Stephen Harper has taken the prudent course: today's Throne Speech set out, in the main, a sit-tight agenda looking to the past rather than to the future. There are no radical departures here, and (I'm with WesternGrit on this) no remotely discernible "recalibration."
Bills that died with prorogation will be introduced again in their original form. The second year of the economic stimulus plan will proceed as scheduled. There is no change in the anti-regulatory and pro-foreign investment stance of the Conservatives: less of the former and more of the latter is promised. There will be yet more federal public service renewal, and more reviews of spending and administrative services. There will be more punishment for lawbreakers, and more powers for the police.
And there will be lots more monuments: community war memorials, a National Monument to all the Victims of Communism, and another to some of the victims of fascism (a Holocaust memorial). Will the Roma be included? Wait and see.
Then a few largely symbolic gestures: salaries for MPs and Senators will be frozen to match a freeze on departmental spending. A national Seniors Day will be created. And, never mind the pay equity he took away from you last year, girls, Harper is going to make the English words of O Canada gender-neutral.
The speech included quite a pitch to the aboriginal communities: there will be initiatives on education, clean water on reserves, and even (how long has this taken?) unspecified measures to deal with hundreds of yet-unsolved cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women. And something will be done about our failure to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, although this was rather misleadingly put:
A growing number of states have given qualified recognition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our Government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws.
"Growing" number of states? "Qualified" recognition? Canada was one of only four nations in the entire world that voted against the Declaration, and Australia, one of the four, has since come on board. 143 countries voted in favour when it came to the UN General Assembly in 2007. Still, better late than never, even if it sounds as if a qualifying statement will accompany our signature.
A couple of truly troublesome issues, however, have re-emerged in the course of this 6,000-word exercise in bomfog. The first is the free trade deal with the murderous government of Colombia--ratification is probably a dead cert, because the Liberals are on-side. What are a few dead indigenous people and trade unionists, after all, when there are mining interests to protect and money to be made?
The second is the ghastly rising from the grave of some form of Bill C-61-- "[O]ur government will...strengthen laws governing intellectual property and copyright," as the speech states innocuously. Cory Doctorow offered a lucid summation of the last attempt to give the big corporations control of all that you see and hear. Don't expect the new one to be any improvement.
Now let's see what's in the budget. I'll be in the lock-up tomorrow, and a post will follow.