Harper’s speech disappoints Bagnell, Fentie

Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s speech from the throne was a speech of omission, says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s speech from the throne was a speech of omission, says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

It took Governor General Michaelle Jean 24 minutes to read Harper’s speech at the House of Commons on Tuesday — roughly half the length of Liberal speeches in recent years.

“Canadians have chosen change,” said Jean.

“They want a government that treats their tax dollars with respect. A government that puts ordinary working people and their families first. A government that is accountable.”

It focused on Harper’s five key commitments: government accountability, timely health care, tackling crime, child care and a GST cut.

The throne speech is supposed to outline the government’s vision for Canada.

But the word “North” was not in Harper’s speech.

Neither was “Arctic.”

“This was tremendously disappointing,” Bagnell said Wednesday.

“There’s nothing on the northern contaminants clean-up, nothing on land claims implementation, nothing on the northern economic development fund or search and rescue planes for the North.”

“Rural” was not in the speech.

Neither was “infrastructure.”

There were military references in the speech, but not the word “peacekeeping.”

Seniors, aboriginals, immigrants and the environment were not mentioned until the speech’s conclusion, said Bagnell.

There was a one-word reference to each of them there.

“Aboriginal people and immigrants were in the same sentence. It was all just a throwaway in the conclusion.”

Harper’s speech didn’t mention anything about replacing more than 100 climate change programs that expired at the end of the 2005 fiscal year on March 31.

The conclusion did say the government would “take measures to achieve tangible improvements in our environment, including reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

“They have no commitment to climate change,” said Bagnell.

“If something isn’t in the speech it means it’s not in their vision of Canada.

“It doesn’t mean they cannot do things in some of those areas, but it does mean that we are going to have to press them now.

“In all these areas that are not there in their vision of Canada, we’re going to have to push them department by department, issue by issue.

“It’s so disappointing for northerners. We’re not mentioned at all.

“We’re going to have to make sure that we’re part of their vision of Canada.”

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie was “not discouraged, somewhat displeased” with Harper’s speech.

Harper promised the three northern premiers many things during the election campaign, including progress on land claims implementation.

But the throne speech — the government’s “road map” — made little if any mention of them, said Fentie.

“The fact that some of these things did not show up in the throne speech is somewhat disturbing,” said Fentie.

“I’m not here to judge the federal government’s throne speech or its content, but I will say that, with ministers who are responsible in areas relating to the Yukon, I will be voicing, to some degree, my displeasure.

“And I will remain consistent in our efforts to ensure that the federal government lives up to its responsibilities and obligations here in the Yukon, especially with Yukon First Nations.”

Fentie has a meeting scheduled with Jim Prentice, the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, in Whitehorse on April 21.