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A surprisingly detailed throne speech prompts questions

Several new initiatives cry out for more precise explanation


 

UPDATED BELOW

The Speech from the Throne uses Canada’s recent success at the Vancouver Olympics and generosity toward Haiti to set a ringingly patriotic tone. Beneath its expected rhetoric about jobs, family and security, a surprising number of specific new initiatives are sketched. But sketched is the word—the speech doesn’t fill in much detail. From my first read-through, at least five striking examples cry out for more precision, sometime very soon.

1. There’s a promise to “aggressively review all departmental spending.” The Conservatives announced on Sept. 25, 2006, that they had “eliminated wasteful and ineffective programs” after a review launched in their very first budget in 2006. How much new waste has crept into the system since then? In other words, how much spending do they expect to cut? (Maybe tomorrow’s budget will tell us.)

2. There’s a promise to “open Canada’s doors further to venture capital and to foreign investment in key sectors, including the satellite and telecommunications industries…” Does this suggest that last year’s controversial Globalive decision was, despite government claims that it did not open the door to more foreign ownership, a harbinger things to come?

3. There’s a promise to support businesses by removing “unnecessary and job-killing regulation and barriers to growth.” The small-business lobby puts cutting red tape right behind reducing taxes as a priority. On the other hand, after the financial meltdown of 2008 was blamed largely on lax regulation, the word no longer carries negative connotations in talk about the economy. So exactly which federal regulations are pointless rather than prudent?

4. There’s a promise to “look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.” Does this mean more initiatives like Winnipeg’s recent and controversial government-funded Youth for Christ community centre project? Exactly which social challenges are best handled by private charities or even companies? And what sorts of charities and companies?

5. There are promises to “give police investigative powers for the twenty-first century” and “modernize the judicial tools employed to fight terrorism and organized crime.” Police chiefs often complain that they lack manpower; criminal courts face backlogs. But what are the investigative and judicial powers, rather than resources, that police and judges currently lack when it comes to properly enforcing the law?

UPDATED:

We ask, they answer. Here’s Industry Minister Tony Clement a little while back responding on the Hill to reporters’ questions on what the government intends for the telecommunications sector:

“Well, these will be coming out in due course.  Clearly what we’ve heard from the sector as well as the satellite sector is that in order for them to continue to grow, to continue to innovate, to continue to create new jobs and new opportunity for Canadians there has to be a review of this policy.  This was obviously recommended by the original report on competitiveness, the Red Wilson Report and clearly we’ll be following up on that.”



 

A surprisingly detailed throne speech prompts questions

  1. "But what are the investigative and judicial powers, rather than resources, that police and judges currently lack when it comes to properly enforcing the law?"

    The ability to monitor internet usage, including emails, without a warrant, something that should be EXTREMELY disconcerting to Canadian journalists, who have rolled over on the issue thus far.

  2. This sentence seems curious: "Our Government will also eliminate unnecessary appointments to federal agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations."

    Does that mean: "This government will decline to make appointments so as to cripple or kill off federal organizations our base dislikes without bothering to get legislative approval from the House."

    • It means that the four-year terms of several liberal appointments have come up for renewal, and simply eliminating the positions will increase the relative voting power of all the hacks Harper has appointed himself.

      …At first, when I wrote that, I thought it might be a good joke. Now I'm wondering it it's serious.

    • That's funny…on one hand they're criticized for appointing like minded people (judges) and then criticized when they say they'll eliminate unnecessary appoinments…tell you what – when you figure out what you want, let us know. In the meantime…sit down and eat chocolate.

      • Actually, they're criticized for 1) not making appointments, thereby undermining the effectiveness of "arm's-length" agencies they don't like with no accountability to Parliament, and 2) appointing destructive zealots who damage other "arm'-length" agencies from within.

        What do Canadians want? Effective government, including competent leadership at various agencies.

        Now, was that so hard?

      • without bothering to get legislative approval from the House is the bit I'm concerned about, if that's how it is.

        • That's the point. Because they are in a minority, they can't change legislation to reflect their minority viewpoint without making comprimises with elected MPs from other parties who represent the majority of Canadians.

          So they find non-legislative administrative ways to impose their values on the majority.

          This is all out of the Bush playbook. Damn if we aren't the only friggin country on the planet right now ruled with an iron fist by a weird Bushian throwback. This is truly bizarre.

    • Something wrong with Youth For Christ's Government funded community centre???!!!! If it was a government funded Pro Choice Centre you wouldn't say anything…. Churches have been doing out reach work and helping society for years, quietly with out government funding and I might add doing it well and successfully ecouraging life and health and happiness so back off jack! Everyone gets to be funded even if you don't like it. If it wasn't for Youth For Christ in my youth I have no idea where I would be however I see where some of the people I grew up with ended up because they didn't have the support of a group. Why is it as soon as Chrits name is attached they are attacked??It is fine if you do not believe but stop trying to mess with other peoples beliefs. We are all intitled. Even you…

  3. 1. Good.
    2. Good.
    3. Cautious, but could be good.
    4. Sounds like Dubya.
    5. So, we're going to give the police the ability to spy on ordinary citizens without a warrant and without accountability? Hooray! We all know we can trust police to use such powers with respect and discretion in all cases, and that they won't use it to hack into their partner's email account to see whether they're cheating.

