Ideas

September 23, 2020

Statement on federal Speech from the Throne

Today’s Speech from the Throne outlined a broad, expansive, and expensive plan to help Canadians through the crisis, expand social programs, and include natural resources in its climate goals. This is an ambitious and costly plan that could stretch government capacity and balance sheets.

We asked the federal government for three things in its Speech from the Throne.

To make jobs and the economy the top priority

The centerpiece of the government’s economic plan was an ambition to create one million new jobs—an ambition we applaud. The details around this target were sparse; however, there was a positive mention of youth employment, green initiatives, and support for hard-hit sectors like travel and tourism, as a means to create these jobs. We look forward to seeing more detail.

Child care is also a critical element to enabling women’s participation in the workforce and in recovery, and we were pleased to see several policies to support this ambition, including contemplating a national child care strategy and establishing a task force on women in the workforce and female entrepreneurship.

As supporting businesses of all sizes will be essential to recovery, we were pleased to see that the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy extended until summer 2021. This support is critical in assisting the hardest hit sectors such as travel and tourism, and keeping many Canadians employed.

To build a recovery strategy that is inclusive of the natural resources sector

The natural resource sector was hit hard by COVID-19 and low oil prices. In our recent polling, we found that over 70% of Canadians believed that natural resources should be included in Canada’s economic recovery plan.

With several positive mentions, natural resources appear to be part of the government’s plan for recovery; the government has signaled that this sector is an essential partner in reaching Canada’s climate goals. The government indicated support of the sector in a transformation to a net-zero future and tapping into the knowledge and innovation of the energy sector to help reach our climate ambitions. We applaud the government for acknowledging the essential role Canada’s natural resources industry can play in economic recovery and in helping achieve climate goals.

We look forward to working together with the federal government to advance these priorities. A clear next step forward we recommend is implementing the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance report recommendations to create a vision of Canada’s low carbon future, including long term policy, capital, and investment pathways.

To develop a plan for life with COVID-19

Behind the economy, a plan to effectively manage COVID-19 was a top priority for Canadians, and we were looking for a comprehensive plan to support Canadians to live safely and grow our economy through this pandemic.

On this front, the government announced some modest new initiatives including a rapid response testing team, access to doctors, and supports to remain home if you are sick. However, in a speech that is otherwise ambitious, this plan is insufficiently strategic or effective. Canadians need easy access to rapid and frequent testing—to give each other comfort that we are safe to interact with each other. Achieving easy and inexpensive testing with immediate results should be a key goal in this mandate.

What concerns us most is the scope of this plan. It is extremely expansive, and it covers nearly every corner of Canadian society. In fact, half of this plan would be ambitious in any parliamentary agenda and was fairly light on the specific priorities of Canadians, including how to get the economy back on track, create jobs, and establish a safe way of living with COVID for the foreseeable future. And of course, there is the issue of cost—this is an expensive plan with no clear path to fiscal balance. While we need to spend in strategic areas, we do need to establish the mindset and path back to more restrained spending that is enabled by a stronger economy and employment.

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