National unity, health care, children and job creation were the focus yesterday afternoon as Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc opened the 36th Parliament with the Speech from the Throne.
And with that, Gov. Gen. LeBlanc outlined the direction the Chrétien government would be taking Canada into the new millennium.
Liberal government priorities include:
obalancing the budget no later than fiscal year 1998-99;
oseek to devote one-half of the surplus in this mandate to addressing the social and economic needs of Canadians (the other half will go to a combination of reducing taxes and the national debt);
ointroducing legislation to implement the proposed changes to the Canada Pension Plan and the new Seniors’ Benefit;
oestablish Centres of Excellence to deepen our understanding of children’s development, and expand the Aboriginal “Head Start” program onto reserves to ensure all aboriginal children have the opportunity to get a good start in life;
otake measures to support Canadians in responding to the expanding needs for home care and community care;
oestablish the Health Transition Fund to help the provincial governments innovate in the areas of primary care and provide more integration in the delivery of health services, home care and pharmacare;
oenhance research of health information focussed on the needs of aboriginal people through a new Aboriginal Health Institute;
oincrease funding for community-based crime-prevention initiatives to $30 million per year;
odevelop alternatives to incarceration for low-risk, non-violent offenders; and
oworking with the provinces on a National Children’s agenda.
Key to the speech was that the federal government would be looking for partnerships with other governments, as well as the public and private sector.
“But governing in the 21st century also means recognizing that no one government can act alone,” Gov. Gen. LeBlanc stressed.
“Given the complexity of the issues that face us, as citizens in a global economy, collaboration is an essential ingredient for the success of Canada,” he read.
“More than ever, Canadians want their governments to work together in partnership.”
Local MP Robert Nault felt the throne speech had a “significant amount of vision,” and built on the success of the Liberal government so far. He was especially pleased with the commitment Ottawa was making to rural Canadians.
“Future budget surpluses will afford us the opportunity to invest in developing our frontier regions, and I will continue to advocate initiatives which will assist regions like ours in developing our full economic potential,” he pledged.