Photo by Whitehorse Star
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell
Wednesday’s Speech from the Throne includes commitments that will benefit the Yukon and the North in general, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said following the address.
Bagnell told the Star the throne speech is for all Canadians, so when it mentions food security for Indigenous people, it includes the Yukon.
The commitment in the throne speech to provide a federal team to assist with COVID-19 testing in remote communities and areas that do have the ability, includes the Yukon, he said.
Bagnell said promises to ramp up the battle against climate change, include the Yukon.
“There is a lot of items related to climate change which a lot of Yukoners understand because it is hurting us,” said the veteran MP of 15 years.
Bagnell pointed out the throne speech promises to exceed Canada’s 2030 reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions identified in the Paris Accord.
The government will introduce legislation committing the country to zero emissions by 2050, he said.
He said while the target has been there, it’s never been legislated.
Subsidy programs to help businesses and individuals hit by the pandemic have been extended, he pointed out.
Bagnell said the speech specifically mentions assistance for the extremely hard-hit tourism sector, which includes the travel and regional airline industry, hospitality and arts and culture.
Tourism, he said, means more in the Yukon than in many other jurisdictions because of its substantial contribution to the territory’s economy.
Gov.-General Julie Payette delivered the Speech from the Throne Wednesday afternoon in Senate chambers on behalf of the Liberal government.
Bagnell watched the delivery from his office in Whitehorse. Because of the social distancing requirements, each political party was only permitted to invite a couple of MPs to be present in the Senate chambers to hear the speech.
Even under normal circumstances, most MPs watch throne speeches from their offices in Ottawa, as there is limited room in the chambers, he said.
Bagnell said he doesn’t know when he’ll return to Ottawa given the state of affairs with COVID-19, and particularly the number of cases in the country’s capital.
Parliamentary business for the foreseeable future will be conducted through Zoom, he pointed out.
Bagnell said he believes the confidence vote on the speech by all four parties will be held next week.
The MP said he hasn’t given any thought as to whether he would seek re-election if the opposition parties defeat the minority government in the vote, and force another election.
The Conservative Party has already said it will not be supporting the speech and the Bloc Québécois has given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a week to make changes.
Political pundits, however, are suggesting there is enough in the throne speech to win the support of the NDP, such as the renewed proposal to bring in a national pharmacare program.
The Yukon’s MP said throne speeches do not typically speak to specifics but rather lay out the general direction the government intends to take, and the objectives it hopes to achieve.
The speech, for instance, says: “To keep building strong communities, over the next two years the government will also invest in all types of infrastructure, including public transit, energy-efficient retrofits, clean energy, rural broadband, and affordable housing, particularly for Indigenous peoples and northern communities.”
Bagnell said the speech commits to extending the wage subsidy programs for businesses from the end of the year to next summer.
It will be particularly helpful for the Yukon as many businesses here are in dire straits and would have faced bankruptcy without it, he said.
Bagnell said the speech notes the importance of sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system.
“I lobbied to make sure, and the before- and after-school child care was not forgotten,” said the MP, whose two children are in after-school day care.
“The government also remains committed to subsidizing before- and after-school program costs,” says the speech.
“With the way that this pandemic has affected parents and families, flexible care options for primary school children are more important than ever.”
While the federal government has already been focused on providing rural communities with renewable energy options to reduce their dependency on diesel generation, the throne speech re-reaffirms the continuing commitment, he said.
The speech, he said, speaks to the importance of working with its partners to address food security, including First Nations, Inuit and Metis partners.
While the Liberal government has been criticized for not tackling the rising national deficit due to COVID-19 assistance, the speech clearly states this is not the time to start cutting back on much-needed financial assistance to help Canadians get through the pandemic.
“This is not the time for austerity,” says the speech. “Canada entered this crisis in the best fiscal position of its peers. And the government is using that fiscal firepower, on things like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, so that Canadians, businesses, and our entire economy have the support needed to weather the storm.”
Bagnell noted critics calling for financial restraint never come out and say just what they’d do, where they would makes the cuts, or where they would show restraint.
It’s fundamentally important to keep the economy going, to help keep Canadians working because without them, there’d be fewer taxpayers, fewer contributing to the health of the country, he said.
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