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The 41st Parliament opens with few surprises

Jennifer Wiebe

On Friday, June 3, Governor General David Johnston delivered the much-anticipated Throne Speech of the 41st Parliament. Presented the day after MPs met in Ottawa for the first time to vote in Andrew Scheer as the youngest ever Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speech from the Throne outlined the agenda of the new majority Conservative Government.

Friday's speech, delivered in the Red Chamber to all members of the House and Senate, was carried out in the traditional display of pomp and ceremony—including uniformed processions and military gun salutes—but contained few surprises in terms of policy content.  

Entitled Here for All Canadians. Stability. Prosperity. Security, the speech closely echoed the election campaign platform of the Conservative Party, mapping out issues to be addressed and laws to be tabled in this next session of Parliament.

Some key highlights, of interest to MCC, included:

  • Opening an Office of Religious Freedom to monitor the situation of religious minorities abroad;
  • Initiating a Parliamentary debate on extending the NATO-led mission in Libya;
  • Passing an omnibus crime bill that bundles 11 pieces of law-and-order legislation (which failed to pass during the 40th Parliament);
  • Ending the long-gun registry;
  • Enhancing trade with Europe, U.S., and India.

Following on the heels of Friday's Throne Speech was Monday's federal budget. Jim Flaherty, returning to his post as Finance Minister, delivered the budget yesterday—called The Next Phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan: A Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth—the contents of which included all of the measures contained in the one tabled prior to the election on March 22. Following on a campaign promise, this new budget promised to now balance Ottawa's books by 2014-5. While Flaherty indicated that there will be a government-wide operational review to find $4 billion in savings annually, there is currently no indication as to what will be on the proverbial chopping block.  

Another point of interest since the spring election is Prime Minister Harper's unveiling of his new majority cabinet on May 18 at Rideau Hall. Save for the sheer magnitude of its size—its 39 members rivalling Mulroney's for the largest cabinet ever—this new slate of ministers offers a relatively stable picture and, as with the Throne Speech and the Budget, contains few surprises.

Many ministers are returning to their posts—Peter McKay as Minister of Defence, Bev Oda as Minister of International Cooperation, Vic Toews as Minister of Public Safety, and Jason Kenney as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to name a few. Notable changes of interest to MCC, however, given our policies and priorities, are the appointment of John Baird (former House Leader) as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing Lawrence Cannon who was defeated in the election, and Ed Fast as International Trade Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Included in Hon. Fast's portfolio is the Office of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor.

As MCC continues to work with all parties, we echo the hopes of the Official Opposition for a new spirit of civility, cooperation, and respectful collaboration.