It’s not too surprising that the Yukon’s federal representatives were fairly happy with Tuesday’s throne speech in Ottawa, but Senator Pat Duncan had some pointed criticisms as well.
Duncan, a former Liberal premier and long-time party supporter, now sits as one of the group of independent senators in Ottawa.
The Senate no longer permits partisan representation, functioning more along the lines of a consensus branch of government similar to the Northwest Territories.
Duncan was one of 20 senators allowed to attend the throne speech.
Speaking to the Star Tuesday afternoon, she said she found it to be a “humbling and stirring” experience to listen to Mary Simon – Canada’s first Indigenous Governer-General – deliver the speech, portions of which were read in Inuktitut.
“I’ll always remember how humbling it was to be one of the senators to watch that,” she said.
As for the specifics of the throne speech, Duncan was more ambivalent.
She’s spent the last few years in a working group of senators studying the housing crisis in Canada. Of course, as a Yukoner, she’s more than familiar with the situation here and how the housing market is a bit of a hot mess for most people.
While she appreciated housing rating a mention in the speech, she was tempering her praise for the moment.
“I’m looking forward to the specific measures,” she said with a trace of defiance.
Duncan also pointed out the prominence climate change was given as being noteworthy, but again deferred a more enthusiastic response until more details are presented.
She was more forthright with what she viewed as key missing items in the federal government’s plans.
The most important of those, she said, was no mention of a guaranteed liveable income, despite the political interest in it following the supports the government put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic that are now cancelled or reduced.
Duncan said she’s been part of another working group on that subject, adding it’s a program the government should have implemented.
She made a direct comparison to Prince Edward Island, which is bringing in a new program to establish a guaranteed liveable income, with a unanimous partnership between the province and its municipalities.
Duncan said another of the subjects she’s interested in, the opioids crisis, wasn’t mentioned at all in the speech.
Brendan Hanley, who was sworn in as the Yukon’s Liberal MP last Wednesday, sounded as if he was a little starstruck at attending his first throne speech.
“It was an amazing experience to be here in Ottawa for the Throne Speech and opening of the 44th Parliament,” he said in an email to the Star.
“I was also honoured to be asked to give the address in response to the Speech from the Throne in the House of Commons today, and represent all Yukoners in doing so.
“The throne speech laid out at a high level the main priorities for this government. As a minority government, we feel that Canadians have strongly voiced their wish to have all parties work together to put this pandemic behind us, and to address the many challenges that our country is facing,” Hanley added.
“Canadians want results and they want to see solutions to the other challenges we face.”
Among the key priorities outlined in the Throne Speech Hanley thought notable are, in his words:
• climate change action, including: moving forward to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions, investing in public transit, and mandating the sale of zero-emissions vehicles; and
• increasing the price on pollution while putting more money back into the pockets of Canadians, and protecting our lands and waters.
“As we put the pandemic behind us, we will rebuild an economy that truly works for everyone,” Hanley said. He also cited:
• Tackling the rising cost of living and taking action on housing affordability and child care;
• helping to put home ownership back in Canadians’ reach with a more flexible First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, a new rent-to-own program, and by reducing closing costs for first-time buyers;
• advancing progress in reconciliation, including:
• continuing the work to right past wrongs, implement the calls to action, and move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, for everyone;
• accelerating work with Indigenous partners to address the national tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, and ensuring fair and equitable compensation for those harmed by the First Nations Child and Family Services program;
• improving the health care system, including investing in improved mental health services, responding to the opioids/toxic drug crisis and improving access to care in rural communities.