Throne speech promises quick action on old promises

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Flexing their majority government status for the first time, the Conservatives announced plans to move on a series of policies that were stalled or thwarted during its minority years.

Among the announcements in the speech from Gov. Gen. David Johnston yesterday, were promises to repeal the long-gun registry, allow wheat farmers to sell outside the Canadian Wheat Board and to eliminate the per-vote subsidy for political parties.

“Our government will act on its promise to introduce legislation to end the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry,” Johnston said, reading from the prepared speech.

“It will also introduce legislation to ensure that western farmers have the freedom to sell wheat and barley on the open market.”

The speech, which will be followed up with a budget on Monday, also promised to reduce the deficit one year earlier than the government previously announced. To do this the government was pledging to scour government finances to find savings.

“This review will be focused on reducing the cost of government, while keeping taxes low and preserving transfers to individuals and provinces for essential things like pensions, health and education.”

Following up on an election promise, the government also promised a series of tough-on-crime measures will be swiftly introduced and passed. It also pledged to work to continue to grow the economy by reducing red tape and expanding free-trade agreements with the European Union and India.

The Conservatives are also looking to change how Canadians are governed with a promise to create term limits for senators, encourage the provinces to elect their own senators and add new seats to the House of Commons for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

“Our government will re-introduce legislation to limit term lengths and to encourage provinces and territories to hold elections for Senate nominees.”

Premier Ed Stelmach was not available Friday afternoon, but his spokesperson Cam Hantiuk said he was impressed with the speech.

“The boss was happy to see the government taking important steps toward issues important to Albertans such as eliminating the long-gun registry, opening up markets for Western Canadian grain farmers by opening up choice and getting tough on crime.”

Alberta is the only province in the country to have held senate elections. There are two current senators-in-waiting who were previously elected, though they demanded to be re-elected last fall when their terms expired.

Stelmach declined to hold new elections, but Hantiuk said he is still absolutely committed to the idea. Who will hold the elections and pay for them is something that will have to be sorted out.

“One would expect there may be some consideration given to holding senate elections in conjunction with federal elections.”

The one lingering disagreement with Alberta is over the notion of a national securities regulator. The speech mentioned the government remains committed to the idea.

“Our government will also move forward with willing partners to establish a new national securities regulator, subject to the Supreme Court’s decision on the extent of federal jurisdiction.”

The Alberta and Quebec governments brought the court challenge jointly. Hantiuk said waiting to hear what the high court says only makes sense.

“The Supreme Court will have a look at and it is only prudent for the federal government to wait on the outcome of that.”

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