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PM's throne speech short, to the point and education-free

Nadya Bell | CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief | News | April 10th, 2006

OTTAWA (CUP) -- Short and direct was the plan for the speech from the throne, opening up Ottawa's Conservative minority government on April 4.

The day was filled with ceremony, from the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod knocking three times on the House of Commons, to an elaborate reception afterwards by the Governor General in the Hall of Honour.

Members of Parliament crowded into the senate chamber to listen to Governor General Michaelle Jean read the speech, which lasted under 20 minutes.

The speech outlined seven priorities, expanding slightly on the government's five point platform Stephen Harper announced when he won the election on Jan. 23.

A Federal Accountability Act will be the first piece of legislation the Conservatives will bring forward.

GST reductions, tougher sentences for crime, child care support and solving fiscal disagreements with the provinces were on the list of priorities.

Shortening wait times at hospitals and creating stronger international ties with the United States were included as priorities in the speech.

“The government's clear and focused agenda reflects its commitment to Canadians. It will not try to do all things at once,” read Jean.

“The government will work diligently to make tangible improvements that contribute to stronger families and safer communities, and a stronger country.”

The Conservative government will also do mandatory legislation reviews of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Bank Act.

Opposition leader Bill Graham said his party would be introducing amendments to the speech. But he said it is possible for every party to be satisfied with the speech.

“The devil is in the details the language in the speech is extremely general,” said Graham in a scrum outside the House of Commons. “We will have to see what they propose.”

Liberal MP John McCallum was more directly critical, saying that he would have liked to see support for research, innovation, training and higher education in the speech.

“This government is really missing in action,” said McCallum.

NDP MP Denise Savoie said she was disappointed the speech did not mention post secondary education.

“The speech from the throne referred to Canada's bright future,” said Savoie. “Students are a part of our bright future and that's no way to begin that future, saddled with that much debt.”

George Soule, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students said the government could resolve the fiscal imbalance by restoring provincial post-secondary education funding that was cut in the 1990s.

Soule said funding equal access to education would also reduce crime rates in Canada.

“The best way for Stephen Harper to achieve these goals is though funding post-secondary education and ensuring that all students have access,” said Soule.

Both Bloc Quebecois and NDP leaders said they would have to talk with their MPs before they would pass judgement on the speech.

NDP leader Jack Layton said the fact that the speech outlined that it was a minority parliament was encouraging that the Conservatives were willing to work with others.

“Some of our priorities were mentioned, but there were absolutely no specifics,” said Layton.

Peter Milliken presented the speech to the Governor General. He was re-elected as the speaker of the House of Commons on April 3. The speaker is responsible for keeping order during the debates.
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