Throne Speech? More like Groan Speech

Sixty-one minutes of chaff and misdirection

To those who watched this year’s Speech from the Throne on October 16 without being paid to do so, I commend you. To those who did not, I envy your formidable foresight. The throne speech is a curious relic, wherein the ruling party crafts a message to be delivered by the Queen’s representative, in our case the Governor General, on its behalf.

While the gallant David Johnston would absolutely have permission to take my children on an outing to the zoo, he can hardly be described as one of the great orators of our time. Nor was his speech doing him any favours.

The bits I found most objectionable were the desolately bare-bones items on environmental protection, and the tragically vague lip service towards missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The speech meekly offered to “renew its efforts to address the issue,” when both the UN and many First Nations advocacy groups have demanded a full public inquiry. Contrasting this with the PMO’s stated desire to revive a search for the lost ship from the 1845 Franklin expedition, @Dan_ONeail bitingly tweeted “So instead of inquiry on missing native women, we will look for 1 dead white guy from a century ago.” 

A broader critique would be the inanity of the whole spiel. By drowning us in buckets of self-congratulation and barrels of irrelevance, Harper’s government avoided taking any leadership or direction. The opening section, on Jobs and Opportunities, was a reasonable combination of past accomplishments, broad strategy and specific implementation. Beyond that, it was a dithering mess of too many talking points. 

There were some highlights, though. Allowing Canadians to unbundle cable packages is a good policy, but for a majority government, this should be a law enacted with a shrug. Of course I agree that we shouldn’t kill police dogs. Or any dogs, for that matter! But I don’t know a single Canadian who sees our nation as “Canada, the Great White North, Where You Really Shouldn’t Kill Police Dogs.” Nor do I care at all about the lost Franklin expedition.

Including these crumbs of public policy in a throne speech does little to help citizens understand what is actually going on in their country.

Maclean’s Paul Wells perceptively commented, “A government does not get 1,000 times more credit for spending $1 billion as it does for spending $1 million. As long as the government notices a problem and nods at it, it wins approval from voters who care about that problem.” This throne speech was emblematic of “a Harper era of small and essentially symbolic investment,” he said.

This is a cynical and sad approach to politics. 

It is the responsibility of the ruling government to have a vision for their country and to explain it to their citizens as clearly and succinctly as possible. How else can we hope to engage voters? I don’t expect governments to accomplish everything they outline, but I expect them to be open about their goals and to honestly attempt to achieve them. Harper’s gleefully ponderous and hyper-specific Throne Speech intentionally circumvented any type of real communication with the Canadian people. 

Fabian Suarez-Amaya is relieved his government is finally taking a hard stance against those darn cable company racketeers. He is studying Education at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 68, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 23, 2013)

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