Speech from the Throne
Motion for Address in Reply—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cordy:
That the following Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, before I begin, I'd like to give independent senators — those who were recently appointed and those who were born again like Senator Mitchell — an opportunity to close their ears if they so wish because this speech is going to be a bit partisan.
Senator Harder: What a surprise.
Senator Tkachuk: It's very difficult not to be, considering the actions of the government over the past year.
Honourable senators, it has been almost a year since the election of the Liberal government. The Liberals launched their new government in the election campaign, actually. They promised change, and they made a myriad of promises that expressed that change.
It began with the promise of deficit financing — the new world monetary order — $10 billion a year for two years and then a return to balanced budgeting before the 2019 election. It concluded with the promise of bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015. This is in addition to those already in the pipeline under the Conservative government and those being sponsored privately. This was the new Trudeau government.
But there was more: the withdrawal of our CF-18s from the campaign against ISIS, which they made clear meant our withdrawal from the fighting and a return to the traditional and mystical role of non-combat aid and training — peacekeeping — a return to the so-called glory days of sucking up to the United Nations and a return to the old Liberal anthem of "give peace a chance." The argument, of course, was that this is the Canadian tradition, to work through the UN, not to be critical of it.
And there was more — much more. "Transparency" was their big watchword. Government would be open and transparent, unlike the previous Conservative government. And transparency seems more than anything else to consist of the Prime Minister taking selfies and, of course, other ministers taking pictures of themselves.
Minister McKenna was simply being transparent when she spent a whopping $17,000 of taxpayers' money for vanity photos of herself and her officials in Paris last November — no photo of three of those officials dining out on the taxpayers' dime to the tune of $12,000, though.
Transparency has its limits, it seems. They promised to cancel the F-35 contract, a deal we made with our NATO allies, with no certainty of what would take its place. "We'll have a competition," they said, "but the makers of the F-35 need not apply."
Then there was the new environmental policy, with beefed-up targets and a national policy for action in cooperation with the provinces. Flexibility and consultation was the new mantra. Everyone was excited now.
Now I'm sure there were more promises, but these were the hallmark number. And the press, in their zeal to rid the country of the Conservative government, never questioned them. In fact, they promoted them as part of sunny ways; questions with vacuous answers like "because it's 2015" were not only allowed by the media to stand but were celebrated as being deeply profound in their simplicity. "Canada is back," a line at once insulting and empty, and one that the Prime Minister could not stop saying.
Canada is back all right, back from a balanced budget to runaway deficits. That $10 billion they promised to borrow during the election? That turned into an estimated $30 billion after they tabled their budget in March. That $30 billion has now turned into $46 billion. And where will it stop? TD economists forecast a debt of $150 billion over the next five years. Canada is back all right.
"Canada is back," the Prime Minister told a UN climate summit in Paris last November. Then he turned around and adopted the same greenhouse gas targets as the previous Conservative government, the very government that Mr. Trudeau has supposedly returned Canada to the world from. The difference, we are told, is that the Liberals have a plan. Part of that plan is carbon taxes, and, in their election platform, the Liberals promised to:
. . . partner with provincial and territorial leaders to develop real climate change solutions. . . .
We will work together to establish national emissions- reduction targets, and ensure that the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments, including their own carbon pricing policies.
And what did they do? They didn't establish national emission- reduction targets; they adopted the previous government's targets. How did they do it? They didn't cooperate with the provinces; they imposed it on them.
Here's how the Prime Minister put it on October 3, in the House of Commons, when announcing his plan for carbon pricing:
The provinces and territories that choose cap-and-trade systems would need to decrease emissions in line with both Canada's target and the reductions expected in jurisdictions that choose a price-based system. If neither a price nor a cap-and-trade system is in place by 2018, the Government of Canada would implement a price in that jurisdiction.
That's not working together with the provinces. That's an edict. And to what end exactly? Canada's contribution to global GHG emissions is less than negligible. As a matter of fact, we're actually negative in the area of production of carbon because Canada is a land with only 35 million people, and we actually absorb more carbon than we emit. So we're a negative carbon producer, not a positive carbon producer, and have no effect whatsoever on global warming or on the production of worldwide CO2. So the reductions will not make a whit of difference in climate change worldwide compared to the negative effect that they will have on our industries in the West.
Economist Andrew Leach estimates that carbon prices would need to reach $100 a tonne to reach the 2030 targets established in Paris.
