Activist agenda set out in throne speech
Last Updated Tue, 01 Oct 2002 8:51:57
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Jean Chrétien spelled out an activist agenda for what is likely his last session of Parliament, including ratifying the Kyoto protocol and reducing child poverty.
BACKGROUNDER: The speech from the throne
It also promises health care reform, all without going into debt.
"The government will maintain its unwavering commitment to balanced budgets, disciplined spending, a declining ratio of debt-to-GDP, and fair and competitive taxes," said the throne speech delivered in the Senate chamber by Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson.
RELATED: Throne speech recycled, opposition says
"The Canada We Want" laid out the government's plans to pursue ambitious goals on a range of domestic and foreign issues.
It also promises to hold itself to a stricter code of ethics, starting soon. "Early in this session, the government will provide clear guidance and better enforcement of the ethical standards expected of elected officials and senior public servants," Clarkson said.
The speech opens the second session of the 37th Parliament of Canada, expected to be the last full session before Chrétien steps down.
In the last year of his leadership, Chrétien intends to leave a mark on an array of policy areas, from health care and the environment to child poverty and the lives of aboriginal people.
The government promises in the throne speech to:
Improve the health-care system; Get Canada's children off welfare; Close the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians; Deal with climate change; Make Canada a world leader in innovation and learning; Attract talent and investment; Help cities; Better enforce ethical standards for MPs and civil servants.
Everyone either pleased or disappointed with the promises laid out in the throne speech will have to wait until next spring to see how they manifest themselves in the budget.
With the Romanow commission set to make its report on the health-care system in November, the prime minister promised in the speech to meet with the premiers early next year to make plans for reforms to the system in time for the next budget.
The environment will be a large concern for the government in the next several months, as the speech repeated Chrétien's promise to bring the Kyoto protocol on climate change to Parliament before the end of the year.
"Meeting this challenge must become a national project, calling upon the efforts and contributions of all Canadians, in all regions and sectors of the economy," the speech said.
The government also plans to create parks and marine conservation areas, and reintroduce the species at risk legislation that was killed when Parliament was prorogued so the throne speech could happen.
The government says it will increase the National Child Benefit for poor families, and increase access to early childhood education and child care. It also plans to help families with disabled children.
Aboriginal families will get more help, with programs to raise the level of education on reserves, and to deal with the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Legislation on First Nations governance will be reintroduced, to give aboriginal people the tools to improve the way their communities are administered.
The government promises to "work with these communities to build their capacity for economic and social development."
Aboriginals living in Canada's cities will also get more help, with expanded pilot projects aimed specifically at their needs.
The government plans a new urban strategy to make Canada's cities more attractive to business and individuals. "Competitive cities and healthy communities are vital to our individual and national well-being," the speech said.
Cities themselves will get a boost, as the government says it will put in place a 10-year program for investments in urban infrastructure.
The speech also said a national drug strategy will be developed, which could include decriminalizing marijuana.
Regarding global issues, the throne speech echoed comments made recently by Chrétien regarding events in the past year.
"The events of Sept. 11 demonstrated that our progress at home can be affected in a moment by world events. We see unrest in many parts of the world. We still see far too much poverty," the speech said.
The government plans to double its development aid in the next eight years, and will eliminate many tariffs and quotas on products from developing countries at the start of next year.
The speech also reiterated Canada's commitment to work through the United Nations "to ensure that the rule of international law is respected and enforced.
"At the same time, the government will remain vigilant and ready to ensure the protection of Canadians from emerging threats, and will work wit the United States to address our shared security needs."
Written by CBC News Online staff
'A rehashing' of aboriginal pledges
National chief concerned promises of initiatives leave out First Nations input
Rick Mofina The Ottawa Citizen
The Liberal government pledged to ease the poverty of Aboriginal Peoples living in Canadian cities in a throne speech yesterday that reaffirmed earlier promises made to natives.
"I'm a little concerned because I think it's a recycle, a rehashing of the old things where they left off prior to Sept. 11," said Matthew Coon Come, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The federal government promised to work with the provinces to expand programs aimed at improving access to health, education and social programs for Aboriginal Peoples living in Canadian cities. But the speech was short on specifics, and Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault said more details would come in the budget.
Chief Coon Come said he liked aspects of the government's pledge to better the lives of Canada's 1.4 million Aboriginal Peoples.
"But I think it is all trying to work within their (government) institutions, rather than working with us,"said Chief Coon Come.
Dwight Dorey, chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, had a mixed reaction.
"It's a positive, trying to address the urban issues, like homelessness. A lot of the homeless people in the major urban centres are Aboriginal People," he said
Chief Dorey added the downside of the speech is that it appeared many of the other programs, such as strengthening the economies of First Nations and enhancing social programs, were geared towards on-reserve natives.
The government also pledged to expand native early childhood education programs, continue initiatives aimed at alleviating fetal alcohol syndrome in newborns and create a First Nations health promotion and disease prevention strategy that would include an immunization program on Canada's 600 reserves.
Most of these initiatives have been ongoing, or had been announced in earlier throne speeches.
"I see this as a reaffirmation of the major policy issues that we've been talking about for the last year and a half," Mr. Nault said yesterday. "We've recognized the importance of Aboriginal People who live off reserves."
Brian Pallister, Canadian Alliance aboriginal affairs critic, said the throne speech short-changed native people.
"Aboriginal people who can't even own their own house aren't going to be interested in seeing the same kind of band-aid solutions preached to them from this throne speech that they heard last time," Mr. Pallister said.
The Throne Speech
© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Text of the Throne Speech
Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada
It is a pleasure to greet you in the Jubilee Year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whom we will be welcoming to Canada very shortly.
Throne speech a replay for native leaders still waiting for real ...
St. Catherines Standard, Canada
OTTAWA (CP) - The latest Liberal throne speech is a catchy but suspiciously breezy tune that Canada's native leaders say they've heard before
Speech a replay for native leaders
Ottawa Citizen, Canada
OTTAWA -- The latest Liberal throne speech promise to improve life chances for aboriginals echoed similar commitments made in last year's speech, Indian
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