Today we learned that the title of tomorrow’s Speech from the Throne will be “A Stronger Canada. A Stronger Economy. Now and for the Future.” It’s a bit cumbersome, but the more compact “The Land is Strong” was already taken. We were also told the sub-titles.
The first section is called “Planning for Recovery: Returning to Fiscal Balance.” The crucial question of how big a structural deficit the Conservatives are willing to admit exists probably won’t be answered here. And of course they won’t be precise about the spending cuts they favour to eliminate it—too much detail for a throne speech and too much of a downer. Thursday’s budget might tell us more, but not everything.
The second section, “Building the Jobs and Industries of the Future,” is awkward for Conservatives who never much liked industrial policy. The movement conservative preference in this policy area has long been for business tax cuts and deregulation. But there’s no room for more tax cuts and deregulation, after 2008’s market meltdown, has lost whatever remaining luster it had. So, how far will the Tories stray into traditional Liberal territory of innovation incentives and even subsidies?
A section on “Making Canada the Best Place for Families” brings Harper’s government back onto more comfortable rhetorical territory. But having vowed no new spending, they can’t unveil another signature policy like 2006’s $100 per month payment for every kid under six. This seems like the logical place for a law-and-order section: more about mandatory minimum sentences.
Under “Strengthening a United Canada in a Changing World,” the Tories have a chance to exploit their brand advantage on defence. As well, Arctic sovereignty is likely to get a nod here, along with some description of an Afghanistan aid policy to carry on after troops are pulled out next year. Also, listen for Harper’s new plan to target maternal and child health in poor countries.
I’m even less sure what to expect under the subtitle “Standing up for Those Who Helped Build Canada,” except to note that senior citizens tend to vote.
Overall, this list of headings reminds me a bit of the famous “Contract With America,” that U.S. Republicans rode to (short-lived) victory in the 1994 Congressional mid-term elections. That briefly potent document proposed a bunch of bills with titles like the Fiscal Responsibility Act (see the first of throne speech sub-headings), the Taking Back Our Streets Act (echoed in the Tory tough-on-crime talk), the Family Reinforcement Act (family will be a key word tomorrow), the National Security Restoration Act (no real parallel in Canada, where matters military don’t loom nearly o large in politics, but there will be a taste of this in the “Strengthening a United Canada in a Changing World” part), and the Senior Citizens Fairness Act (thematically similar to “Standing Up for Those Who Helped Build Canada).