Throne speech promises GST cut, Afghan vote CTV
CTV.ca News Staff
Stephen Harper is outlining his government's agenda tonight, promising to move Canada away from the Kyoto Protocol, a one percentage point cut in the GST and new tough-on-crime bills.
The throne speech, delivered by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, also says Canada should remain in Afghanistan until at least 2011 -- well beyond the proposed February 2009 deadline.
But the extension would be put to a vote during this coming Parliamentary session.
The speech outlines five main priorities: strengthening Canada's sovereignty in the world, forging a stronger federation, providing economic leadership, tackling crime, and improving the environment.
On the issue of crime, the speech outlines plans for a new "Tackling Violent Crime" bill that would crack down on impaired driving and set mandatory prison terms for gun crimes.
The first of the priorities promises to protect Canada's Arctic.
"Canadians see in our North an expression of our deepest aspirations, our sense of exploration, the beauty and the bounty of our land, and our limitless potential," Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean is expected to read.
The government's plan would also include the creation of a "world-class" Arctic research station to study environmental science and resource development. The station would also map the Arctic seabed, with the intention of strengthening Canada's claim to the region.
The following additional measures are also included in the speech:
Tax cuts for individuals and businesses;
The government will limit its ability to spend tax dollars in the provinces;
Increased funding for cities and infrastructure;
More measures to help senior citizens; and,
No new national programs without provincial approval -- a direct appeal to Quebec.
Liberals feel pressure over speech
The promise to abandon Canada's Kyoto commitments puts pressure on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who must now decide whether to support the speech or trigger an election.
He told his caucus Tuesday that he wants to hear the view of his members before making a choice.
"This is an unprecedented situation. Usually in a minority government, the opposition is trying to bring the government down, but here it's reversed," political analyst Tom Flanagan told CTV's Mike Duffy Live.
"I think for the first time in Canadian history, we have a government which wouldn't mind being defeated, but it can't seem to get the opposition to come out against it."
Both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are expected to vote against the speech.
NDP Leader Jack Layton has said recently that his party cannot accept the government's stance on climate change and Afghanistan.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe had put forward five "non-negotiable" conditions for his party's support of the speech, one of which was a commitment to meet Canada's responsibilities under the Kyoto Protocol.
Dion faces even more pressure, after Liberal MP Marcel Proulx confirmed Wednesday that he resigned this past weekend as Dion's right-hand-man in Quebec.
Sources told The Canadian Press that Proulx, who represents the Hull-Aylmer riding, quit after hearing that Dion had offered the post to Montreal MP Denis Coderre.
But Coderre has turned down the position, leaving Dion to find another replacement.
The Liberals will have a few days to decide whether to support the government's throne speech.
Liberal MP Garth Turner told reporters that Dion is a consensus-builder and that more discussions will be held with Liberal caucus members before a decision is made.
A Strategic Counsel poll released late Monday shows a fall election would likely result in another minority government.
With a report by CTV's Robert Fife in Ottawa