The Harper Conservative Government, knowing full well how sleep-deprived and flu-ish I am today, decided that now would be a good time to deliver the Speech from the Throne. The full text is located here.
And now, the analysis.
This particular passage in the preamble got my attention...
The results are clear: the economy is strong, the government is clean and the country is united.
Strong economy? Check. Government is clean? Well... cleaner, anyhow. The country is united? In some ways, sure... but the drastic polarization of our country along political faultlines continues unchecked. Canadians, more than ever, are likely to identify "their guy" as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while portraying "the other guy" as the Antichrist. You only have to go as far as your local paper's "comments" section to see what I mean. So, are we 10 provinces (9, if you don't count Newfoundland) and 3 territories who are, at least at present, pretty happy being Canadian? Sure we are. But would I call us "united"? Hardly. The 1 in 3 voters who 30 years ago would have said they "didn't much care for the Prime Minister, and didn't plan to vote for him" today would say something along the lines of "he's a corporate puppet who ruined my retirement with the income trust fiasco, he's a maniacal micro-managing tin pot dictator and he'd kiss G.W. Bush on the lips if he though he could get away with it".
Ah, I can smell the unity from here.
Enough preamble, on to the meat and potatoes...
In the next session, our Government will focus on five clear priorities: strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; building a stronger federation; providing effective economic leadership; continuing to tackle crime; and improving our environment.
All right, one at a time...
Strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world
The speech suggests this will happen in several ways.
- Asserting Arctic sovereignty
- Modernizing the military
- Improving support for Veterans
- Confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi (guess Darth Anders will be absent from the House on that day)
- Hold a vote on the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan
The Bloc and NDP want no part of Afghanistan any longer. The NDP never did, and the Bloc started giving a damn once the soldiers who were dying started having their caskets shipped to Quebec addresses.
The easy way to get away from calling an election over the issue is a semantic one - "we meant it was a confidence motion that a vote be HELD, not that the government WIN it...".
Building a stronger federation
Also known as the "we give up on Williams, but maybe the other Premiers will love us" section of the speech. Highlights include:
- Allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.
- Reintroducing important pieces of legislation from the last session, including direct consultations with voters on the selection of Senators and limitations on their tenure
- Guarantee to people living on reserve the same protections other Canadians enjoy under the Canadian Human Rights Act
- The Prime Minister, on behalf of our Government, will use this occasion to make a statement of apology to (Residential Schools victims).
- (Introduce) measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.
Also, give this to Stephen - he apologizes VERY well. I'll be interested to see if he can outdo his best apology to date, the "Chinese Head Tax" apology.
The last point COULD get hairy, but there's no reason that it needs to. The simple solution, is have a female staff member at the polling station confirm who's under the veil. Problem solved - write the damned law, instead of crying that the Supreme Court won't do it for you. At least it looks as though they intend to make it part of their legislative agenda, rather than putting it back on the list of "things to cry to the Supreme Court about". I wonder how they'll visually confirm the Amish, though (photo i.d. being a problem for them)... any Amish who are reading this, let me know what you think.
Providing effective economic leadership
This is the traditional stronghold that Conservative governments go to as a reason to keep them around. Let's see what Steve and the Crew have come up with...
- Bring forward a long-term plan of broad-based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families
- Cut the GST a further point, to 5%
- Improve the governance and management of the Employment Insurance Account.
- Announce an infrastructure program, the Building Canada Plan, to support our long-term growth.
Nothing too controversial in there... in fact, the Liberals will be committing political suicide if they bring down the Tories on any of those points. Well played. Tax cuts, a lower GST, cleaning up the EI program (long overdue), and spending more money on roads and ports (Windsor, Atlantic Canada, and BC were named specifically) should play well both in traditional Toryland and in the areas (by quite a coincidence, including Windsor, Atlantic Canada, and BC) that don't traditionally vote Blue.
Continuing to tackle crime
Another strong traditional Tory value. Over to you, Steve...
- (Re-introduce a single onmibus bill with) measures on the age of protection, impaired driving, dangerous offenders and stricter bail and mandatory prison sentences for those who commit gun crimes.
- Strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Introduce tough new laws to tackle property crime
- Implement the National Anti-Drug Strategy
- Recruit 2,500 more officers to police our streets
Again, the Liberals don't have a whole lot or wriggle room on these issues, and will be hard-pressed to vote against them. Starting our own "War on Drugs" opens up a can of worms, but can you IMAGINE to attack ads if Dion were to vote against it? Only problem with the 2,500 more officers is that we're still waiting for the thousands of Mounties we were promised in the last election. What happened, there? Stockwell? Any response?
Improving our environment
THIS is the issue that the Liberals want to fight an election on. They want to paint Harper as a dinosaur, and then drive him to extinction. If dinosaurs ever existed. Still reading, Stockwell?
