Trudeau Reaches Out to Opposition in Throne Speech

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau delivers a speech in Montreal on Oct. 22, 2019. (Paul Chiasson/Pool Photo via AP)

(CN) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized his plans to fight climate change, reduce taxes and increase the country’s global standing in the first speech delivered to Canada’s newly elected Parliament – one that could make or break Trudeau’s fragile minority government.

Canadian voters handed the highest number of Parliament’s 338 seats to Trudeau’s Liberal Party in October, giving the incumbent another shot as Prime Minister. But they also elected a hefty number of Conservatives, progressive New Democrats and separatist Bloc Quebecois members of Parliament.

Without at least 170 seats in the House of Commons, Trudeau lost his majority government under Canada’s parliamentary system. Helming a minority government will force Trudeau to cobble together the support of the other major parties – a reality he catered to in Thursday’s Speech from the Throne, where he outlined the goals of his administration.

Parliament will now debate the contents of the speech and soon issue a vote either supporting the plan or one of “no confidence” – which could trigger another election.

The speech, read aloud to Canada’s 43rd Parliament by Governor General Julie Payette, offered a buffet of the priorities important to each of the parties he must work with. Trudeau’s first act, the speech said, would be to reduce taxes “for all but the wealthiest.”

He also promised to increase the federal minimum wage, dramatically reduce Canada’s carbon emissions while also growing the economy, slash internet and cellular bills by 25%, ban assault rifles, and introduce legislation to legalize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as legislation to offer national coverage of prescription drugs.

Sitting in a gilded throne, Payette read the speech aloud while Trudeau sat to her right, a serious frown on his face as he gazed out at returning and newly elected members of Parliament.

“Canadians have sent a clear message,” Payette read. “They want their parliamentarians to work together on the issues that matter most to them. In this election, parliamentarians received a mandate to fight climate change, strengthen the middle class, walk the road of reconciliation and keep Canadians safe and healthy and position Canada for success in an uncertain world.”

Trudeau’s speech repeatedly emphasized the fight to halt climate change – a task he called “the defining challenge of our time.” Trudeau promised Thursday to protect 25% each of the country’s land and ocean mass, plant 2 billion trees and get Canada to net neutral carbon emissions by 2050. And he said he would do all that in a way that simultaneously strengthens the country’s economy.

“We share the same planet,” Trudeau’s speech said. “We know that we are inextricably bound to the same space-time continuum and on board the same planetary spaceship. Global issues know no borders and no timeline and need our attention.”

But Trudeau’s environmental work was marred during his first term as prime minister by the government’s purchase of the hotly contested Trans Mountain Pipeline. Trudeau has said that Canada must continue to exploit natural resources like oil and gas in order to fund the country’s transition to a carbon neutral economy.

It was a line of reasoning he echoed in Thursday’s speech.

“While the government takes strong action to fight climate change, it will also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada’s natural resources sectors,” the speech said.

After the speech, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters he was “very disappointed” with the speech and said he was unlikely to support it.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet called the speech and its contents “vague,” but said he would vote to support it when the time came.

And Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, declined to say whether he would support the speech, saying he first wanted details on Trudeau’s proposals to introduce legislation for government coverage of prescription medications and expanded environmental protections.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of pretty words, but not a lot of concrete actions,” Singh said in a press conference after the speech.

The vote will be held sometime in the next six days.

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