Throne Speech Preview

Ottawa - Friday, September 27, 2002 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Next Monday afternoon Governor General Adrienne Clarkson will rise to deliver the government’s Throne Speech. The last Throne Speech (January 2001) focused on two themes, “innovation” and “inclusion”. For next week’s effort we can safely add “investment” as a third theme given the Prime Minister’s recent statements.

devil in
the details

In fairness, these themes, three “I’s” if you will, are laudable objectives for any government policy agenda. But the devil — as always -- is in the details. example, innovation can be fostered through progressive tax policy such as abolishing the capital tax on businesses (a $1.4 billion revenue haul for the feds) or innovation can be botched via the expansion of the federal government’s existing corporate welfare and regional development schemes (a $4 billion boondoggle).


“Innovation” as a theme unto itself is relatively neutral, it is the choice of fiscal instruments that determines whether the innovation agenda will succeed or fail … ditto for “inclusion” and “investment”. So how will these themes be articulated in the Throne Speech? Short answer: Big, expansionist, and intrusive government. Having doubts? Take a look at what the Prime Minister said on August 20th in Chicoutimi, Quebec.
“We are now extremely well positioned to pursue an activist agenda for the rest of our mandate. An agenda whose foundation is an unswerving commitment to the fiscal discipline that has brought about an era of balanced budgets, lower taxes and debt repayment.”


Activist agenda, yikes. Sure the Prime Minsiter pays lip service to balanced budgets, etc., but we should remember that this so-called “fiscal discipline” was mostly a product of Ontario’s and Alberta’s economic growth (boosting federal revenues) combined with ripping off workers and employers to the tune of $42 billion in Employment Insurance overpayments.


Mr. Chretien then said:

long term

“But our Liberal agenda recognizes that this healthy balance sheet will only remain healthy if we continue, as well, to make strategic, long term investments in our social and economic infrastructure: in learning, in children, and in the environment.”


Of course learning (a good thing) will be closely tied with the innovation agenda (a bad thing under the Liberals so far). As for children, expect another vacuous commitment on eradicating child poverty. Remember the last commitment made by Canada at the United Nations? Child poverty was to be eliminated by the year 2000. Enough said.


The Throne Speech will also (for the umpteenth time) promise action, strategies, investments not to mention innovative-this and inclusive-that to address the tragic problems faced by native/aboriginal youth in Canada. However, past policy approaches (ie: more money, more money, more money) will not suffice. The incidence of substance abuse, school dropouts, and teen suicides for aboriginal youth are all above the Canadian average and a sad testament to our efforts in this critical policy area.

$10 billion

Scrapping the Indian Act, reforming band elections, building greater capacity in native financing issues and experimenting with a regime of property rights on reserves would really foster “inclusion” of our aboriginal communities. While several native accountability coalitions are advocating these reforms, sadly our $10 billion annual “Indian Industry”, including the government, clings to the status quo.

4 letter

We have already seen the government’s environmental agenda: ratification of Kyoto. Jean Chretien seems destined to inflict a $40 billion bill and 450,000 lost jobs on Canada in his search for a legacy. Innovation, inclusion and investment. After next week’s Throne Speech, these may become four letter words as far as taxpayers are concerned.
  Walter Robinson
Federal Director



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