Canada, Senate Debates, “Speech from the Throne”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (14 April 1980)

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Date: 1980-04-14
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1980 at 2-7.
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SENATE DEBATES — April 14, 1980

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His Excellency the Governor General was then pleased to open the First Session of the Thirty-second Parliament with the following Speech:

Honourable Members of the Senate:

Members of the House of Commons:

I have the honour to welcome you to the First Session ofthe 32nd Parliament of Canada.

During the course of the last few weeks, both my wife and I have come through a period of convalescence and I take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for the good wishes we received from fellow-Canadians from all parts of the country.

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Canada recently received the visit of The Prince of Wales, who undertook engagements in Vancouver and Victoria two weeks ago, In May, The Duke of Edinburgh will attend the Fifth Commonwealth Study Conference which opens in Kingston on May 18th. In July, Princess Margaret will take part in celebrations marking the 75th Anniversary of the entry into Confederation of the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Canada has very close and enduring ties with the Netherlands and I am greatly looking forward to representing our country at the accession to the Throne of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands in Amsterdam on April 30th.

I have had the pleasure of visiting all the provincial capitals and the Northwest Territories during my first year in office. My wife and I are now looking forward to certain engagements in the Yukon and in smaller communities across our vast and beautiful land. Discovering Canada and meeting Canadians increases daily our awareness of the great natural and human resources of the country in which we are privileged to live.

We observe today not only the beginning of a new Parliament but the start of a new era. As Canada enters the 1980s, we confront serious challenges, but we look forward to even greater opportunities. Like cur forbears, this generation of Canadians will be equal to the test. We will meet and overcome the challenges ahead, for the history of this land has proven. again and again, that everything is possible if our will to go on building together is strong.

Canadians expect much of this Parliament. The country asks for action and action now. The ?rst task is to clear the accumulation of essential legislation left from previous Parliaments. This backlog must be dispatched expeditiously so that the affairs of the state may be put in good order. To that end, my Government is relying on the good will of members and senators of all parties.

This Parliament must also act quickly to put in place a program for the future. In the recent general election, my Ministers received a mandate for a program which will provide security, equity, and opportunity for the Canada of the 1980s. In the course of that campaign, my Ministers made a number of pledges which will form the core of this Parliament’s work. You will be asked to consider a program of action designed;

—to respond to individual needs by promoting greater security for the elderly, expanded opportunities for the young, and equality for women;
—to achieve security of energy supply at a fair price for all Canadians;
—to promote a national development policy that will provide jobs, stimulate growth, build upon regional strengths, and increase Canadian ownership and control of our economy;
—to strengthen national institutions, while at the same time making them more responsive to provincial and regional goals;
—to ensure that Canada plays a vigorous part in the world beyond our borders.

All these commitments will be kept; these pledges redeemed; the mandate fulfilled.

The character of our people should inspire confidence in the ability of Canada to meet the challenges of the 1980s. We have the capacity and the imagination to make this a decade of opportunity rather than a decade of doubt. But there is one question which clouds the horizon and obstructs the view. It is the question of the unity of our country.

Will Canada still exist as a country at the end of this decade, or will it have been broken up by the tensions of our past and recent history? Will we continue to build our future together as Canadians, or will we give in to the siren song of regional isolationism?

ln every part of Canada there are forces which are driving us apart rather titan bringing us together. Canada’s tradition is one of sharing, but in every region this principle is under assault. ln the Atlantic, disadvantaged for so long, the promise of new resource riches has already led to squabbles about their future distribution. In Central Canada there are some who fear that the economic strength of this region is somehow slipping away, and this in turn has led to envy and bitterness. In the West, many believe that their problems are ignored, their voices are unheard, and their contribution is unrecognized.

To all these forces of discontent my Government has one clear response, Canada will endure, grow and prosper. The men and women of this country have always realized that their participation in a society that spans the northern half of North America is infinitely more exciting and enriching than confining themselves in any one province or one region. The renewed federalism, to which my Government makes a fundamental and all-embracing commitment, will not only strengthen individual and collective rights and freedoms, it will also ensure that Canada remains:

—a strong country, with first claim on the loyalty of all its citizens;
—a country that regards diversity as an asset, not a liability;
-a country whose people share their wealth first with those who need it most;
—a country that encourages initiative, welcomes daring, and promotes enterprise;
—a country that opens its eyes, its mind, and its heart to the larger community of nations, refusing to regard its own national borders as the outward limits of the universe.

