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Takeaways of a COVID-19 Throne Speech: Robust, Bold, Forgets Youth

The Takeaway: With 4.5 million Canadians still in need of CERB that ends next week, the immediate need to extend the CERB was granted until the summer of 2021. The Throne Speech gave the impression that the Liberal Government feels they have the political capital to announce initiatives they have long wanted to implement.

  • Major announcements included the creation of a national childcare program, UNDRIP presented as legislation by the end of the year, and create a million jobs across the country.
  • The specifics of each item in the Throne Speech will come later at the presentation of the budget and introduction of different pieces of legislation.
  • Big issues left off the Throne Speech cause for significant questions, with no support from the Bloc Quebecois and Conservatives this jeopardizes the Liberal mandate and a possible election.

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Intersectional and Feminist Pandemic Response

The Throne Speech made it clear that the federal government wants to uplift and fight for all Canadians through an intersectional and feminist lens. This was evident from the government’s commitment for more “accessible, affordable, inclusive, and high quality childcare” to ensure that when Canada moves forward through the pandemic, women do too.

  • The government previously announced a $221 million entrepreneurship program for Black Canadians and the creation of an anti-racism secretariat, but they also signalled action to fight overrepresentation of Back and Indigenous Canadians and RCMP reform.
  • Low-income women have been hardest hit by the pandemic and the government will create an Action Plan for Women in the Economy headed by a task force to help more women re-enter the workforce.

Helping Those Most in Need

Canadians with disabilities have been especially affected and there were noticeable efforts to change enduring challenges, creating a Disability Inclusion Plan and a new Canadian Disability Benefit

  • The plan includes an employment strategy to include more persons with disabilities into the workforce, resolve long-standing eligibility requirements for programs and benefits
  • There was also a commitment to introducing a free, automatic tax filing system which will help Canadians in rural and low-income areas, as well as Canadians who are not able to file their own taxes

Young People and Students Left Out

There was no mention of students throughout the 19 page Throne Speech, with only a single mention of young people and youth. Young people have been among the hardest hit groups and the economic impact will leave young Canadians unable to recover for years.

  • With the CERB extended until next summer, there was no mention for any extension of the CESB.
  • Young Canadians likely have many questions for the Liberal Government whose almost unlimited political capital to respond to the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression neglected one of the largest voting demographic.
  • International students and low-income students will feel the biggest blow to the inaction in the Throne Speech as many have had to resort to food banks and cancelling semesters due to increased tuition costs and limited employment opportunities.

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Climate Action

The speech promised the creation of a million jobs and an upcoming plan for Canada to exceed the 2030 Paris Climate Accord goals, with a reaffirmation of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The interesting piece from this new climate plan comes from the approach to attract new investments in creating new zero-emissions vehicles and products.

  • Thousands of jobs are expected to be created through retrofitting homes and cutting energy bills for families, but there was no mention of the federal carbon tax which has received massive political opposition from the Conservatives.
  • The Throne Speech laid out a plan to support several provincial projects and a commitment to making more affordable zero-emission vehicles.
  • It is unclear which corporations will be eligible, but a striking concern came when there was an indication to cut the corporate tax rate in half for companies that create jobs and make zero-emission products.

Indigenous Reconciliation

A major announcement was that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) would be introduced before the end of 2020. A long-awaited move comes amidst Canada has facing massive international and domestic condemnation for various human rights abuses and a caution to label missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls a genocide.

  • The federal Liberals will be moving forward to work on codeveloping distinction-based health legislation with Inuit, First Nations and Métis
  • Much-needed RCMP reformations were announced amid the murder of unarmed Indigenous women in recent months by RCMP officers
  • The Throne Speech also included increased investments to meet the clean drinking water commitment in First Nations communities

Words Not Action

You didn’t have to look far from seeing many people less than likely to buy into the Throne Speech for change, as there were many Indigenous protesters outside the Senate. The group action for “Solidarity with Mi’kmaq Warriors” had to move due to the prevalence of anti-abortion, Canada Proud and anti-mask protest groups.

  • NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh signaled his worry about the Liberals moving back on their word and was not clear whether the NDP would support the Throne Speech
  • Mr. Singh pointed towards paid sick leave, universal pharmacare and a wealth tax as issues omitted from the Throne Speech that leaves him cautious to support the Liberals

WE Scandal to Green Scandal

The Conservatives leading up to the speech raised concerns about the $343 billion deficit the federal government is projected to spend this fiscal year and was a theme consistent in their response. With the massive amount of spending and initiatives being put forward by the Liberal government, the WE scandal looks like it is in the past with the focus towards the deficit from the Conservatives.

  • Candice Bergen, Deputy Conservative Leader, made the response to the government and struck a less positive tone than the one made read by the Governor-General.
  • The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois have already stated they will not support the Throne Speech.

A Need for Change

Abacus Data

In a new poll conducted by Abacus Data found that Canadians overwhelmingly wanted to see bold new ideas to fight COVID-19.

  • 76% of Canadians said they wanted a new wealth tax on the richest Canadians, and it was even higher among 2019 Liberal voters with 87%
  • 64% of Canadians believe that the opportunities for young people was worse or much worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Nouvelle recently reported on youth organizers from across Canada staging a press conference on Parliament Hill to announce youth priorities they want to see in the Throne Speech

Virtual Voting Format

Pablo Rodriguez, the Government House Leader, announced an agreement with other parties to install a hybrid model of voting. This negotiation comes amidst many Conservative MPs in fierce disagreement over the change.


The Bottom Line: Nothing is certain until a budget is unveiled but the Liberals presented a bold action plan to respond to the health and economic crisis. With the BQ and Conservatives they will not support the Throne Speech, this leaves the NDP as the deciding vote whether there will be an election or not.

The victories outlined in the Throne Speech should be celebrated as progress, but young people and a tax on the wealthiest Canadians need to be included in a future vision for the country now more than ever.


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