OTTAWA — In the face of rising COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday it’s likely Canadians have lost the chance to gather together for Thanksgiving, but there’s still a shot at Christmas.
Trudeau delivered a rare national address Wednesday, asking Canadians to be resilient in the face of a second wave of COVID-19 infections that he said is “already underway.” He repeated many of the promises outlined in the throne speech, read hours earlier by Governor General Julie Payette, pledging to protect Canadians’ incomes during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The federal government will have your back, whatever it takes, to help you get through this crisis,” Trudeau said in the televised address broadcast from his Ottawa office.
Watch: Tam urges Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise. Story continues below video.
The throne speech marks the opening of a new parliamentary session. The previous session came to a close last month after the prime minister asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament.
Trudeau spoke to Canadians directly through the live address after opposition parties voiced their disappointment in the throne speech. The prime minister had previously set expectations that it would be a blueprint for the “economic recovery of our generation.”
The 17-page speech highlighted an “ambitious” COVID-19 recovery plan which includes proposals to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through to next summer and create a national child-care system. It’s a non-binding document that serves to outline the government’s agenda for an upcoming session of Parliament.
It paid special attention to women — particularly those who earn low incomes — who have been hardest hit by the pandemic, said Payette.
“We must not let the legacy of the pandemic be one of rolling back the clock on women’s participation in the workforce, nor one of backtracking on the social and political gains women and allies have fought so hard to secure,” she read.
The throne speech also carved space for plenty of Liberal promises made during the election campaign, including recycling a pledge to ban “harmful” single-use plastics and repeating a promise to take action on online hate.
It also put a spotlight on climate action, calling it a “cornerstone” of the Liberal government’s plan to create one million jobs.
The government’s much-anticipated speech wasn’t an immediate hit with opposition parties.
Canadians could face a snap election this fall if Trudeau’s minority government is unable to shore enough support to survive a confidence vote on the throne speech expected next week.
Conservatives said they could not support the throne speech, suggesting the deliverance of “Liberal buzzwords” and “grand gestures with very little to no follow-up plan” did not justify the cancellation of committees when Trudeau prorogued Parliament.
Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen told reporters the speech’s contents didn’t have much for agricultural workers, single parents, mortgage owners or small businesses owners.
“It doesn’t speak at all of national unity, it doesn’t speak of our energy sector and our workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” she said.
The lack of a fiscal plan has also made Conservatives “very, very displeased,” Bergen said, adding that her party is ready for election should one be called.
“It doesn’t speak at all of national unity, it doesn’t speak of our energy sector and our workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan and Manitoba.”
O’Toole did, however, tape his reaction to Trudeau’s address outside his home. Without explicitly saying whether or not his party would support the throne speech, O’Toole brought up other issues, such as western alienation and China-Canada relations.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet followed O’Toole with a response filmed outside his home in Shawinigan, Que. where he is quarantined for two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
Blanchet was more direct, saying his party cannot support the government in a confidence vote if the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec is not respected.
It was one of four asks the party made for inclusion in the throne speech. The other three items on the Bloc’s wishlist included increased health transfers to Quebec, support for seniors and compensation for agricultural producers under supply management.
The federal government has a week to increase health-care transfers, otherwise the Bloc will vote against the throne speech, Blanchet said.
In NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s address to Canadians, he acknowledged people’s concerns about a second wave of new COVID-19 cases.
“We see you, we hear you, and we’re going to keep fighting for you,” he said.
Singh outlined the conditions of his support to reporters earlier, saying the government needs to come through on a commitment to bring in a national paid sick leave program if it is serious about building the economic and public health conditions necessary to flatten the curve of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The program was included in a $19-billion “safe restart agreement” reached between the federal, provincial and territorial governments in July.
“If you want New Democrat party support, if you want my support, then you have to stop the proposal to cut help to Canadians who cannot get back to work and make sure you put in place paid sick leave for all Canadian workers,” he said.
Singh said he needs more time to review the throne speech to decide if he will support or vote against it.