It?s official. The Speech from the Throne, delivered this past Tuesday by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson on behalf of Prime Minister Paul Martin, marked the start of Canada?s 38th Parliament and, hopefully, a new exciting chapter in Canadian democratic history ? a chapter I hope will take many, many months to unfold.
To clarify, there wasn?t actually anything exciting about the Throne Speech itself, in which the government announced its forthcoming legislative and policy agenda. Though traditionally these speeches are not typically riveting, there had been some anticipation prior to this particular speech that it would include some surprise overtures or ?goodies? to placate opposition MPs whom can collectively defeat the Liberal government.
Alas, this was not to be. Based upon the contents of the Throne Speech, the Liberals still haven?t realized that Canadian voters took away their majority on June 28th. The government signalled its intent to simply plough ahead with its own policies ? a Liberal-exclusive agenda. It?s as though Paul Martin is daring the opposition parties to rebel, assuming that we will quietly capitulate because we all know that Canadians have no tolerance right now for another election. The Prime Minister assumes wrong.
Where he is unable or unwilling to lead the productive, collective effort required to enact Canadians? wishes, Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada caucus is prepared to step in. We?ll make this Parliament work in cooperation with other opposition MPs and any Liberal backbenchers who share our desire to take action on the issues that matter most to Canadians.
Regardless of whether there is a minority or majority Parliament, we are committed to advancing our common goals, including instituting real democratic reforms, resolving the crises in the agriculture and softwood lumber industries, ending the gun registry fiasco, restoring our ailing military and providing tax relief.
It?s not as though Paul Martin is about to get in the way as Mr. Harper sets about working with the other opposition leaders to set a collaborative tone in the House. After issuing marching orders to the Liberal caucus to bull-doze ahead as though they still have a majority, Mr. Martin is making a hasty exit to Siberia ? literally. He?s off on a round-the-world jaunt to Russia, France and Hungary, then South America and Africa shortly thereafter.
He leaves his government little to work with other than the platitudes and recycled promises he assigned Ms. Clarkson to recite. Ironically, while she was delivering an oft-repeated Liberal promise to restore effectiveness to Canada?s military, the HMCS Chicoutimi, one of four used, problem-plagued, leaky submarines our navy picked up from Britain, was dead in the water off the coast of Ireland just one day into its maiden voyage as a Canadian vessel.
The Chicoutimi?s 57 crew members, nine suffering from smoke inhalation, deserve more from their government. So do the two-thirds of Canadians who voted against Paul Martin and his campaign promises.
Far from the cooperative tone many had hoped for, the Liberals used the Throne Speech to dig in their heels. It is the mandate of the Official Opposition to push back ? without pushing the government over the brink. Stay tuned.