Throne speech pledge of COVID-19 relief, ending systemic racism resonates with Windsor-Essex
Political scientist says a fall election is unlikely after 'aspirational' speech
The Liberal government's throne speech Wednesday, which included an extension to the wage subsidy program, a promise to address systemic racism and possible disability benefits, has been well-received by locals in Windsor-Essex — though many were also critical of the plan.
The throne speech, delivered from the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, was unlike any other, with a limited number of attendees all wearing masks and a focus on the support the government will offer to Canadians impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
CBC Windsor spoke with locals across the region to hear their take on the government's promises.
Wage subsidy extension and childcare
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette spoke about providing additional supports to struggling businesses and extending the federal wage subsidy program into next summer.
The program allows businesses to keep employees on payroll, covering 75 per cent of wages for the initial claim period, which is up to $847 a week.
Rakesh Naidu, president of the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce, said this is great news for the region, which has struggled with high unemployment rates. At the peak of the pandemic, Windsor had the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 16.7 per cent.
"Business are feeling the heat and for that reason I think they may not be able to bring back as many employees as they would like to or really ramp up their business to the extent or to the pace they would like to," Naidu said.
"That is where I think the wage subsidy program comes [in] very handy with this. It will encourage more businesses more employers to bring back employees by providing them with the assistance that is very much needed."
He said another challenge getting people to return to work has been the lack of childcare supports, but that was also addressed in the government's speech Wednesday.
The Liberals said they want to make a "significant, long-term sustained" investment in a national early learning and child care system, pointing to the ways in which women have been shouldering the burden of unpaid care work at home.
Hints of disability benefit leaves advocates with questions
The government is also eyeing a new disability benefit, which would be modelled after the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) for seniors, as well as a new employment strategy for people with disabilities.
At the end of August, CBC News spoke with advocates in Windsor who said that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting people with disabilities.
A Stats Canada survey released Aug. 27 found that 36 per cent of people with a long term condition or disability reported temporary or permanent job loss since March, a statistic that didn't surprise for disability advocate Kevin McShan.
Following the government's speech, McShan the promises to help gave him hope but questioned how it will all play out.
"Does that mean that they're guaranteed additional income on top of the social assistance they already received? Does it mean that they're able to use that as a vehicle of insurance to prop themselves up while they're looking for employment?" he said.
'Right things' being said about systemic racism
Another major issue the government promised to take action on is systemic racism against racialized communities and Indigenous peoples. It said it plans to do so by cracking down on online hate, improving data collection and implementing a strategy for diversity hires in the public service.
The government also promised to address discrimination in policing and the justice system.
"I think some of the right things were being said," said Windsor artist and activist Leslie McCurdy.
"It's nice that investments are being made, it's nice to actually hear it admitted that there is racism so openly because most of my life I've heard 'oh there's no racism in Canada' and I'm like: 'How would you know unless you're experiencing it? I can tell you that there is.' So it's nice that they're addressing it."
Yet, McCurdy said she thinks there was a key component missing.
"I didn't hear a whole lot about the education aspect of that and that is in regards to educating Canadians as to what the racism is and how it manifests and where it comes from," she said.
Fall election unlikely, expert says
The speech has already faced criticism from the federal Conservatives who will not support it and said it was "typically Liberal."
The party's deputy Conservative leader Candice Bergen said it lacks substance, offers no fiscal framework and tramples on provincial jurisdiction.
Lydia Miljan, associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, told CBC News the government has laid out an "aspirational" mandate.
"I think they were certainly speaking to the NDP and their priorities," Miljan said, adding that keeping the emergency response benefit, as well as adding in an early childhood education program and pharma-care program "ensure the support of the NDP."
Miljan said that should be enough for the Liberals to survive a confidence vote — making a fall election unlikely.
With files from Kathleen Harris