In an apparent rallying call for Canadians to meet the dire economic challenges ahead, the Conservative government’s third throne speech evokes the triumphs of generations who endured the Depression and the devastation of war.
“The achievements of these generations are marked not only by monuments to their bravery and sacrifices, but also by their legacy in forging Canada as one of the most peaceful and prosperous nations on Earth.”
Unfortunately for those who gave so much to their country, tribute is about all that Stephen Harper’s government seems currently inclined to pay them, now that they are senior citizens.
Yesterday’s drone from the throne setting out the government’s agenda for the coming months makes no mention of the elderly, other than as a possible burden to their children.
It’s not that thousands of Canada’s widows and retirees don’t need all the help they can get.
Over a third of the nation’s elderly live in poverty on basic old age pensions and public supplements, most of them helpless to improve their circumstance.
Even better off retirees are among those hardest hit by the global financial crisis as the meltdown of markets continues to vaporize pension savings.
A national lobby group representing retired Canadians issued a press release following the throne speech, bemoaning that the Harper administration “appears to have ignored them,” and wondering “what it will take to get this government’s attention.”
CAMPAIGN ON ICE
What a difference a month makes. During the recent election campaign, retirement homes across the country were being invaded daily by Conservative candidates promising up to $1,000 a year in new personal tax breaks for seniors.
In total, the Conservative campaign platform provided more than $1 billion in help for the elderly over the next four years, the party’s third largest spending promise of the entire election. Maybe later.
In the meantime, the throne speech opening the 40th session of Parliament can perhaps best be described as all economy all the time.
As is customary for this largely worthless exercise in democratic pomp and ceremony, the speech was mainly a shopping list of motherhood platitudes.
But there were a few nuggets that kept us from nodding off entirely during the Governor General’s inspired presentation of the truly uninspiring.
On the positive side of the taxpayers’ ledger, the speech hints more strongly than ever that the government is ready to curb its own cheque-writing and end the spending spree which characterized the Conservatives’ first term in office.
“Grants, contributions and capital expenditures will be placed under the microscope of responsible spending,” the government promises.
“Departments will have the funding they need to deliver essential programs and services, and no more.”
At the same time, the government seems prepared to legislate the future growth of public service wages.
Also worthy of cautious optimism are promises we have heard many times before to help a troubled economy –things such as cutting bureaucratic red tape for business, eliminating inter-provincial trade barriers, and investing in research and development.
PLANES AND CARS
For better or for worse — yet to be determined which — the throne speech commits the government to provide “further support” to the aerospace industry (read: Quebec); and to the North American automakers currently circling the corporate junkyard.