Expect a carefully crafted pitch for transporting oil via trains and pipelines in a speech meant to signal a more conciliatory direction as well as distract from the current senate scandal
OTTAWA—In a speech from the throne Wednesday, the Tories will push their jobs and tough-on-crime agenda while veering just enough to the left to poach the opposition’s social and consumer issues.
The speech is expected to focus on bedrock Conservative issues—creating jobs and rebuilding the economy—with particular themes targeted at creating employment opportunities and providing job training for aboriginals in the resource sector.
But several consumer-friendly measures will also be incorporated into the blueprint document, designed to counter proposals expected from the New Democrats and Liberals.
Those measures are also aimed at turning the attention of voters away from the Senate spending controversy that has seen several Conservative appointees and one Liberal taken to task over extravagant travel and living expenses.
The sales pitch will include a plan to force cable and satellite TV providers to adopt a pick-and-pay price model, in conjunction with the bundled channel payment plans they currently offer.
The Tories will move to create an airline passenger bill of rights designed to compensate people who are inconvenienced when air carriers overbook flights.
There will also likely be references to increasing competition in the wireless sector and to capping domestic cellphone roaming fees.
“We think roaming fees have been a long standing concern for not only consumers but for competition within the telecom sector,” Industry Minister James Moore said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
However, the credit card fee issue is not expected to make its way into the throne speech, said Moore.
The federal Competition Tribunal struck down a complaint against Visa and Mastercard in July over the processing fees they charge businesses for using their cards, and a government finance committee has been grappling with the issue ever since.
The speech, opening the delayed second session of Canada’s 41st Parliament, will be read by Gov. Gen. David Johnston in the Senate—the very chamber at the centre of an expense scandal that has dogged the Conservatives since the last session.
And no matter its content, the Opposition is sure to take advantage of the optics.
Still, the government is not expected to say much about Senate reform, waiting instead to hear back from the Supreme Court of Canada about a reference that asks whether the red chamber can be reformed, or even abolished.
Public safety and protecting the environment will likely also go hand-in-hand in segments of the speech that touch on the Lac-Megantic derailment disaster and recent oil pipeline leaks.
But that will be a balancing act as the Harper Conservatives hope to convince Canadians that getting oil and other commodities to market is essential to creating jobs and economic wealth.