  4. "There's a promise to “look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.”

    Other questions: will the minority government conduct this forward thinking in public or continue their pattern of implementing a social conservative or, if you prefer, catering to their social conservative base away from the spotlight where it hopes no one is looking?

    • Shades of George W. Bush's "Faith-based Initiatives".

      Hope you like your tax dollars going to religious organizations in place of secular public organizations.

      • I would prefer my tax dollars going to religious organizations in place of secular public organizations. SPO's have proved that they are nothing more than a money pit. It's time to try something better.

  5. #5: Back to the Future II (set in 2015): "The justice system works swiftly in the future now that they've abolished all lawyers,' Doc Brown explains to Marty McFly.

    Five years to go.

  6. "There's a promise to “aggressively review all departmental spending.” The Conservatives announced on Sept. 25, 2006, that they had “eliminated wasteful and ineffective programs” after a review launched in their very first budget in 2006."

    So they've admitted that they are part of the problem. Good start.

    Could this be the first documented case of Conservatives not blaming the Liberals for all of today's problems?

    • Don't get ahead of yourself. Any difficulties found will be relegated to how the opposition forced them to pass a budget different from their original one.

  7. All hail the dictatorship!

  8. National Monument to the Victims of Communism? I wonder if ours will be a copy of George W. Bush's National Monument to the Victims of Communism, which was a copy of the Democracy Statue in Tianemen Square?

    • What's more interesting is that they thought it was a suitable thing to put in a throne speech. As if it's something that they'll be spending a significant amount of their working hours on getting the details sorted out..

      ..although, given how much it seems they work, perhaps they're correct.

  9. 4. There's a promise to “look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.”

    Is this to be built on the resoundingly unsuccessful attempt to address daycare through incentives to companies, having cancelled a provincially-backed national daycare strategy on, what, day one in office?

  10. A damp squib.

    Same old, same old twirling, twirling, twirling toward . . . ?

    Femorigamicartophobia, but I repeat myself.

    • Repeat yourself often enough, and it becomes mortequinoflagellation.

  11. "On the other hand, after the financial meltdown of 2008 was blamed largely on lax regulation, the word no longer carries negative connotations in talk about the economy. So exactly which federal regulations are pointless rather than prudent?"

    Like most journalists, nuance is not Geddes' forte. Unfortunately the reporting on banking regulation in the wake of the financial crisis has been cast in tones of deregulation vs. regulation. Because of a lack of understanding or distinction between the different spheres of deregulation (eg. financial deregulation vs. airline deregulation) we get a muddled picture. The financial crisis was, in part made possible by very specific instances of deregulation:
    1. The legalization of derivatives trading
    2. Lack of oversight of financial institutions
    3. The absence of limits on risk (eg. low reserve ratio requirements, or leverage regulation).

    Contrary to the general understanding, Canada's "highly regulated" banks have no branching restrictions, are able to engage in both consumer-oriented and commercial banking and are almost certainly "too big to fail". These aspects of deregulation are not especially dangerous. Large banks of the size of Canadian banks are not only more stable, but they facilitate greater coordination with the government, and are unlikely to take on risks that might torpedo the economy because each of our banks has such a large and diversified stake in the economy. Indeed, many of the culprit institutions in America's financial crisis were smaller, more specialized and more regional banks (if you go back to 1986 it was S&L's making stupid loans).

    And the crisis in the US was probably aided by some aspects of government-backed promotions of home-ownership (there is a reason that the big crises since the late 70's have been characterized by housing booms followed by housing busts). Additionally the presence of the FDIC and the high likelihood of bank bailouts create problem of moral hazard (if you succeed you make money, if you fail you get a bailout).

    The red tape and regulations Harper is talking about are almost certainly not instances of financial sector deregulation (in fact it is probably an empty rhetorical gesture).

    • I hate how people try to claim that the problem was because of government regulation when Iceland stands as a clear refutation of that point.

      • I wonder if meat inspections are now considered "red tape"?

        • It's like every day is the day after prorogation for this government; they wake up in the morning and behind their eyes . . . a brand new tabula rasa.

  12. Knowing the anguish our Governor General has suffered since the quake in her homeland it seemed utterly insensitive and heartless to subject her to the prolonged reading of a Throne speech that could have been reduced to the very short few pertinent facts it contained. How egotistical can Harper get !

  13. "look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges."

    Well, praises be to Jesus that they're shutting down insite. I mean, that was neither innovative or forward-thinking when it comes to the provinces dealing with the health and safety issues surrounding injection addictions.

  14. And oh ya all these comments are based on minority beliefs…. You all are minorities of one. Get two people in a room who claim to support the same thing and you will find out that they actually believe different too unless they are parreting something from someone else… Take a look at the injections site areas in other countries… they have not curbed drug use. I have seen first hand what that does to the next generation… Lets see isn't that five generations now in Canada that we have had welfare and foster care climbing in our country. Time to get off your buttes and do something not just complain.

  15. Very detailed speech.

    3. There's a promise to support businesses by removing “unnecessary and job-killing regulation and barriers to growth.” The small-business lobby puts cutting red tape right behind reducing taxes as a priority. On the other hand, after the financial meltdown of 2008 was blamed largely on lax regulation, the word no longer carries negative connotations in talk about the economy. So exactly which federal regulations are pointless rather than prudent?

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