Justin Trudeau Offers Wide Array of Promises With Few Specifics

One thing became clear during the 54 minutes it took Governor General Julie Payette to read the throne speech this week: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back to making lots of big promises, after pulling back on pledges during last year’s election.

“It was like: Wow, they are promising everything,” said Lori Turnbull, the director of the School of Public Administration and an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “It was almost like: When is she going to stop reading? But then afterward you think: OK, there are also some big questions that they didn’t answer.”

Catherine Porter and I have distilled some of the speech’s biggest promises in our report on it.

[Read: Trudeau Promises Bold Plan to Reset Canada, and His Political Career]

Mr. Trudeau said in his postspeech TV address that low interest rates and Canada’s comparatively low debt level gave him the means to borrow money to pay for some of this. But there was little to nothing in the speech about what this might all cost.

Professor Turnbull said those answers will become clearer after Chrystia Freeland’s financial update this fall, her first big event as finance minister.

One of the big unanswered questions was what will replace the government’s popular emergency relief program when it expires. Many expected that Mr. Trudeau would introduce a guaranteed minimum income. Instead, the prime minister said that changes, which he didn’t detail, were coming to unemployment insurance along with other measures addressing loss of income.

François Delorme, an economics professor in the business school at the University of Sherbrooke, was not surprised that Mr. Trudeau did not introduce a minimum income plan. Such a plan would involve eliminating 38 current programs, said Professor Delorme, a former official in the federal department of finance. Making those changes would require buy-in from the provinces — a not inconsequential matter.

“I don’t think it’s politically feasible, even if it might be justified economically,” he said.

The speech linked economic recovery from the pandemic with the government’s fight against climate change. But Professor Turnbull noted that there was only a vague reference to helping the natural resource and energy sectors adapt.

“It talks about a greener economy, but what is in this for the west?” she asked. “And what happens to the oil industry, fossil fuels, how do they fit in?”

Professor Turnbull said that she expected Erin O’Toole, the new Conservative leader, would quickly zero in on those questions.

Over all, Professor Turnbull said that the throne speech was so jam packed with promises that it was less a legislative agenda than Mr. Trudeau’s pitch to Canada to give his Liberal Party voting control in the next election. And, above all, it was a strong statement of the prime minister’s intent.

“He doesn’t nickel and dime, he doesn’t tinker on the edges,” Professor Turnbull said. “He wants real, meaningful change. I don’t say that as a statement of support for him. I’m just saying that he’s a big thinker, that’s what he brings to this.”

  • Karl Dockstader, the co-host of an Indigenous issues radio show, was covering a major land claims demonstration until he received an email from the Ontario Provincial Police. When he turned up at one of its detachments the next day, Mr. Dockstader was arrested and released on the condition that he no longer go to the protest. Four reporters covering Indigenous protests have now been recently charged by the police, an action being challenged by journalism and civil rights groups. [Read: An Indigenous Canadian Journalist Was Covering a Protest. Then He Got Arrested.]

  • Dan Bilefsky, my colleague based in Montreal, has looked into the world’s embrace of British Columbia’s wines, a trend contradicted by Canadian rules that make them hard to buy in the rest of Canada. [Read: Canada’s Napa Valley Seeks Elusive Audience: Canadian Wine Drinkers]

  • As the pandemic continues to ravage part of the United States and its president evades questions about committing to a peaceful transition of power after the November election should he lose, Hannah Beech writes that Canadians are among many people around the world looking on “with a mix of shock, chagrin and, most of all, bafflement.” [Read: ‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the U.S.]

  • Many Canadians perked up this week when “Schitt’s Creek,” the CBC comedy series, emerged as the big winner at this year’s Emmys. [Read: Canadians Rejoice as ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Sweeps Emmy Awards]

  • Carol Schram, who has been covering the N.H.L. playoffs in Edmonton, found that “an adaptable mind-set for all parties, from top executives to stadium workers, has been crucial for the expanded, 24-team postseason” during the pandemic. [Read: For the N.H.L. Bubble to Succeed, Everyone Had to Be Flexible]

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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