The Conservative government's recent Throne Speeches can probably be described in five simple words: "it's about the economy, stupid."
The next one — to be delivered this week — has a bit of a twist to it. This throne speech will be about the consumer.
Industry Minister James Moore did the political talk show circuit over the Thanksgiving long-weekend, dropping hints about what Canadians can expect over the next parliamentary session leading up to the 2015 election.
The populist pocketbook list of measures could include the following:
- A reduction in tariffs as a means to combat the U.S./Canada price gap on things like consumer electronics.
- Credit card regulation to combat fee gouging.
- An air passenger bill of rights.
- A cap on cell phone roaming charges along with a promise of more competition in the industry.
- Regulations to force cable companies to allow consumers to select specific television channels rather than paying for bundles.
"When we put together a list of things that frustrate consumers on which the government can take action, the list gets long very quickly," Moore told CTV News' Question Period on Sunday.
"Some of these things get taken care of in the free market, I’m a free marketeer, free enterprise guy. In other circumstances they can’t be and responsible government action is needed."
Steven Chase of the Globe and Mail recently wrote that in addition to the consumer friendly focus, the Throne Speech will include two other themes: jobs and Canadian pride.
"The “jobs and opportunity” category is expected to mention everything from “responsible resource development” – a Conservative catchphrase for regulatory and environmental measures on commodity industries – to expanding business opportunities and signing international trade deals," the Globe report notes.
"Canadian pride,” will encompass the messages the government wants to deliver on its commitment to celebrate and defend the country’s history and heritage, including honouring veterans and commemorating important anniversaries. The Tories are already making big plans to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 and have yet to conclude their multiyear commemoration of the War of 1812."
The Tories, of course, are hoping that session of Parliament helps them change channel on the Senate expense scandals.
The consumer-first agenda is probably the right tactic.
This populist strategy could help them steal votes away from the Justin Trudeau Liberals, who are clearly trying to attract the middle class, and the NDP, that has long touted itself as the voice for the working man.
Not surprisingly, both opposition leaders launched preemptive strikes at the Tory strategy on Sunday morning.
"I think the Canadian voter is going to be a bit skeptical," Thomas Mulcair told CBC News.
"Even if they announce it now, you can bet that it's not actually going to get done."
Trudeau said that the new measures are a case of too little too late.
"That they're finally turning around and realizing, 'oh my gosh the middle class is squeezed and we need to start doing something about it,' is great. But, so far, I'm disappointed by the kinds of measures they're talking about because they're very much political responses," the Liberal leader told CBC.
"They're short-term band-aids and this government is not addressing the deeper challenges that Canadians are facing in their economy."
The Speech from the Throne will be read by Governor General David Johnston at 4:30 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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