The Prime Minister also promised that they would be revenue neutral. The only problem is we have no idea — and it seems neither does he — on how that will be achieved. Nor does the federal government have control over what it will be. The provinces do. In our province, the Premier of Saskatchewan is fighting back on what the federal government is doing and is saying that the only effect this edict that the Prime Minister has issued on carbon pricing is going to have is to destroy our economy and the economy of our neighbouring province of Alberta.
The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Tkachuk. It has just been brought to my attention that you spoke to this motion on April 20, 2016. In order to speak again and continue with your speech, you will need leave of the Senate.
Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Tkachuk: I spoke on this?
The Hon. the Speaker: Yes, you did.
Senator Tkachuk: That's what happens when you turn 71. I'd never have believed that.
An Hon. Senator: It doesn't sound the same to me.
Senator Tkachuk: Fifteen minutes? I spoke on it 15 minutes? Oh, my goodness!
Another one of their election promises was to end Canada's combat mission in Iraq and to focus, as they put it, on "what we do best." I wonder what the CF-18 pilots thought of that statement. I do know there was barely a foreign policy expert in the land that didn't look askance at that commitment.
Combat, in their minds, is clearly not what we do best, so, under the Liberals, we would do our part by shifting our efforts to the training of local forces. Well, the Liberals certainly pulled out the CF-18s, but it turns out that the promise to end the combat mission in Iraq was another broken promise.
Our so-called trainers are, according to a recent briefing by National Defence, on the front line, exchanging fire with the enemy. Of course, in the spirit of their much vaunted commitment to transparency, the government won't say how often this happens.
Canada is back to the United Nations as well, that same old, tired, bureaucratic nightmare, about which a recently retired UN assistant secretary-general wrote, in The New York Times:
If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.
We are back to peacekeeping, except, a full year later, the Liberal government has yet to identify a mission for our peacekeepers. They announced a $450 million fund in the summer, and they announced the number of troops we would be willing to contribute. But they have not yet announced a mission. Our troops are all dressed up with no place to go.
Let's just hope it's not Mali, as has been rumoured. The peacekeeping force there is engaged not in peacekeeping but a daily battle of self-protection against terrorists they were neither equipped nor prepared to combat. Fifty-six peacekeepers have been killed there already. As the aforementioned ex-UN official said:
The United Nations in Mali is day by day marching deeper into its first quagmire.
Remember this too: Peacekeeping missions that were once routinely two years are now often ten.
We are also back to sending arms to Saudi Arabia, a sale the Liberals criticized the former government for. But these things change, especially when you need to buy every vote you can for a meaningless seat on the Security Council. So they troll the Middle East and Africa for every anti-Israel, anti-Semitic nation they can find for more UN votes.
Has our foreign policy come to this? They look south at the Trumpian motives in ingratiating himself to Putin while they do the same with Russia over Ukraine and with the Communists in China.
And how about those 25,000 refugees they promised to bring in by the end of December 2015? When they made that promise, it was manifestly an impossible one to keep, and the media was so interested in getting rid of Stephen Harper that it accepted the policy unquestioningly. Only once he was gone and Mr. Trudeau was firmly ensconced in the Langevin Block, did they regain their critical faculties. Sure enough, the media proclaimed and, soon, the government announced that they couldn't do it. In fact, according to Terry Glavin, in the end, their plan pretty much resembled the Conservative plan to bring in 20,000 government- assisted refugees before the end of 2016, with no limit on the number of privately sponsored refugees brought to Canada.
Maybe they should change the slogan to the "Liberals are back": back to making promises that were not planned out or thought through. They could not produce a budget bill in December 2015 that could pass the Senate. They produced Bill C- 2, which Senator Smith devastatingly criticized in the Senate before we left on our break.
The most important thing and the thing they have talked most about is transparency. Everything was such a big secret under the Conservatives, but not under the Liberals. It would be open; it would be transparent. Everybody would know what everybody is doing. Except in the Prime Minister's Office, when they were exchanging $20,000 in cash in envelopes with their two chief political mentors. That was okay. Incidentals, they called it; $20,000 in cash given to their chief political advisers, and they called it incidentals. How much Starbucks can you drink moving from Toronto to Ottawa?
But it became transparent when the information was tabled in response to a Conservative question in the house and then they paid it back.
There is no reason to celebrate the first year. It is a black hole. It's not a building block, but a black hole to a more disastrous three years.
I look forward to making the same speech again next year. I'm sure we'll be talking about the $150 billion deficit. I'm sure we'll be talking about more envelopes in the Prime Minister's Office. I'm sure we'll be talking about more broken promises, and I'm sure we're going to be talking about one of the largest deficits incurred by a government since Justin Trudeau's father.
(On motion of Senator Plett, debate adjourned.)