Governor General Julie Payette delivers the Throne Speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on December 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Governor General Julie Payette delivers the Throne Speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on December 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

How the Liberal government intends to ride the coming second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will become clear today as it lays out a three-pronged approach in a hotly-anticipated speech from the throne certain to set the tone for the coming months in Parliament.

In what’s expected to be an address lasting as long as an hour, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette will detail the government’s plans in three areas: dealing with the urgent crisis of the current surge in cases, continuing and changing support for Canadians and businesses still not back on their feet, and what will come once the economy is better able to stand on its own.

With national case counts rising, public federal health officials have made it clear that if further public health and personal action isn’t taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the lockdowns which paralyzed the country for much of the first half of 2020 may be the only option.

Those lockdowns saw federal spending soar to historic levels in an effort to offset the pandemic’s crushing blow to Canadians’ lives and livelihoods.

Billions of dollars were pushed out the door to help cover salaries, rents, the purchase of life-saving equipment and other targeted supports.

It all came just months after the Liberals had won a minority government and forced them to rip up much of the policy playbook they’d put before Canadians during the election.

That was the justification Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used in August when he requested that Parliament be prorogued to allow for a reset of priorities.

Just ahead of that decision, his government had announced a massive new aid package creating new benefits, including paid sick leave, and expanded employment insurance as part of the phase out of an emergency benefit put into place in the early days of the pandemic. The measures require legislation that will be put before Parliament in the coming days.

READ MORE: Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

But the throne speech is expected to signal more tweaks are coming to EI, and make substantial commitments in other areas, including child are. For post-pandemic growth, the Liberals will detail plans that connect economic recovery to projects that equally combat climate change.

Trudeau will reinforce those plans in a nationally-televised address scheduled for tonight, as he also urges Canadians to be resolute in their efforts to combat the pandemic.

Though in the early days of the crisis he’d addressed Canadians daily from outside his home, a pivot to an evening televised speech was made to underscore the threat Canadians currently face of a coming wave.

The waning days of summer have seen a surge in cases no longer linked to vulnerable populations like those in long-term care homes as they were in the spring.

Instead, it is younger Canadians beginning to congregate in ever larger numbers, something that chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned Tuesday must come to a quick stop.

“The challenge we face now is to stay the course no matter how weary we may feel,” Tam said.

Those cases have reached into the halls of power as well; after political staffers succumbed to infection, the leaders of both the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois, and their spouses, were infected and they are now in isolation.

Their parties will be given time to respond to Trudeau’s televised address, but Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and the BQ”s Yves-Francois Blanchet will both be absent from Parliament Hill today for the throne speech.

Both are hoping to deliver their official replies on Sept. 29, when they’re both out of quarantine.

That arrangement is one of few details known so far about how the House of Commons may actually function in the days ahead, with negotiations ongoing around issues such as how a hybrid Parliament — some MPs attending in person, and some remotely — can allow votes to be cast in a transparent and accountable way.

Given the Liberals only have a minority government, those votes could mean the difference between their survival and an election; the vote on the speech from the throne itself is a confidence motion.

With the ongoing escalation of cases, a snap election is unlikely, though whatever the Liberals do put forward is sure to be a large part of a campaign platform when that election arrives.

Each of the opposition parties have already laid down some markers ahead of the speech that will determine their support.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh has already said he wants to see the promised legislation on EI changes, but is concerned too many people will still fall through the gaps, while Blanchet is looking for more money on health care for the provinces.

O’Toole — who has been Conservative Leader for just a month — has signalled he wants to see concrete action to address the concerns of the West, and for expanded support for businesses.

The pandemic will also make itself felt in a marked downscaling of the pageantry that normally accompanies a throne speech.

Among other things, no special guests or spectators will be allowed into the Senate chamber, and the number of MPs as well is being sharply curtailed.

READ MORE: Opposition blames Liberals as talks around return of Parliament near 11th hour

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Hotel Kimberley owner Anthony Edwards met with representatives of Mainroad and the City of Kimberley to discuss potential solutions for the amount of ice and road debris that gets plowed onto his sidewalk for him to have to shovel. The next day, he was met with the same problem. Photo submitted.
Hotel Kimberley owner seeks solution to ice, debris plowed onto sidewalk

Hotel Kimberley owner Anthony Edwards wants a solution after years of complaining… Continue reading

The Cranbrook Climate Hub will be hosting a webinar this coming Friday (January 29) that focuses on sustainable jobs. (Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay)
Cranbrook Climate Hub to host webinar on sustainable jobs

Bruce Wilson, former General Manager for Shell, will speak on ‘looking beyond Keystone XL’

Rob Davidson, manager at Buckhorn and Main, created a Facebook group which has connected people and given them a positive distraction throughout the lockdown. Paul Rodgers photo.
Rob Davidson’s Facebook food group a positive, connecting presence throughout pandemic

Since the pandemic hit and lockdown began, people have been in need… Continue reading

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kamloops hospital grows to 66 cases

A majority of cases remain among staff at Royal Inland Hospital

Most Read