In this week’s Speech from the Throne, the federal government laid the foundations for its vision of Canada’s economic recovery. The many commitments made by the Liberal government were a rejection of austerity and called on the ultra rich to pay their fair share. PSAC members and their families will benefit from many of the promises made by the government, but they must translate into concrete action, and we have to work hard to make sure they deliver. The following are some key commitments made in the Throne Speech.
PSAC welcomes the Trudeau government’s commitment to building a national early learning and child care (ELCC) system announced in the Throne Speech.
The government’s decision to “make a significant, long-term, sustained investment” towards a Canada-wide ELCC follows years of advocacy by PSAC, the broader labour movement and child care organizations. The plan will support millions of families across the country, promote a strong economic recovery and help prevent the pandemic from taking away the economic and social gains women have made over the last thirty years.
We look forward to seeing the full details of the government’s commitment in the forthcoming budget.
Systemic racism in the public service
In the federal public service, Black and racialized workers are underrepresented - particularly at the management and higher levels and face significantly more barriers to their advancement.
That’s why we’re pleased to see them commit to building a government-wide approach around better collection of disaggregated data and implementing an action plan to increase representation in hiring and appointments, and leadership development within the Public Service.
The collection of disaggregated data will allow us to better understand where the federal public service is falling short on employment equity and diversity. Right now, racialized and Black communities are lumped into one category called Visible Minorities. This does nothing to further our understanding of how discrimination affects the representation of different communities.
We also hope that their commitment to increase representation in hiring includes addressing systemic barriers to recruitment in the public service such as: unconscious bias in staffing and recruiting; limited access to second language training ; and the effort and cost of providing proof of foreign credentials
We are pleased to hear the government commit to expanding EI and ensuring it is made available to the self-employed and those in the gig economy. The federal government has also announced that people who are eligible to transition from CERB to EI will receive 500$ per week, instead of 400$ and that a 10-day national sick leave benefit will also be put in place.
We hope to see the government implement all of PSAC’s recommendations in their plan on EI.
The government repeated many of their commitments to Indigenous peoples in the Throne Speech. Among them was a commitment to close the infrastructure gap and invest in clean water, the acceleration of the work on the National Action Plan in response to the MMIWG inquiry, implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the co-development of health legislation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation.
What is lacking is a record of success – and where progress has been made, it was far too slow. If the government wants reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples to be a reality, restating their commitments won’t be enough. We hope their words will be met with swift action.
As expected, significant commitments have been made on fighting climate change and creating jobs in the green energy sector. The Throne Speech touched on a number of issues including including clean energy, safe water and zero-emission goals.
We applaud the government’s goal of making Canada a world leader on tackling climate change. Unfortunately, we have been disappointed many times in the past and Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Even basic promises like planting two billion trees made in previous budgets has yet to see any progress. Our planet and our communities have run out of time. There can be no more delays.
The Government has promised to work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care, putting them in danger. As well, they have committed to work with the provinces and territories to set new, national standards for long-term care so that seniors get the best support possible.
This is good news and a great first step, but a key problem to address is that so much of long-term care is provided by for-profit companies. The government pension plan is the owner of one of the largest for-profit long-term care providers (Revera) in Canada and they should use that power to transition them to public ownership. As long as there is a profit motive to cut corners in long term care, Canadians’ health will be compromised.
Although the government says it remains committed to a national, universal pharmacare program and will accelerate steps to achieve it, we will have to wait and see. Progress has been slow thus far.
Lastly, we know that PSAC members have heard many of these promises before and the government has regularly fallen short on many of them. But we have a real opportunity to force the action we need from this minority government. In an unprecedented fashion they have rejected the wrongheaded calls for austerity and have created the conditions for concrete change. Now we have to make sure they deliver, and you can be sure PSAC will be one of the loudest voices pushing for success.