THRONE SPEECH | Liberals outline plan for Canada


The minority Liberal government has unveiled what it calls an ``ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality'' that pledges to create over one million jobs and expand or introduce benefit programs and supports for nearly every sector of society.

But while today's throne speech makes it clear the Liberals intend to make good on earlier promises to combat climate change, economic inequality and systemic racism, they're also acknowledging that not much can be done if the COVID-19 pandemic is not brought under control.

Direct measures to combat the possibility of a second wave drowning the country include promises to help boost testing capacity and targeted support to businesses ordered shut by local public health authorities.

The Liberals are reversing course on a decision to wind down a federal wage subsidy, vowing to extend the program for businesses harmed by COVID-19 into next year.

Over the summer the government decided to start scaling back the program through the rest of the year by providing a smaller subsidy with each passing month. Requirements were also eased to access the program.

But the Liberals were warned that small businesses that have used the program would need the help into 2021 as their revenues stayed low while costs remained steady.

Today, the Liberals' throne speech promised to extend the subsidies to summer 2021, acknowledging the economic situation facing many employers is more fraught.

And for workers who lose their jobs, the throne speech also promises to put everyone under the employment insurance system, making it the only vehicle for benefits for hard-hit workers even if they previously didn't qualify for the decades-old program.

And in the meantime, they're pledging an expansion of the employment insurance system, extending the federal wage subsidy program through to next summer and more money for some of Canada's hardest-hit sectors.

They'll also get to work on new national strategies for child care, long-term care homes, a disability benefit program and legislation for their goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The suite of promises comes without a price tag and few timelines, with the Liberals saying the course of events will determine what gets done when, and that they'll make protecting and supporting Canadians their top priority.