Some would call it safe, others lacking in details and many have gone to great lengths to call it more of the same.
No matter how you slice the pie, this incarnation of the speech from the throne was a ho-hum experience from a Harper government that looks tired of the roller-coaster while not wanting to get off the ride.
The speech marks the perceived halfway point for the Harper government. It also signalled a government trying desperately to change the channel on Canadians by avoiding all but a small mention of the fiery Senate reform issue that has mired its time in office. There is no doubt the Harper government has seen its share of bumps and bruises and the top-down management style imposed on Conservative MPs, or the out-of-control spending of members of the upper house has provided plenty of low-hanging fruit for the Opposition and spinners nationwide.
To say it has been a trying time in Harperland is an understatement and the current speech does little to quiet the noise drowning out real possibilities to govern effectively with this mandate.
Dubbed by the Harper brain trust as a consumer-first throne speech, it touted the likes of unbundled cable possibilities and lower roaming charges for Canadians. Both opportunities play to the middle class, a class all parties are so desperately clamouring to appease, but many have done very little to solidify the bigger picture opportunity for the average Canadian.
Sure, we rail on about cellphones or cable television prices as we pay some of the highest rates in the tech-laden world, but in the grand scheme of things the Harper government would be hard-pressed to hang its hat on these gems come election time.
Another wish for this speech was a concrete mention of how cost-of-living improvements for everyday Canadians could be made. The speech focused on improving the lives of everyday Canadians, but lacked details on how the government would go about achieving this. Instead, the choice was made to share, once again, mentions of the Economic Action Plan and a renewed Canada Job Grant. The very thought of these plans and the dogma that graced the televisions of Canadians for months following the completion of the Economic Action Plan was staggering with a hefty price tag attached as a result.
The time for this government to roll out a new plan and a vision was now — instead of rehashing ideas from its past.
This alone could have been a real win for a battered party, if the focus of this speech was to find something new and exciting Canadians could get behind. Instead, the choice was made to appeal to the Conservative base and solidify their support among rank-and-file members.
There were a few small victories, though, that could help the party, including changes to Elections Canada laws. Hopefully this will rid the party and country from the debacle that was the robocalls scandal of the previous election. There was an also small mention of reduction in government size and the nonsense bureaucracy that often exists. In some circles this earns the Conservatives support, but the trimming needs to come in the right areas and not as they have done with Veterans Affairs or Employment Insurance programs nationwide.
Another of those split ideals was the mention of tough-on-crime initiatives, which in certain instances serves Canadians well, though it lacked the one-two punch of strategies to learn why crimes are happening and to seek out their root causes, and the social issues that affect those in our society.
Tough on crime is a good measure, but if the spending comes merely in constructing prisons and incarcerating segments of the population — without trying to stem crime before it happens — then we will continue building the laundry list of problems many states see south of the border as a result of initiatives thought to be tough on crime.
Finally, it would have been a positive move for this government to officially tackle a full inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
This has been long shelved by governments before, and save for a small mention of renewed efforts, this government stopped short on an official inquest into the problem, which is troubling. Many families throughout this country continue to seek answers into these horrific events and we have garnered international attention for our failure to act and help provide closure for so many.
The time was now for the government to step up and put real concrete work into helping change the tide and seek the answers Canadians and many within the international community so desperately need.
All in all, there were small trinkets and possibilities average Canadians could bank on to make everyday life easier, but realistically the vision document for this government, much like the government itself, lacked the substance that would make those same Canadians say they are ready to trust and back the Conservatives for the next couple of years and beyond.
» Shaun Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 19, 2013