A time of economic crisis calls for clear government leadership and a concrete statement on the economy. What Canadians got today is a federal government that appears disinterested in governing at all.
The throne speech shows that the current government has learned almost nothing about what caused the economic crisis we are in, nor have they offered credible solutions to get out of it.
Instead, the speech trotted out the same failed policies that got us into this economic mess: more privatization, deregulation, cuts to public programs, free trade agreements, wage constraints, and neutering of the role of the government through a “Charter of Open Federalism”. And in these turbulent economic times, the government advocates greater investment of public funds in risky public-private partnerships.
There is nothing in this throne speech to protect workers. The economic crisis will produce higher unemployment, yet the EI system has been neglected to the point that only one in four workers qualify for what are now poverty-level benefits. Nor does the speech do anything to protect workers’ pensions that have been decimated by the financial crisis.
The throne speech actually takes more away from workers than it gives. Most egregious is the government’s intention to overturn free collective bargaining by legislating wages of federal public servants. This attack on wages could filter down through the economy and mean cuts and freezes on wages for many other workers.
As the corporate tax cuts continue, workers across Canada will pay the price for the Harper government’s misguided economic policies and fiscal mismanagement. Deep cuts to spending and public sector wages will only worsen and prolong the downturn.
What Canadians needed from this throne speech was strong economic leadership in a bold three part economic plan: Relief (expansion of EI, protection of pensions); Re-investment (economic recovery plan with an ambitious infrastructure program); Re-regulation of the financial industry. The throne speech strikes out on all three.