tions with ministers and their policysta to nd the right content andnuance as the speech developed. Suc-cessive drats bounced back and orthbetween PMO and the various groupsin the Privy Council Oce (PCO) andthe Federal-Provincial Relations O-ce or their expert advice, and everyew days, the latest drat would goup to the PM or his input and direc-tion. Mulroney is a gited writer, andhe took this seriously; he constantlychallenged us to say it more elegantly,more completely, more accurately. Heworried over every word.The drating process or the 1986 SFTwas no dierent, except that my col-league L. Ian MacDonald, rom thePMO communications group hadthe pen, and so ar, I had not reallybeen that intimately involved. Sohere I was with the PM in the Chal-lenger, reading the speech or the -nal time, page by page, paragraph byparagraph, word by word, checkingfow, phrasing, meaning and tone. Ata certain point, I began to get the un-easy eeling that perhaps I had missedsomething, so I went back a ew pagesto revisit the earlier text.In the months leading up to the all o 1986, we had promised to provide newdirections to regional developmentin Canada, and had decided to createnew economic development agenciesor both Atlantic and Western Can-ada. Through successive drats o thespeech, I had seen that various olksthroughout the system had tried theirhand at naming the new agencies andthat the names kept changing witheach new drat. I hadn’t really paid itthat much attention until the uneasi-ness struck that day on the plane.I ound the paragraph, and here iswhat it said:“As a rst step in achievingimproved results rom this sus-tained national approach, anAtlantic Canada DevelopmentCorporation will be constitutedto acilitate and coordinate allederal development initiativesin the area.”Staring at the words, it nally struckme. We were about to announce anew agency and the obvious acronymby which it would instantly be knownwas “AC-DC”. This carried certainsexual undertones that would haveinstantly made us the laughingstocko the western world. I underlined theour letters and passed the page acrossto the PM. A huge laugh resulted.I never did nd out who it was thatgot to name the new agency, but Ido know that that is how the Atlan-tic Canada Opportunities Agency –ACOA – was born.
hrone speeches are a criticalelement o the British parlia-mentary tradition; they con-tain the agenda o the government ora new session o Parliament – the pri-orities, the issues and the directions– in other words, the narrative o gov-erning. SFTs can serve other purposesas well. At the beginning o a newly-elected government, they signal anew beginning and a set o departuresrom the previous government’s agen-da. In the middle o a mandate, theycan also serve to rejuvenate a tired orfagging agenda, and help put a “newace on the old crowd.”One o the key impacts o a thronespeech is the “mobilization” o thevarious departments o government.When the message goes out rom PMOto ministers and rom PCO to deputyministers that an SFT is in the works,the ideas fow in to the centre. Theymay be specic or general, and legisla-tive, programmatic or policy oriented.They may adjust or ne-tune old pro-grams or propose new ones.There is oten a air amount o compe-tition or the attention o the PM andcabinet. Every department wants tohave its piece o the new action thatis represented by a throne speech. Inaddition, to the extent that they setnew priorities, or raise lower onesto higher status, SFTs oten requirethe reallocation o scal and sta re-sources within departments to meetnew circumstances and pursue newobjectives. Overall, an SFT galvanizesthe bureaucracy more than any otherevent, except o course, or an actualchange in government.SFTs nearly always contain an internalinconsistency, a battle between conti-nuity and departure, between same-ness and innovation. Since the keychallenges o public policy are broadlyknown, the trick is always to nd theright balance between the major ob-jectives the government has alreadybeen pursuing and the new direc-tions it wishes to take. In positioningnew directions as logical outcomes o well-worn paths, governments tendto step on their own message. As aresult, throne speeches are usuallyproclaimed to be a disappointment bythe media: “Nothing much new here;no surprises; no grand vision or theuture; no radical departures; businessas usual.”As a government at mid-term, theHarper Conservatives have estab-lished some hallmarks through whichthey have become known: competenteconomic management, trade expan-sion, a more independent and ro-bust oreign policy, re-equipping thearmed orces, and many “tough oncrime” initiatives. At the same time,however, many o the priorities out-lined in their rst majority govern-ment SFT have already been achieved,or are in the hands o others; theCanada-Europe Comprehensive Eco-nomic and Trade Agreement (CETA)and the Keystone XL Pipeline are twoprominent examples. So what mightbe the content o a renewal narrative?What are the key issues we can expectthe throne speech to address?
espite the political challengesaced by Stephen Harper inMay and June, summer pollsconrmed that he still retained a solidlead over his two opposition rivals inthe public’s rating o capability oneconomic issues. Harper still stands at
Since the key challenges o public policy are broadlyknown, the trick is alwaysto nd the right balancebetween the major objectivesthe government has alreadybeen pursuing and the newdirections it wishes to take.Throne speeches are a critical element o the Britishparliamentary tradition; they contain the agenda o thegovernment or a new session o Parliament – the priorities,the issues and the directions – in other words, the narrativeo governing.