Doubt must be cast aside, uncertainty must end, the forces of disintegration—whether they be economic or political in origin—must be opposed in every part of the land. That is why my Government hopes that the referendum, to be held in Quebec sometime during the coming weeks, will be a time when Quebecers affirm their will and their right to be fully Canadian, a time when all Canadians will reaffirm their desire to live together in the country to which we all belong, and which belongs to all of us.

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Because my Government wants to strengthen the spirit of Canadian unity and nurture the seeds of renewal, it promises to interpret a vote of “no” to sovereignty-association as a vote for the rebuilding of the Canadian federation. My Government also promises to give effect to a “no” vote by mobilizing all the forces at its command in order to ensure the renewal of the Federation in a spirit of respect and justice for all.

I. Putting People First

Canadians are a sensible people. They understand that these are difficult economic times throughout the world. They know too that Canada cannot insulate itself completely from the effects of global inflation coupled with recession. In responding to these turbulent conditions, my Government will be guided by the two main principles at the core of the program my Ministers placed before the people.

The first is that Canadians will accept sacrifice to meet the economic challenges of the 1980s, but they will not accept injustice. Canadians have always faced up to difficult decisions—and if necessary they will do so in the future—but only if the burden is shared equitably.

The second principle is equally critical. Canadians recognize the need to live within their national means and they understand that in doing so the state cannot meet every demand or satisfy every group. Therefore, in employing the limited resources available, my Ministers will help first those who need help most.

in particular, my Government recognizes the need to protect those Canadians most affected by unacceptably high interest rates. My Government will act to assist those unable to bear the burden of re-negotiating their home mortgages in the present abnormal situation so that the spectre of foreclosure will be avoided. My Ministers are convinced that this objective can be achieved without the government embarking upon a major subsidy program. Farmers and small businessmen are alsohit especially hard by rising costs, and my Government is Seusltiye to their plight. To assist the individual entrepreneur, the ceiling for loans under the Small Business Loans Act and the Farm improvement Loans Act will be raised to $100,000. Other measures of assistance will also be introduced.

Inflation strikes hardest at the old and those least able to take care of themselves. You will be asked to give urgent consideration to legislation raising the Guaranteed Income Supplement to the Old Age Security pension by $35 a month per household by July 1st of this year. This measure will primarily benefit single pensioners, the vast majority of whom are women. By fulfilling this commitment, Parliament will be providing needed assistance to over 1.3 million elderly Canadians.

Beyond providing immediate relief for elderly people with low incomes, my Government intends to convene a National Pension Conference in the fall of 1980. Work must begin immediately to design better methods of providing flexible, portable, and sccure pensions both in the private and public sectors. To start this process, my Government will soon release a major study on the Canadian pension system.

One of the essential objectives of this Government is to put more people to work. Young people, women, natives, and the handicapped face special problems in finding jobs. To meet the needs of these groups, my Government will expand its employment program while using its resources more efficiently. There will be an increased effort to develop critical trade skills so as to better prepare today’s labour force for tomorrow’s jobs.

Expanding native opportunities and training women for new occupations will receive strong emphasis.

Members of Parliament will have a major role in advising on the selection of job creation projects, and my Government will enter into a new partnership with voluntary agencies and local organizations in a program of community service.

Additional attention will be paid to the employment problems of the handicapped whose special difficulties cross all regional, sexual, and cultural boundaries. Amendments to protect the rights of the handicapped will be made to the Human Rights Act.

The role of women in Canadian society is undergoing marked improvement, and government initiatives must reflect and support that change. As a major employer in Canada, my Government will play a leadership role by implementing affirmative action measures in the public service. My Government believes that there is no room in Canada for sexual discrimination of any kind.

