The Throne Speech for the 43rd government included few surprises. The minority Liberal government has some of the right ideas – focussing on the climate crisis, health care and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, but their commitments fall short of the urgent change we need for our country. The Liberals will need to work with other parties to pass the Throne Speech – there’s still room for the government to be bold.
Here are some of the Speech from the Throne commitments the Council of Canadians wants to see swift action on:
“A clear majority of Canadians voted for ambitious climate action now. And that is what the Government will deliver.” This is the right attitude – and yes, the Throne Speech included specific reference to a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. It’s just not enough. As we know thanks to Climate Action Network Canada, we need to reach domestic reductions of at least 60 per cent by 2030 and assist other countries to reach 80 per cent reductions in the same timeframe. Not committing to the necessary reductions by 2030 is a form of climate denialism. Further, the deal must include a commitment to strengthen the rights of Indigenous peoples in relation to the land and water in their territories. We need a Green New Deal to rapidly transform our economy to a low-carbon future, guided by the principles of climate justice. Included in that plan will be Just Transition legislation to apply to all impacted sectors and communities. According to the organization Dogwood BC, disappointingly, the federal government plans to spend five times more on pipeline construction this year than fighting the climate emergency. And the federal government continues to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to end subsidies to corporations involved in exploration, extraction or processing fossil fuel.
“The Government will take steps to introduce and implement national pharmacare so that Canadians have the drug coverage they need.” This sounds good, but small steps won’t take us where we need to go. The federal government should create a national formulary to achieve equitable, evidence-based, universal drug coverage across Canada, and create a publicly funded national drug approval agency to take advantage of generic or bulk purchasing opportunities. They must protect health care and pharmaceutical policies from international trade agreements.
“Take action to co-develop and introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of the new mandate.” This should mean the government will respect Indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent about what happens in their territories, including major projects like pipelines. We’ll be watching this very closely.
“Continue work to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.” Although we welcome this commitment, it must be met with concrete actions. This government must commit to true reconciliation which means following the court ruling to compensate for Indigenous children being discriminated against under the child welfare system and dropping the appeal of the Human Right Tribunal ruling.
While there’s a fair amount to agree with in the Throne Speech, there are many disappointments about what is missing from this government’s list of priorities. Here are some of the bold commitments we need the government to adopt and move forward with:
Provide safe, clean drinking water to all First Nations communities and support a First Nations-led long-term water strategy. The Liberal’s Throne Speech reiterated the past commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations by 2021. Although progress has been made, the federal government must provide adequate funding, remove unnecessary bureaucracy, and work with First Nations to fulfill this bare-minimum commitment.
Implement the human right to water and sanitation, close the infrastructure funding gap in every city and town in Canada, and protect water as a public trust by strengthening environmental legislations. The federal government must put in place national drinking water standards, work to implement the human right to water, and provide adequate funding for municipalities to upgrade their water and wastewater infrastructure while rejecting privatization options. The Canadian government must protect all lakes and rivers and respect Indigenous communities’ right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent when considering all development projects in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Rethink the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), and make it work for people first. While there were two substantial changes to the agreement – namely the removal of the investor-state dispute mechanism between the U.S. and Mexico, and the removal of energy proportionality which mandated energy export levels to the U.S. – there are still major drawbacks to the new agreement. U.S. Democrats successfully changed provisions around labour and pharmaceutical patents in order to support people and the environment over Big Pharma and corporations. The agreement however has substantial flaws; the provisions that allow corporations to have a seat at the table when regulations are made, and more access for US milk to our market. Future agreements must not be negotiated differently with people and the planet in mind from the beginning, not with corporate rights in mind.
Act swiftly to address the health impacts of the climate emergency. A growing number of health and medical organizations are sounding the alarm that the climate crisis has already become a public health emergency, impacting both the physical and mental health of Canadians. Addressing the climate emergency is critical for the long-term health of global ecosystems and the mental and physical health of Canadians.
And lastly, here’s what you can do:
The Council of Canadians has created alternative mandate letters for this government in relation to water, trade, health care and the climate crisis. You can make your voice heard at this time by writing directly to the Ministers of Health, Environment, and International Trade to tell them what your priorities are.
- We’re calling for the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to boldly commit to a Green New Deal, national public transit, safe and accessible green public housing, Indigenous rights, and a just transition for workers and communities.
- Canadians want universal pharmacare and in the letter to the Minister of Health we call for the implementation of pharmacare within the next four years. We also discuss pressing needs for mental health care, vision care, hearing and dental care.
- The trade letter calls on the Minister of International Trade to push for trade agreements that put people ahead of corporations instead of prioritizing the rights of multinational corporations at the detriment of our climate and our societies.
- And we’re asking the government to establish a Ministry of Water to protect water by implementing and reinforcing the human right to water and sanitation, providing safe, clean drinking water, putting a stop to bottled water exports, removing water from the list of tradable goods in all trade agreements, and declaring ground and surface water a public trust.
During the next few days, different parties will vie to be the balance of power in this minority Parliament, offering their support for the Throne Speech in exchange for movement on the issues that matter most to them. Share your priorities and help shape a legislative agenda that works for all Canadians.