Parliament opens with warning in Throne Speech that ‘Earth is in danger’

Parliament opens with warning in Throne Speech that ‘Earth is in danger’
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Officials including Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive for the Speech from the Throne on Nov. 23, 2021 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government delivered a stark warning about the decades ahead as Governor-General Mary Simon opened the 44th Parliament Tuesday, describing a world “in danger” from climate change and urging legislators to turn “talk into action.”

Ms. Simon delivered the minority government’s road map in the Senate, but the Prime Minister’s Office does the majority of the writing for the Speech from the Throne. The address outlined the key election promises for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who again put ending the pandemic, economic recovery and addressing climate change at the top of the priority list.

“Our Earth is in danger,” Ms. Simon said in the speech’s introductory remarks, written by her office. “From a warming Arctic to the increasing devastation of natural disasters, our land and our people need help.”

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“We cannot afford to wait.”

The Throne Speech was the first for Ms. Simon, who was sworn in in July, becoming the first Indigenous person to serve as the Queen’s representative in Canada. She delivered the address to an audience including Mr. Trudeau, senior members of the House of Commons and Senate.

Governor-General Mary Simon reiterated the Prime Minister’s position that the government “must go further, faster” to take “real action” on climate change.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The speech, Mr. Trudeau’s third in a minority government, will likely need the support of one of the three opposition parties to get through the House of Commons. There is some policy overlap with the other opposition parties, in particular the NDP, but it’s not yet clear if it will be enough to gain the support needed.

The late launch to the fall Parliamentary sitting means the Liberals have just a four-week window to shepherd key government bills through the House of Commons – a short time frame, made more difficult because the opposition has more power to influence the agenda in a minority Parliament.

On the heels of the September election result, Ms. Simon said the direction from voters was clear. “Not only do they want Parliamentarians to work together to put this pandemic behind us, they also want bold, concrete solutions to meet the other challenges we face.”

The government says its strategy to end the pandemic for good will focus on ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots.

To tackle rising inflation, Mr. Trudeau’s government said it will address the associated rising cost of living by acting on its election promises to ensure access to more affordable housing and child care across the country, Ms. Simon said.

The government also confirmed its plan to move to “more targeted support” for sectors still affected by the pandemic and said it will ensure it is “prudently managing spending.”

Ms. Simon reiterated the Prime Minister’s position that the government “must go further, faster” to take “real action” on climate change. She said the government would focus its efforts on capping and then lowering emissions from the oil and gas sector; accelerating work to reach a 100 per cent net-zero electricity grid; investing in public transit and mandating the sale of zero emissions vehicles; and steadily increasing the price on carbon.

Ahead of the speech, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on Monday said his party wanted the government to immediately address the “present danger” of the climate crisis with immediate investments in critical infrastructure; ease housing affordability by tackling both the supply of houses and limiting foreign ownership that is driving up prices; and reverse clawbacks on some income supports for seniors and families.

The Conservatives meantime called on the Liberals to rein in spending and inflation; cancel the planned $100-billion in stimulus spending; and end pandemic support programs that MP Pierre Poilievre argued on Tuesday were deterring people from returning to work.

Ms. Simon said during the speech that reconciliation is not a “single act nor does it have an end date.”

“It is a lifelong journey of healing, respect and understanding,” she said.

Ms. Simon also said that “reconciliation cannot come without truth.”

In this mandate, the government intends to create a national monument to honour residential-school survivors, a long-standing call made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also plans to appointment a special interlocutor to “advance justice” on residential schools, which was first announced in August.

Ottawa also plans to move ahead on a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy for First Nations, Inuit and Métis guided by Indigenous peoples, survivors and their families.

It also intends to ensure there is “fair and equitable” compensation for those harmed by the First Nations child welfare system. The Liberal government is currently engaged in closed-door discussions with parties, including the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, in hopes of reaching an out-of-court settlement on the matter by the end of the year.

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