Throning It In

3 minute read

Under normal circumstances, today should have marked the last day of summer and first day back in the House of Commons for parliamentarians. But, in typical 2020 fashion, these are anything but normal circumstances.

Stuck in the middle of a global pandemic with case rates on the rise, a deficit north of $343 billion, and a newly minted Finance Minister owing to the fallout from the WE Charity affair, there can be no doubt that the stakes are high for the Liberals entering the new session of Parliament.  

The Liberals are in desperate need of a reset following the prorogation of Parliament, and will look to the upcoming Speech From the Throne to lay out their plans to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and get the Canadian economy back on track. After spending much of the summer floating trial balloons and soliciting input on how to jumpstart their ‘green and inclusive recovery’, it appears that rising infection rates and concerns about a COVID-19 second wave may have swung the pendulum back towards an increased focus on pandemic management.

In a minority Parliament where the threat of an election is always looming, the party that best gauges the mood of the public is most likely to succeed, which may help explain this pivot in messaging. Our colleagues at Abacus Data recently found that almost half of Canadians still think the worst is yet to come with respect to COVID-19, and the Liberals enjoyed their best spell of support in the early summer months when the pandemic was dominating the public agenda.

However a Throne Speech isn’t just about signalling and public opinion, it’s also a confidence motion for the government, and in order for the Liberals to remain in power, they will need to win the support of at least one of the main opposition parties for their agenda to avoid sending Canadians to the ballot box.

Having tested positive for COVID-19, newly elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole won’t be able to take his seat in the House of Commons as Official Opposition Leader on Wednesday. However, Parliament’s return will be a key moment for O’Toole and his team as they seek to set the tone of his leadership of the Tories. While few would expect him to come out in support of the Liberals’ agenda, he will want to demonstrate to Canadians that he has no desire to send them to the polls just yet.

While Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet had signalled earlier in the summer his intention to bring down the government over the WE Charity affair, there is significant uncertainty about the party’s current position and desire for an election. Blanchet, his staff and the BQ caucus are currently in self-isolation following the announcement last week that Blanchet, his wife, and a member of the leader’s staff tested positive for COVID-19. How he intends to provide a formal response to the SFTT (given he will not be in the House) remains unclear.

For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has opened some space for himself in comments last week, which could see the New Democrats support the Liberal’s Throne Speech. Singh pivoted his focus away from the Speech From the Throne and towards the importance of the 2021 Budget (anticipated in the Spring), which would buy some much needed time for the NDP to ready for a general election. There’s little to suggest the NDP are eager to pull the plug on the government imminently, so long as they can win sufficient concessions from the Liberals on several key progressive files (pharmacare and childcare being two of the hallmark policies).

The Summa team will be preparing a highlights and insights document on all things Speech from the Throne, and what to expect in the immediate aftermath – stay tuned for more on that document Wednesday afternoon.

Missed this week’s Look Ahead?

We’ve got you covered.

Articles we think you’ll like

Subscribe to our mailing list.