The serious problem of violence against women will also be addressed along with other amendments to the Criminal Code, and efforts will be made in concert with the provincial and territorial governments to improve health and social services for women who are victims of violence. it is time, too, to move cannabis offences to the Food and Drugs Act and remove the possibility of imprisonment for simple possession.

II. Security of Energy, at a Fair Price

My Government’s energy policy is critical to the success of all its economic policies. Energy policy is as important for Canada in the 1980s as railway policy was in the 1880s. Like railway policy in that earlier era, energy development has the potential to create growth and prosperity across Canada.

My Government believes that the price of oil in Canada must be based upon Canadian conditions and circumstances, and not upon the vagaries of a turbulent and unpredictable world market. We need a made-in-Canada price. A new blended price will therefore be established, which will progressively incorporate the costs of the Oil Import Compensation Program, while at the same time maintaining a single national price for consumers. The blended price will reflect the right of producing provinces and corporations to a fair return for their resources and their investment.

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Discussions have already begun with the governments of the producing provinces and will be vigorously pursued toward an agreement consistent with my Government’s energy policy commitment, as endorsed by the people of Canada. My Ministers do not intend to impose an 18¢ increase in the excise tax on transportation fuels, and the made-in-Canada price will result in a lower price to consumers than the one proposed in the budget of the previous administration.

A Petroleum Price Auditing Agency will be established to investigate and report to the government and people of Canada on oil company costs, profits, capital expenditures, and levels of Canadian ownership.

In spite of Canada’s large energy resources, which put this country in the extremely favourable position of being a major energy exporter, we remain partially dependent upon imported oil. My Government is determined to reduce that dependence by promoting conservation and by stimulating the production of new domestic energy supplies.

To improve conservation of oil and gasoline in transportation, you will be asked to approve legislation setting mandatory fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Measures will also be introduced to encourage higher standards of home insulation, and the existing home insulation program will be improved.

In co-operation with provincial governments, other steps will be taken to encourage more rapid substitution from oil to other energy sources in order to substantially reduce the significance of oil in meeting our energy needs. Policies will be introduced to encourage consumers to switch from oil to natural gas or electricity for home heating. My Government equally favors the earliest possible construction of a natural gas pipeline to Quebec City and the Maritime Provinces, and awaits with interest the report of the National Energy Board on this project.

Petro-Canada will be maintained and expanded as an instrument of public policy. My Government has already increased the budget of the Corporation by $80 million this year, and our national oil company will also receive a renewed mandate to engage vigorously in oil purchase negotiations and agreements with foreign suppliers.

You will be asked to approve a new Canada Oil and Gas Act, which will provide new preferential rights for Petro-Canada and other Canadian companies on federal lands, and establish new and more demanding requirements for exploration and development of these promising frontier areas.

An alternative energy corporation will be created with a mandate to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources to replace oil.

My Ministers believe that, ifgiven the opportunity, Canadian companies and investors would involve themselves more heavily in the energy field. My Government, therefore, adopts the specific goal of at least 50% Canadian ownership of the petroleum industry by 1990, and will soon take the first steps to achieve this objective.

III. Developing our Economic Potential

Canada’s resource base will be used as the basic building block of a vigorous industrial policy. A paramount objective of my Ministers is to develop economic policies that will provide jobs, spur growth, improve regional balance, and promote Canadian ownership and control of the economy.

It is the intention of my Ministers to continue the policies of expenditure restraint and improved government administration which were suggested by the Lambert Report and initiated by the previous Liberal administration. My Government will reduce the federal deficit in a planned and orderly manner, but not to the exclusion of other objectives such as reducing unemployment and promoting industrial growth. Improving the efficiency of the federal government is as important an objective of these reforms as reducing the deficit. My Ministers believe that Canadians want more effective government, not necessarily less government.

Food and agriculture are going to be increasingly important to the Canadian economy in the 1980s. To further strengthen the industry, my Government plans to create a Canadian Agricultural Export Corporation to expand markets for Canadian producers. A Meat Import Act will be introduced to protect both consumers and producers.

