Politics

Tories, NDP won't support throne speech but Bloc will back Liberals' agenda if it comes to vote

The Conservatives and the New Democrats are against it, but the Bloc Québécois are for it, so should the throne speech be put to a vote in the House of Commons, it has enough support to pass.

'I see in that speech many opportunities for us,' says Bloc leader Blanchet

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, left, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have issues with the speech from the throne but Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, says he will back the speech should it come to a vote in the House of Commons. (Canadian Press Photos)

The Conservatives and the New Democrats are against it, but the Bloc Québécois supports it, so should the throne speech be put to a vote in the House of Commons, it has enough support to pass.

The Liberal government is not obliged to put the speech from the throne to a vote in order to seek confidence from the House.

That's not stopping Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer from promising to put forward an amendment to the speech Friday to cover what Scheer called "missed opportunities."

Scheer said he wants language included in the speech detailing his party's election promise to build a national energy corridor that would send oil east and electricity west, even though the Liberals, NDP and Bloc are firmly against the idea.

Scheer also said his amendment will call for the government to repeal the tanker ban off the West Coast and the government's signature environmental assessment legislation that lays out conditions for approving national resource projects in Canada.

Should the Conservative amendment contain those provisions, it's unlikely to get support from the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc. 

Speaking after the speech, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said that while the speech did say the Liberal government would work to help energy sector employees across the country, it never mentioned any industry by name.

"The fact that it's so unclear about oil makes it so that it's hard to vote against something which is not even named in the speech, even if we understand well that this is the intention," he said.

Blanchet said that if the speech comes to a vote, he could support it because there's enough ambiguity in it to suggest the government also supports Quebec's hydroelectric and forestry workers.

Watch: Opposition leaders react to the throne speech:

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet respond after the Throne Speech. 1:11

With the Bloc's support, the Liberals would have enough votes to pass the speech — if it comes to a vote.

"I'm going to support the speech because I see in that speech many opportunities for us to — not to take what is intended to be given, because it's not that clear, but to get things, to make some gains for Quebec," Blanchet said. 

The fact that the speech didn't mention oil or pipelines specifically did not go down well with Conservatives.

Scheer said the speech contained "nothing about our energy workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Nothing about our forestry workers in British Columbia. No sense that decisions that were taken in the previous Parliament under this government have caused some of the very damage to our society and to Canada, and most importantly nothing really on national unity," he said.

'Backroom agreement'

While it's true that the speech did not mention Alberta's or Saskatchewan's workers, it also did not mention any other province by name.

The speech did address growing regional divisions in Canada, saying "regional needs and differences really matter. Today's regional economic concerns are both justified and important."

While the speech did not mention the Trans Mountain pipeline, it does say that while the federal government is committed to fighting climate change, "it will also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets, and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada's natural resources sectors, many of whom have faced tough times recently."

Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative MP for the Alberta riding of Lakeland, said every reporter and citizen in Canada should be concerned about the absence of the the words "oil" and "pipeline" in the speech.

There are so many things in there that reflected what our chiefs said we need to see.- Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

"I think the question should be asked whether or not there was a backroom agreement between the Liberals and the Bloc to prop up the Liberal government and their throne speech contingent on their not mentioning the energy sector," she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who also has enough votes in his caucus to help the Liberals survive a vote on the throne speech, said he could not support the speech because it only paid lip service to issues his party cares about.

"If the Liberal government thinks that this is good enough to deal with the struggles that people are facing right now, then they are wrong, this is not good enough. What we're seeing is a lot of pretty words but not concrete actions," he said. 

Singh said he was not closing the door to supporting the speech in any possible vote, but in order for his party to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals, his government would have to promise more specific policy actions.

Praise for reconciliation agenda

Those actions the NDP wants include a pledge to bring in a universal, single-payer pharmacare system, language strengthening Canada's climate change targets and more specific commitments on Indigenous reconciliation.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, meanwhile, heaped praise on the speech, noting that it was the first time that a speech from the throne contained its own chapter on Canada's Indigenous peoples. 

"I think that's a positive thing. But then when you start breaking the chapter down and you start looking at what is in the chapter … there are so many things in there that reflected what our chiefs said we need to see," he said.

Bellegarde said he was particularly pleased with the commitments in the speech to introduce federal legislation to bring Canada in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to fund Indigenous health care and to end all boil-water advisories by 2021.

The Indigenous chapter also was praised by Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who said it was "excellent news" that the federal government will co-develop legislation with Canada's Indigenous people on implementing the UN declaration.

"It shows that that legislative piece is a focus of this government and that is an excellent sign for the continued reconciliation efforts that we are engaging with as First Nations, Inuit and Métis," he told CBC News Network's Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos.

The Green Party's parliamentary leader, Elizabeth May, also praised the government's reconciliation agenda but had harsher words for the speech's approach to climate change.

"The House voted that it was a climate emergency on June 18 of this year and yet the speech from the throne doesn't speak to the urgency that is embedded in this issue," May said.

Watch: Governor General Julie Payette delivers the speech from the throne:

Governor General Julie Payette delivers the Speech from the Throne from the Senate Chamber. It's the first time Payette has delivered the Throne Speech, and it's the first time it's been delivered in the temporary Senate Chamber. 29:00
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About the Author

Peter Zimonjic

Senior Writer

Peter Zimonjic has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the Author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.

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