The House

Opposition parties raise red flags over 'thin' Liberal throne speech

Governor General David Johnston outlined the new Liberal government's priorities for the next Parliament, including a middle class tax cut and work on the environment, but the opposition is already piling on and taking aim at the "thin" throne speech.

15-minute throne speech reiterated the government's commitment to lower taxes for the middle class

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will square off against Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose in the House of Commons, when it returns on Thursday Dec. 3, 2015. Trudeau has promised sweeping parliamentary reforms, and moves to empower backbench MPs in the House. (Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out his ambitious agenda for change in the speech from the throne Friday, but the opposition parties have already come out swinging — hammering the government for what they called a "thin" document with few specifics.

The 15-minute throne speech — one of the shortest in recent memory — reiterated the government's commitment to lower taxes for the middle class and its promise to aggressively tackle climate change. The speech also promised First Nations people a new relationship with the federal government, a newly reconstituted "nation to nation" approach.

But Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose said the speech was nothing but a pledge to dramatically increase the size of government at the expense of taxpayers who will be footing the bill.

Ambrose concerned that the Throne Speech didn't mention the private sector or the fight against ISIS 1:00

"It really is back to big government," Ambrose said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House. "I don't think people should be fooled. [The middle class tax cut] won't be enough to counter what we just saw in the speech from the throne, which is massive amounts of government spending.

"There's nothing in this plan about the private sector, there's nothing about job creation. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not mentioned anymore in this plan going forward. That's a big concern for business."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair echoed Ambrose's concerns about mounting budget deficits, telling Hall in a separate interview that the Liberals were saddling "future generations" with massive debt.

But Mulcair conceded that much of the spending agenda had just received a strong endorsement from voters when they handed Trudeau a majority government.

Mulcair said he was concerned that there was nothing in speech about returning the age of retirement to 65 or expanding child care for Canadian families, despite Liberal election promises to do so.

"The dynamic is different because now we have a government that promised a lot of things that they considered progressive but we're going to see if they actually deliver on that. We're going to be there as the progressive opposition," the third party leader said.

Mulcair says the Throne speech contains some things he finds encouraging and the speech was missing others that he says are important 1:52

Both leaders noted that there was nothing in the speech about a number of critical economic sectors including the energy industry, which has been hit hard by a dramatic slump in oil prices.

Ambrose said that the government's commitment to push ahead with a national price on carbon is deeply troubling for an industry that is in the throws of a crisis. "A [price on carbon] is a very negative signal to send to that industry."

Shirking responsibility on terrorism

In addition to her concerns about an increase in government spending, Ambrose also said that Trudeau is shirking his responsibility to take on terrorism and the Islamic State.

"ISIS isn't even mentioned," the interim leader said of the speech. "If you can't even name the threat, how are you going to fight it? I don't think they take it as seriously as they need to."

The document did, however, mention that the government would "continue to work with its allies in the fight against terrorism," even if it would be pulling the CF-18 fighter jets out of Iraq and Syria.

Ambrose said that Trudeau should have abandoned that election promise in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. 

"When the attacks happened in Paris, we heard from other coalition partners, we heard 'whatever you need, we'll be there,' that was not the message from our government. They stuck to their original election commitment to pull out our CF-18s."

Liberals: Spending will jump start the economy

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the government is committed to more spending regardless of its budgetary impact to help kick start an economy that has been persistently sluggish since the collapse of the financial markets in 2007-08.

Former Edmonton city councillor and newly-elected Edmonton Mill Woods MP Amarjeet Sohi is sworn in as Justin Trudeau's infrastructure minister. 0:50

"It is tied to the economy," Sohi told The House. "We need to grow the economy, we need to make our economy more productive and efficient. And we need to keep Canadians working and those Canadians who have not been working they can be employed, start paying taxes and be part of the economy of the country.

Sohi, a former Edmonton city councillor, said that the Conservatives do not have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to putting Canadians to work and managing the country's finances.

"We have fallen behind," Sohi said. "There is an urgency to intervene in the economy," he said, when presented with the latest job numbers from Statistics Canada that point to weak economic growth under the Harper government.