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PolicyMagazineSeptember-October13Norquay

PolicyMagazineSeptember-October13Norquay

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Published by jfekete9899
Policy magazine article by Geoff Norquay on the upcoming throne speech in Parliament.
Policy magazine article by Geoff Norquay on the upcoming throne speech in Parliament.

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Published by: jfekete9899 on Oct 02, 2013
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 The Making othe Speech Fromthe Throne
Geo Norquay
The Speech rom the Throne is a critical element o the Brit-ish parliamentary tradition; it contains the agenda o the government or a new session o Parliament the priorities,the issues and the directions – in other words, the narrativeo governing. At the beginning o a newly-elected govern-ment, it outlines a set o departures rom the previous gov-ernment’s agenda. In the middle o a mandate, it can alsorejuvenate a tired or agging agenda, and help put a “new ace on the old crowd.” And, overall, an SFT galvanizes thebureaucracy more than any other event. Except o course,or an actual change in government.
T
he Government o CanadaChallenger soared over north-western Ontario. There wereonly two passengers, Brian Mulroneyand me. It was the all o 1986 andthe prime minister was on his way toSaskatchewan to meet with PremierGrant Devine to discuss some dicultagricultural issues. I was on the fightas one o the PM’s policy sta but oranother purpose as well. There was anew session o Parliament about toopen, and the PM had asked me tobring the nal drat Speech rom theThrone (SFT) with me. It was time orthe last “snake check” and the nalsign-o beore the speech went o tothe printer, and we would do that onthe fight west.I knew the SFT process well. I hadbeen the principal writer or the rstMulroney government throne speechin 1984 and knew it was complex,with as many as 40-50 successivedrats and numerous hands on thepen along the way. Inspired by theplatorm that had elected us in 1984,the overall political narrative and thebasic ramework originated with thePrime Minister’s Oce (PMO), butater that, there were scores o one-on-one consultations and negotia-
Prime Minister Harper and Governor General David Johnston in conversation beore the 2011 Speech rom the Throne. No event engages the government like athrone speech. PMO photo
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September/October 2013
 
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Policy
tions with ministers and their policysta to nd the right content andnuance as the speech developed. Suc-cessive drats bounced back and orthbetween PMO and the various groupsin the Privy Council Oce (PCO) andthe Federal-Provincial Relations O-ce or their expert advice, and everyew days, the latest drat would goup to the PM or his input and direc-tion. Mulroney is a gited writer, andhe took this seriously; he constantlychallenged us to say it more elegantly,more completely, more accurately. Heworried over every word.The drating process or the 1986 SFTwas no dierent, 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 agenciesor both Atlantic and Western Can-ada. Through successive drats 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 drat. 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 allederal 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 theour 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.
T 
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 departuresrom 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 “newace 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 specic or general, and legisla-tive, programmatic or policy oriented.They may adjust or ne-tune old pro-grams or propose new ones.There is oten 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 oten 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 theuture; 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?
D 
espite the political challengesaced by Stephen Harper inMay and June, summer pollsconrmed 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.
 
9
40 per cent approval on the economy,while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeautrails at 21 per cent, with NDP LeaderTom Mulcair at 14 per cent.We should thereore expect a thronespeech that is long on scal prudenceand economic management, becausethe government’s imperative remainsto return to budget balance by 2015.This is the key to satisying Harper’sbase, many o whom elt queasy aboutthe decit-creating stimulus packageadopted to combat the nancial crisisand global recession o 2008-09. Bud-get balance is also essential to meetingsome important carry-over Conser-vative commitments rom the 2011election, such as income splitting upto $50,000 or amilies with childrenunder 18. The imperative o returningto budget balance also means that theSFT will not be throwing much newmoney around. Moreover, the gov-ernment aces an unknown but hetyprice tag or the costs o the southernAlberta foods and the railway disasterat Lac-Mégantic.Steps to acilitate economic growthand job creation will be the next majoreconomically-oriented throne speechtheme. Trade will continue to havepride o place in the government’seconomic agenda. I the governmenthas concluded the CETA negotiationswith Europe by September-October,the SFT will contain a commitment toimplement CETA, which will involvesignicant legislation. I the agree-ment has not yet been nalized, yetanother pledge will be made to bringthe negotiations to a successul con-clusion. Ater that, it is on to the ne-gotiations towards the Trans-PacicPartnership, and the continuation o the ongoing trade talks with India and Japan, among other bilaterals undernegotiations.On the jobs ront, the July cabinetshufe signaled a continuation o the government’s extensive eortsto remake the Canadian labour mar-ket. In moving Jason Kenney romCitizenship and Immigration to thenewly-named Department o Employ-ment and Social Development, thePrime Minister eectively made Ken-ney “Minister o Jobs.” In additionto completing the controversial em-ployment insurance reorms begun byhis predecessor Diane Finley, Kenneynow inherits the all-important skillsle. He must make the new Canada Job Grant program work with theprovinces, and continue eorts to en-courage the provinces to take downproessional credentials barriers thatstife inter-provincial mobility andkeep skilled immigrants driving taxis.And nally, he will need to managechanges to the controversial Tempo-rary Foreign Workers Program, whichcaused the government some grie earlier this year.
O 
n energy and pipelines, Harp-er’s touting o Canada’s u-ture as an “energy superpow-er” has hit some heavy weather withthe delays on the approval o the Key-stone XL pipeline to the US Gul o Mexico, and opposition to the Gate-way Pipeline across northern BritishColumbia. The primary objective is toget Canadian oil and gas to “tidewa-ter” – in any direction – rom westernCanada to the southern US, rom thewest to the east within Canada, androm Alberta through BC to the Pa-cic. The environmental review o theGateway pipeline is not due until theend o the year. Expect commitmentso ederal support to acilitate all o these major capital projects.The throne speech will likely addressthe long-promised ederal green-house gas regulations or the oil andgas sector. I they are already out bythen, expect the ederal governmentto signal its desire to seek equivalencyagreements with provinces whereverpractical. Canada’s GHG policies havebeen in lock-step with the US or thelast ew years and, depending on newpolicies rom the Obama administra-tion, the government will likely con-tinue this approach, although anyUS linkage between Canada’s GHGpolicies and approval o Keystone willprove tricky.Whether we are talking about pipe-lines or mining development, one o the most challenging natural resourceissues to be resolved is revenue shar-ing, without which it is dicult to seehow resource development can meetthe promise o durable economic par-ticipation or First Nations commu-nities and jobs on reserves as well asin non-native remote and northerncommunities. The provinces and ter-ritories hold most o the cards, sinceresource revenues belong to them. Itwill be interesting to see i the thronespeech signals ederal eorts to re-solve this issue.
Kenney now inherits the all-important skills le. He mustmake the new Canada JobGrant program work with theprovinces, and continue eortsto encourage the provincesto take down proessionalcredentials barriers that stifeinter-provincial mobility andkeep skilled immigrantsdriving taxis.The throne speech will likelyaddress the long-promisedederal greenhouse gasregulations or the oil and gassector. I they are already outby then, expect the ederalgovernment to signal itsdesire to seek equivalencyagreements with provinceswherever practical.
Governor General Johnston reading his frst throne speech. With his second one this all, written by thePrime Minister’s Ofce, the Harper government hopes it can brreak out o its spring slump. PMO photo
September/October 2013

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