OTTAWA — The Trudeau government's first throne speech is likely to be one of the shortest in Canadian history.
Insiders say the speech, to be read by Gov. Gen. David Johnston on Friday, will be little more than a list of the new Liberal government's immediate priorities, with minimal rhetorical flourishes and no surprises.
It won't mention every federal department.
It won't recap every single promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the federal election campaign.
Rather, it will be a brief recitation of the urgent promises Trudeau intends to move on over the coming year - those aimed at improving the lot of struggling middle-class Canadians foremost among them.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech during the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
The brevity and tight focus of the speech is modelled on throne speeches in the mother of Parliaments in the United Kingdom, which typically run less than 1,000 words and takes the Queen less than 10 minutes to read.
The speech from the throne marks the start of a new session of Parliament, following the election Thursday of a new Speaker of the House of Commons.
Mauril Belanger's diagnosis dampens spirits
But while Liberals are still basking in the afterglow of their upset victory on Oct. 19, their triumphant return to the government side of the aisle in the Commons has been dampened by news that one of their veteran MPs, Mauril Belanger, is facing a devastating health crisis.
Belanger, who had been in the running to become Speaker, was diagnosed late last week with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. He withdrew from the race on Monday.
The news cast a pall over a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday to plot strategy for the imminent resumption of Parliament.
Veteran Liberal MP Mauril Belanger revealed his ALS diagnosis last week. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
A grim-faced Trudeau accompanied Belanger into the closed-door meeting, which MPs later said was very emotional.
Cape Breton MP Rodger Cuzner had tears in his eyes as he spoke of Belanger.
"He's a great guy, he's truly respected, just an honourable, hard-working guy, smart, more than likely would've been a strong, strong candidate for Speaker," Cuzner said. "He loves this place ... It's tragic."
Denis Paradis, a Quebec MP who remains in the running for Speaker, praised Belanger as "an excellent MP'' and said Wednesday's caucus meeting was "hard."
Halifax Liberal MP Geoff Regan and Toronto Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi are also in the running to be Speaker, along with a lone Conservative MP, Bruce Stanton.
Parliamentary Secretaries named
In preparation for the return of Parliament, Trudeau appointed Wednesday 35 Liberal MPs to serve as parliamentary secretaries to his 30 cabinet ministers. The list includes a number of stars who were left out of cabinet, including Toronto MP Adam Vaughan, who becomes one of three parliamentary secretaries to the prime minister, and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who becomes parliamentary secretary to the justice minister.
Being a parliamentary secretary is often a stepping stone to cabinet.
The House will sit only until the end of next week before taking an extended Christmas break, returning in late January. The government intends to pass a ways and means motion giving effect to Trudeau's promises to cut the federal income tax rate on those earning between $44,700 and $89,401 a year, while imposing a higher bracket on the wealthiest once per cent who earn more than $200,000.
Those tax promises will feature prominently in the throne speech, along with Trudeau's promise to replace the universal child care benefit with a more generous, tax-free child benefit that is geared to income.
The speech is also expected to highlight promises to invest heavily in infrastructure to boost the sluggish economy, reform Parliament, change the electoral system, develop a new relationship with indigenous people and promote diversity through, among other things, bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees.
It will also reiterate Trudeau's commitment to repair Canada's relationship with the United States, work with the provinces to combat climate change, and bring to fruition the free trade agreement with Europe.
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