- Implement our national strategy to reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 70 percent by 2050
- Investing in public transport and water treatment
- Bolster the protection of our water and land through tougher environmental enforcement
- Introduce measures on food and product safety
The Tories have thrown in the towel, on Canada's behalf, regarding Kyoto. They state, elsewhere in the speech, that Canada has 77 days to reduce its greenhouse emissions to agreed levels, or they'll be in breach. In essence, "we're not going to make it, let's try something else". Truth be told, this section of the speech is quite thin, and the Grits couldn't be happier about that.
The environment has become Issue Number One for a lot of Canadians, and it's now as much an issue of passion as it is of science - people aren't satisfied with graphs anymore, they want someone at the front of the room, pounding their fist on the podium, talking about how much we all love Mother Earth and want to live in peace and harmony with all her creatures, and a bunch of other empty but well-meant rhetoric. It's 2007, and the hippies have finally won. IT doesn't matter if the Tories bring in the most comprehensive, workable plan to deal with our environmental concerns - what matters if whether or not Canadians believe that Stephen Harper CARES about the environment. If they don't think he CARES, then they won't vote for him, no matter what he does.
It's the Achilles' Heel of the Tories, and they (along with everyone else) know it. What remains to be seen isn't IF the Liberals take advantage of it - it's whether they'll get a chance to bring the government down over it, or whether Harper will force their hand first. I vote for the latter. But wither way, it doesn't much matter - the ensuing election will be less about issues, and more about who "CARES" about the environment. And unless the Tories pull off an Extreme Makeover that makes Ty Pennington jealous, Steve just doesn't come across as the caring, tree-hugging type.
Duceppe and the Bloc came out weeks ago saying they wouldn't vote for this Throne Speech even if it promised every person in Quebec a Porsche. They're trying to distance themselves from Harper faster than you do when you meet you ex at the high-school reunion who's still got a thing for you - and you brought your fiancee. And the ex has gotten big. Really, REALLY big. Point being, the Bloc is voting "no", no matter what. Like you should say, at the reunion, no matter how many whisky sours I had... oops.
Jack "Working Families" Layton also came out and said he wasn't going to support this speech - before it had even been written. He's positioning the NDP as the voice of reason, in contrast to the Tories and Liberals, whom he wants to pain as "the guys who screwed this all up, and there's no difference between them". In this regard, he's doing a great job. By opposing the Throne Speech, along with the Bloc, Layton knows that either Stephane Dion is going to have to do the unthinkable and go to the polls with the Liberals in a state of internal chaos, or he's going to have to support the Tories, or abstain. Either way, Jack gets his wish, and he can blame the Liberals for keeping Harper in power. It's a win/win for Jack.
Stephane Dion, on the other hand, is screwed. He knows he can't go to the polls right now - his brand is poison in Quebec, the NDP are making gains in Ontario, the Tories are making gains in the East (not counting Newfoundland)... he wants to bring Harper down, just to shut up his own caucus, but if he does it will trigger the final 30 days of his tenure as leader. Dion needs the Tories to stay in power long enough to get his house in order, and prepare an election strategy based on the environment - and then he needs money. Lots, and lots, and lots of money. Whether he can RAISE it or not remains to be seen. But right now, for Stephane, he's taking the Kobayashi Maru test.
Bonus points to the Citizens who understood the reference.
Layton may be in a "win/win" situation, but Dion is in a "no-win" situation. If he has his caucus vote against any of the proposals in the Throne Speech that aren't environment-related, he's going to go to the Canadian people with one of the following messages:
"I'm Stephane Dion, and I don't believe that we should protect our sovereignty, OR our troops. Oh, and screw our Veterans. Vote for me."
"I'm Stephane Dion. Your Premier is a dick, you should have no say in who represents you in the Senate, and the First Nations are a bunch of crybabies. Vote for me."
"I'm Stephane Dion. You should pay higher taxes, and quit whining about traffic. Oh, and to hell with working families. Vote for me."
"I'm Stephane Dion, and I believe 30 year-old men should be able to sleep with 15 year-old girls without fear of reprisal. A few crack dealers in your neighbourhood are good for the economy, and if we hug gun offenders and tell them not to do it again, there's no reason to keep them locked up. Vote for me."
Needless to say... I don't think Stephane's going to go for any of those.
But, then again...
This concludes the analysis of the Speech from the Throne. Just 2 other things I want to mention before I go into hiding for a few days, Nation:
- The speech contains an insinuation, but no direct mention of the previous government.
- The words "new government" or "Canada's New Government" aren't used ONCE.
Might be time to figure out some new drinking games for those of us who listen to a lot of speeches - there go our 2 biggest excuses.