Lowlights from The Throne Speech

Here, (not-so-)briefly, are some bits of yesterday’s Throne Speech. The full speech can be found here. Sarcasm abounds — I am, predictably, not overly thrilled with this speech.

  • Whole lot of contemplation of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, which is in another four years, ie, after another election. Why on earth is that the framing focus of this whole thing? There’ll be at least one new Parliament before then and probably a few more throne speeches — it makes no sense.
  • Our Government will enshrine in law its successful and prudent approach. Our Government will introduce balanced-budget legislation. It will require balanced budgets during normal economic times, and concrete timelines for returning to balance in the event of an economic crisis.

    Recipe for economic disaster when coupled with the insistence that tax increases are anathema. Need to have some flexibility in budgeting to deal with shifting economic situations.

  • It will reform disability and sick-day entitlements and work with employees to get them back to work as soon as possible.

    That doesn’t sound like it could backfire, no siree.

  • Our Government will take further steps to see that those traditionally under-represented in the workforce, including people with disabilities, youth, and Aboriginal Canadians, find the job-training they need.

    There are plenty of people who fit one or more of these categories who’re trained to the teeth and still can’t find appropriate work. Training is not the end of the solution, and educational debt needs to be a major aspect of the discussion around this (and is not mentioned).

  • Our Government recognizes the tremendous potential of Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations to strengthen the growing Canadian economy. It will continue working with First Nations to develop stronger, more effective, and more accountable on-reserve education systems.

    Because they’ve been doing a fantastic job of this so far. There’s no institutional underfunding, no obstructionist attitudes, nothing of the sort!

  • The Government will soon complete negotiations on a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union. This agreement has the potential to create 80,000 new Canadian jobs.

    Hrm.

    The United States remains Canada’s biggest and best customer. Our Government will continue implementing the Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation Action Plans to speed the flow of people, goods and services between our two countries.

    Yikes.

    And our Government will amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow Canadians to take beer and spirits across provincial boundaries for their own use.

    Yep, that definitely needed to be in a Throne Speech grouped with those other two things.

  • Our Government will continue to ensure that our natural resource sectors remain open to foreign investment when it is market-oriented and in the long-term interests of Canadians.

    Here, nations of the rest of the world, take all our resources, wreck our environment, and suffer no consequences because you’ve got lawyers to make sure you’re not culpable! Great deal for Canadians.

  • Forestry remains essential to Canada’s rural economy, supporting almost 200,000 jobs across the country. Our Government secured and extended the softwood lumber agreement with the United States. And our Government will continue to support innovation and pursue new export opportunities for Canadian companies.

    Yeah, and that was without controversy and totally agreeable to all parties involved.

  • Over the next decade, our Government will invest 70 billion dollars in federal, provincial, territorial and community infrastructure. Projects such as building subways in the Greater Toronto Area, replacing Montréal’s Champlain Bridge, building a new Windsor-Detroit crossing and constructing Vancouver’s Evergreen Line will create jobs across our country.

    Subways aren’t the best solution in Toronto by a long mile (literally) and the plan for the Champlain is a wasted opportunity to meaningfully expand public transport in the Montreal area (which, admittedly, is being mangled by all parties involved). So the first two aren’t the trumpet-worthy plans they’re made out to be — anyone from Vancouver or Windsor want to weigh in on the other two?

Here’s the entire Science and Technology section:

Our Government’s leadership in science and technology helps Canadian business remain competitive while creating high-paying jobs. Since 2006, our Government has invested more than 9 billion dollars to support science, technology and innovative companies operating at the outer limits of knowledge.

Canada now leads G-7 countries in post-secondary research investment.

  • Transformation of the National Research Council, doubling the Industrial Research Assistance Program, and the new Venture Capital Action Plan are all helping to promote greater commercialization of research and development.
  • Building on this strong foundation, our Government will release an updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy.
  • Our Government will continue making targeted investments in science and innovation chains from laboratory to market in order to position Canada as a leader in the knowledge economy.
  • And our Government will continue to promote Canada as a world-class destination for international students.

Canadian business may remain competitive, but they naturally neglect to mention that they’ve decimated the public service, especially at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and the National Research Council. That they’re parading the NRC restructuring as a boon to Canadian science is an insult to the institution and the legacy of world-class research that it produced. The (so very wrongheaded) implication that science is only valuable if it’s marketable is again clear.
The second point sounds ominous to my ears, and I hope the opposition starts investigating where that strategy is going. I imagine that involves more cuts, restructuring, and restrictions. I suspect some letter-writing is in my future.
The third point underscores how inaccurate and ill-conceived this government’s approach to science is. Any scientist will tell you that science, regardless of field, application, or approach, is a highly non-linear process. There is no clear and distinct path from initial idea to end result to influence on Canadians’ lives, and phrasing it as a chain belies a very misguided approach.

Onwards to Section Two!

