s immense shortcomings, I joined my Conservative colleagues in voting against it. However, it passed this week with NDP support. As I have remarked before, this government often operates as a majority, with the NDP supporting them at every confidence vote.
The Liberals planned to not resume parliamentary committees that were studying the WE Charity scandal. Our negotiating team made it clear that this was a complete non-starter for us. The government relented this week, and committees will be resuming.
The government also made some recent changes to its COVID-19 benefits program. In August, the government announced it was phasing out CERB and replacing it with the Canada Recovery Benefit which would only pay $400 per week. The first bill introduced in this new session of Parliament increased the payment from $400 per week to $500 per week or the equivalent of the previous program. This new program is to run for the next six months. In addition, the government announced that the Business Wage Subsidy would be extended until next summer.
It has now been 18 months since this government delivered a budget. Since that time hundreds of billions of dollars have been allocated to deal with COVID-19 and the Finance Minister has resigned. There is still no budget on the horizon. I believe this is unacceptable.
Finally, the government has finally approved a faster COVID-19 test this week, but we may still be a long way from actually acquiring it. UK residents have access to free at-home tests; the US FDA approved a home test kit back in April; Germany has commercial tests available online.
This is what the Prime Minister has claimed is his top priority. Yet nothing was done while people continue to wait in queues for hours and then days for results. It was only after immense pressure from our Official Opposition, media attention, and falling poll numbers on the government’s COVID-19 response that the Prime Minister finally took action on this pivotal issue. We call upon the government to get these tests into the hands of Canadians as soon as possible.
As always, my Ottawa office can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My Brooks office can be reached at 403-793-6775 or email@example.com, and my Strathmore office at 403-361-2980 or martin.shields.c1B@parl.gc.ca. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.