OTTAWA: In order to address social inequalities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday revealed a grand plan to create one million jobs during the recovery, while also extending emergency measures for the second wave of COVID-19.
In the so-called throne speech, read by Governor General Julie Payette at a joint sitting of MPs and senators, Trudeau’s government vowed to eliminate homelessness, hasten Canada’s fight against climate change and introduce national childcare and pharmacare programs.
It said it aims in the short term to also restore employment to pre-pandemic levels, and both extend and broaden emergency aid measures to keep the economy rolling.
“This is our generation’s crossroads,” Payette said in the speech.
“Do we move Canada forward, or let people be left behind? Do we come out of this stronger, or paper over the cracks that the crisis has exposed?” she said.
“This is the opportunity to contain the global crisis and build back better, together.”
The plan calls for direct infrastructure investment, training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.
Moves to exceed Canada’s 2030 carbon emissions reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels will also be a “cornerstone” of job creation efforts, according to the speech.
“The economic restart,” Payette said, “is now well underway.”
“This is not the time for austerity,” she added, hinting at additional debt-financing for Canada’s recovery.
Wednesday evening, Trudeau is to give a separate and rare televised address to the nation to stress the urgency in fighting the pandemic.
Polling shows most Canadians are satisfied with Trudeau´s management of the crisis so far.
Bold new solutions
He will also press for “bold new solutions”, which will require parliament’s nod in the coming weeks.
But if all three opposition parties reject his minority Liberal government’s grand New Deal-style reforms, Canada will be heading to the polls in the middle of the pandemic.
It is arguably an awkward time for sweeping policy changes, or as critics suggested, to dare the opposition to force snap elections.
Earlier Wednesday, chief public health officer Theresa Tam warned of a potential “big resurgence” in coronavirus cases without strong actions to limit its spread.
“The national daily case count has been increasing at an accelerated rate,” she said, as millions of Canadians returned to work and school this month.
The Conservatives elected a new leader only last month: Erin O´Toole, who is not well known to Canadians.
Both O´Toole and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 and did not attend the speech.
Officials have yet to sort out a plan for virtual voting to avoid cramming 338 members into the House of Commons to cast ballots on the throne speech and a new budget.
Trudeau, however, insisted he needs to test parliamentary support for his policy goals, as Canada´s circumstances are dramatically different than when he won his mandate last year.
Under the pandemic, the country’s jobless rate peaked at 13.9 percent in May, while the economy contracted at a record 38.7 percent in the second quarter.
Ottawa has already doled out more than Can$300 billion (US$230 billion) in emergency aid in the last six months.
A new budget with costs of the new proposals is expected soon.
A new Abacus Data poll, meanwhile, indicated that if an election were held now, it would likely result in another minority Liberal government.