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Canada’s economic and energy woes, reemerging separatist sentiment in Quebec and the west as well, and kowtowing to China – amongst other perceived foreign affairs failures – punctuated Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s attacks of Thursday’s Throne speech.
“Times of fear bring times of division and Canadians are afraid for their country,” Scheer told the House of Commons, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “four years of unserious, entitled government.”
“We must put a stop to the divisive policies that have pitted province against province, region against region.”
The second day of the 43rd Parliament for Trudeau’s diminished, minority government gave Conservatives their first chance to respond to Liberals’ roadmap for the legislative session, where Scheer broached matters facing the nation that the Throne speech omitted.
“The Government of China continues with an expansionist agenda that is threatening Hong Kong’s vibrant democracy and, indeed, the safety and security of the people of Hong Kong themselves,” said Scheer, questioning Canada’s $256 million investment in the Chinese-controlled Asian Infrastructure Bank.
“The same Chinese dictatorship continues to hold two innocent Canadians hostage, as a retaliation of Canada fulfilling our legal obligation to arrest and extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.”
Scheer categorized Canada’s recent United Nations vote for a North Korea-motion singling out Israel, as “abandoning” the Jewish state in exchange for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.
“But most of all – we would really appreciate hearing the Prime Minister talk about Canada’s deteriorating relationship with the United States. One that was only exacerbated by his own conduct at this week’s NATO summit,” said Scheer.
“We understand that President Trump is a challenging negotiator. But the Americans are our partners all the same. No international file is more important to Canadian jobs and livelihoods than the ratification of the new NAFTA.”
On the domestic front, Scheer reiterated the party’s rejection of a carbon tax against “a chorus of voices from elite corners of Canadian high society demanding that our party abandon our opposition to (it).”
“…The Conservative Party under my leadership will always oppose a carbon tax – because we know the real cost it imposes on real people,” said Scheer.
“The entire point of the carbon tax is to make essentials more expensive.”
Scheer also promised to repeal new environmental legislation ushered in under Trudeau’s previous government – Bill C-69’s project assessment overhaul and C-48; the northwest coast oil tanker ban – blaming these policies for investment capital flight and percolating national unity rifts.
“The damage done over the past four years is significant. Today 175,000 Albertan energy workers are unemployed. Proud Canadian companies like TransCanada and EnCana are moving their business to the U.S,” Scheer said before turning to the rise of separatism in Quebec.
“After only four years of Liberal government, the Bloc came back with 32 separatist MPs.”
The Opposition leader also took aim at foreign cash that is funnelled to Canadian eco-activist groups, “to permanently shut down Canada’s energy sector and drive hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of work.”
“They have already done lasting damage to the economies in Western Canada – and to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families… every single Member in this House… should be expected to stand up and be counted; Do you stand with the activists or do you stand with the workers of Canada?”
After Scheer’s speech, New Democrat MP Charlie Angus took issue with Scheer’s “conspiracy theory of foreign radicals who are attempting to undermine our industry.”
“If we have to go along with his conspiracy theories or they will break up the country, I would tell the member to drop that language,” said Angus.
Scheer replied that he’s not worried about foreign radicals in Angus’ party, because “in the NDP, they’re all domestic.”
When it was Trudeau’s turn to reply, the prime minister told the Commons he decided not to read a prepared speech, but instead decided to speak off the cuff and chastised Scheer for failing to make mention of “Indigenous reconciliation”, a centrepiece of the Throne speech written by the PMO.
Where Trudeau found some common ground with Scheer was over tax cuts for low and middle income Canadians, a Liberal campaign promise also included in the Throne speech.
“The change we made, is we made sure as we lower taxes for low income ends and middle class, we don’t actually give any extra advantage to the wealthy,” said Trudeau, who cited the Canada Child Benefit that “(doesn’t) send cheques to millionaires, like mine and the Leader of the Opposition.”
While the Conservatives and New Democrats have vowed to vote against a pro-forma bill agreement on the Speech from the Throne, it remains in the government’s purview to call it for a vote.
Barring that eventuality, the first confidence test for Trudeau’s minority government could come next week if a vote is called on Supplementary (spending) Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.