  • The whole Defending Consumers subsection is, like the bit about transporting alcohol legally across provincial borders, fleshed out in way more detail than I think it necessary in a Throne Speech. As a result, everyone’s talking about how their cable packages will be unbundled rather than a NAFTA-like free trade agreement with Europe. That is some seriously skewed priorities, and I imagine that the fluffy stuff like this was put in as a distraction from much of the meatier stuff in the speech.
  • But for the worst of all criminals, even this is not enough. Canadians do not understand why the most dangerous criminals would ever be released from prison. For them, our Government will change the law so that a life sentence means a sentence for life.

    I know being “tough on crime” is A Thing with the conservatives, but this is not going to be helpful or an added deterrent. Locking people up for longer and longer is not a solution to crime, and I see nothing in the crime section that addresses how to keep people from becoming criminals in the first place.

  • Aboriginal women are disproportionately the victims of violent crime. Our Government will renew its efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

    Hah! I’ll believe that when I see it.

  • Re-introduce and pass the Respect for Communities Act to ensure that parents have a say before drug injection sites open in their communities;

    No indication that they’ll listen to evidence of their effectiveness as well.

  • Build on its record as the first government to achieve an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by working with provinces to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sectors while ensuring Canadian companies remain competitive.

    Ahahahahaha! Oh, that’s rich.

Section Three:

  • More rah rah military history rhetoric.
  • Canada’s greatest dreams are to be found in our highest latitudes.

    What? How many Canadians have actually been to the high Arctic, let alone had the high Arctic as a source of their greatest dreams? Is whoever wrote this thing just getting punchy at this point? Trotting out the territories as The Ideal Canada while ignoring the concerns and problems of the people who live there is a big problem. Yes, the Arctic is a big deal, and as the Northwest Passage starts to open up permanently due to (apparently debatable, according to our Minister of the Environment) climate change, Arctic sovereignty is an increasing international issue. But morphing it into a symbol of Canadianness does no-one, northern or southern, any favours. Also, hacking away at programs that help you monitor the Arctic climate is maybe not the wisest of ideas either.

  • Our Government will fulfill Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s historic vision by completing the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean, linking Canada from sea to sea to sea.

    Is this actually useful to people in the north? This is a genuine question — I can see how an idea formulated in the context of 1950′s infrastructure is quite possibly not relevant to the people who actually live there 60 years later.

  • Our Government has established the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. This world-class science and technology research facility will open in time for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

    There were already research sites (like PEARL) up there! I’m not saying more aren’t useful, but consider not closing what you’ve already got before building more.

  • The story of the North is the story of Canada.

    Look, this is just ridiculous. There is no one story of Canada. Canada is a diverse nation with many rich histories that extend far back before Europeans showed up on the shores. There continues to be multiple and new stories of Canada as immigrants continue to arrive and bring new threads into the national tapestry. Eliding all those stories into a single, often appropriative and almost always grossly oversimplified, narrative is not only offensive, but inaccurate and unrepresentative of the actual nation. This government has, for some reason, been fixated on been using the Arctic as a cultural narrative for years now, and it’s high time they stopped.

  • We will work with renewed determination and an expanded team of partners to discover the fate of Sir John Franklin’s lost Arctic expedition.

    Again, this is not the level of stuff that should be in a throne speech.

  • And our Government stands opposed to those regimes that threaten their neighbours, slaughter their citizens, and imperil freedom.

    Arguably, all of these apply to the United States, our current BFFs.

  • Our Government will continue to promote these fundamental values around the world, including through the newly established Office of Religious Freedom.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall at meetings between this office and Quebec government.

  • Canadians also know that free and healthy societies require the full participation of women. Canada has taken a leadership role in addressing the health challenges facing women, infants and children in the world’s poorest countries. These efforts are saving millions of lives.

    They conveniently omit the part where they’re tying that funding to an extremely socially conservative agenda that they know they can’t get away with in Canada.

  • To strengthen and protect the value of Canadian citizenship, our Government will introduce the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.

    Another thing to keep a sharp eye on.

  • War of 1812, again! Harper seriously has a thing about that war.
  • I’m really not sure why a listing of a bunch of dudes’ birthdays is important in a Throne Speech. A Throne Speech sets policy and political direction — it’s not a list of which birthday parties the government’s going to throw. That chunk got about as much space as the following:

    The Government continues to believe the status quo in the Senate of Canada is unacceptable. The Senate must be reformed or, as with its provincial counterparts, vanish. The Government will proceed upon receiving the advice of the Supreme Court.

    And, the Government will propose changes to Canada’s elections laws to uphold the integrity of our voting system. Legislation will be introduced in time for implementation prior to the next federal election.

    You know, nothing major, just overhauling the Senate and fussing with our electoral system. Who wants some of George-Étienne Cartier’s birthday cake?

One Response to Lowlights from The Throne Speech

  1. Pingback: Getting up to speed on Canadian science policy & politics | ScienceBorealis.ca Blog

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