Throne speech mandates balanced budgets

Highlights: help for household costs, job training

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod notes that in her broad brush view, the Conservative government has laid out a very comprehensive and ambitious agenda for the next couple of years.

Governor General David Johnston delivered Harper’s speech from the throne to open the second session of the 41st Parliament and outline government’s plans.

One of its key elements is continuing efforts towards creating a stronger economy and more jobs, she explains, as well as some important justice legislation.

“We do know that Canada has done well, but [the goal] is to continue to maintain that focus.”

Several components address a number of concerns, which McLeod says she has heard about from her constituents over time.

They include seniors on fixed incomes being charged for paper billing if they don’t use the Internet (pay-to-pay fees).

They also include current rural broadband limitations, both of which government vows to change.

“And, it’s especially to look at companies that tend to have almost a monopoly, to ensure that consumers are recognized in that.”

Cable companies will no longer be able to force bundled television packages, which she notes is also significant for smaller cable companies trying to remain competitive.

Along with resolving ongoing issues with high roaming charges for mobile phones, McLeod adds, these are all “really important” for rural communities.

She explains the new employment training mentioned in the speech will target those traditionally under-represented in the workforce, including people with disabilities, youth, and Aboriginals.

“So [it is] really focusing on supporting skills training, job training and making sure we are meeting the workforce needs of tomorrow. And, with an additional special focus on those that have challenges in the workplace.”

Government will also carry on in the move toward changes to the Senate, she notes.

“We indicated very clearly that we are looking forward to the Supreme Court’s ruling. They were asked to come back to us with how we can move forward and reform is the desired option, not abolishment.”

Canada’s resource companies will see tightened safety rules and increases to required insurance for aspects, such spill response.

“We want Canadians to know that if we move forward to leverage the opportunity with our resources, that we will be protecting our environment.

“That means having high standards with regards to our pipeline safety system and the polluter-pays principle.”

McLeod says the federal government believes chronic sexual offenders are let out on statutory early release far too often, resulting in warnings to communities.

“We think this is wrong. We think someone who is a repeat offender shouldn’t be eligible for statutory early release. They should be serving their sentences.”

The local Conservative MP explains another important piece of the plan laid out in the speech is a commitment to balancing budgets.

“We are on track to get back to balanced budget by 2015/16. We will enshrine in legislation that, during normal economic times – like any family or any household – you have to balance your budget.”

If temporary outside influences, such as the global recession, prevent that, she notes new legislation will require a plan and a timeline for returning to balance.

To download or listen to the throne speech online, visit www.speech.gc.ca.

Says McLeod: “I think it is an important message to Canadians in terms of our plan for the next couple of years.”