Focus shifts back to the ice

Canadians can relax. A federal election is unlikely anytime soon. Tuesday’s Throne Speech demonstrated that neither Conservative leader…

Canadians can relax.

A federal election is unlikely anytime soon.

Tuesday’s Throne Speech demonstrated that neither Conservative leader Stephen Harper nor Liberal Stephane Dion are spoiling for a fight.

Harper’s much-sought-after majority is still illusory. Dion’s party is divided and financially weak.

And so the circling continues.

The Harper government’s Throne Speech will pass.

In it, Harper promised to assert more control over Canada’s Arctic regions, which, given Russia’s growing interest in the place, isn’t a bad idea.

Personal income taxes will be lowered, which will keep a few bucks in the average Canadian’s pockets.

Business taxes will be cut, which will bolster investment in the face of a rising loonie.

Less well considered is another one-cent drop in the GST.

The Harper government would be better advised to spare retailers the expense of reprogramming their tills and follow Toronto’s suggestion to pass the revenue generated through that single pip to Canadian municipalities.

Harper has signaled his intent to keep Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan until 2011. That’s a huge extension of the mission, but is subject to a vote in the House.

Another wonky pledge is the Conservatives’ Tackling Violent Crime bill that includes a call for mandatory minimum sentences, which is a great idea if your goal is to build more prisons.

The omnibus legislation is essentially a compilation of proposed laws that didn’t make the cut in the last Parliament. For good reason.

The latest data released on Wednesday by Statistics Canada suggests that homicide rates are dropping in Canada.

In fact, such crimes have been on a steep downward trajectory since the early 1970s.

In 2006, the national homicide rate dropped 10 per cent and the number of gun-related murders fell for the first time since 2002.

The national crime rate has also decreased by about 30 per cent since a peak in 1991, hitting its lowest point in more than 25 years, according to the nation’s statisticians.

Given those numbers, violent crime legislation seems unnecessary. But that’s a debate for another day.

For now, Dion and Harper have signaled their intent to make this Parliament work.

And the nation can focus on hockey. (RM)

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