Transportation is a vital part of industrial strategy. My Government will ensure that the Canadian transportation system has the capacity to meet the economic challenges of the 1980s. My Government regards the production, transportation, handling, and marketing of Prairie grain as a national priority. Rail facilities will be upgraded, and port facilities improved. You will also be asked to consider, on an urgent basis, legislation concerning the transportation of dangerous goods.

In the fisheries sector, Canada’s harvest is expected to increase substantially in the years ahead. To ensure the maximum return to fishermen and fish-processing companies, my Government will undertake major initiatives to further enhance the quality of fish products and to ensure orderly marketing.

Licensing regulations will be changed to permit fishermen to benefit fully from the resources of the 200-mile zone, and legislation will be introduced to guarantee adequate investment in the fishing sector through partial cost recovery and reinvestment of enhanced earnings. To further assist fishermen, the ceiling for individual loans under the Fisheries improvement Loans Act will be raised to $150,000.

Canada’s capabilities in science and technology lie at the heart of our competitiveness as a trading nation. My Government will encourage more young people to pursue a career in research through a new technology employment program, and will encourage and insist that industry do more research and development work in Canada. My Government reaffirms its commitment to increase Canada’s overall expenditures on research and development to 1.5% of the value of the Gross National Product.

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To improve the ability of Canadian industry to compete abroad in order to create jobs at home, my Government will establish a national trading company. My Government also intends to make assistance programs more accessible to small business, to simplify application procedures, and to better co-ordinate programs.

To improve our system of collective bargaining, a Labour Information Bureau will be created to provide an impartial clearing house for the statistics and data required for negotiations. A fresh start will be made in the labour management relations of the Post Office by turning that department into a crown corporation.

My Ministers believe that the stake of Canadians in their own economic destiny must be strengthened. Government procurement will be used vigorously, in a manner consistent with our international commitments, to encourage the creation and expansion of independent Canadian-owned enterprises.

The Foreign Investment Review Act will be amended to provide for performance reviews of how large foreign firms are meeting the test of bringing substantial benefits to Canada. As well, amendments will be introduced to ensure that major acguisition proposals by foreign companies will be publicized prior to a government decision on their acceptability. The Government will assist Canadian companies wishing to repatriate assets or to bid for ownership or control of companies subject to takeover offers by non-Canadians.

IV. Strengthening National Institutions

To increase the confidence of Canadians that their national institutions can respond effectively to their needs, my Government will propose a program to make Parliament both more efficient and more responsive.

You will be asked to appoint a committee of Parliament to examine the electoral system in order to ensure that the highest degree of representativeness and responsibility is achieved and that the confidence of Canadians in parliamentary institutions is strengthened.

As part of its commitment to renewed federalism, my Government will revive the process of constitutional reform. My Ministers are committed to the full development of Canada’s two major linguistic communities and to the enhancement of our mosaic of cultures. My Government will seek to constitutionally entrench a bill of civil and human rights, including language rights,

Members of Parliament, whatever their party, agree on the need to guarantee to Canadians greater access to information of concern to them. Freedom of information legislation will be introduced to provide wide access to government documents. The right accorded to Ministers to withhold government documents from courts of law under Section 41(2) of the Federal Court Act will be removed.

Legislation will also be presented to extend the rights of access by individuals to their personal information held by the government and to provide greater protection for privacy by further restricting the use that may be made of that information.

Also, in response to the recommendations of the Marin Commission, the RCMP Act will be amended to formalize internal discipline and grievance procedures, and to provide for an external authority to review public complaints about the behaviour of any member of the RCMP.

It is my Government’s hope that these measures will serve in the years ahead as a fundamental bond of trust between government and people.

V. An Active Foreign Policy

My Government takes office against the most sombre international background of recent years. Events in Iran and Afghanistan have done great damage to international laws and institutions and have undermined confidence and stability.

in response, my Government intends to conduct an active foreign policy. Canada will rely upon its strong ties of friendship throughout the world. Part of our international response must be a determination to increase the ability of the NATO Alliance to provide security for its members and to advance the cause of peace, and my Government is committed to doing its full part. In keeping with that commitment, my Government has decided to proceed with the purchase of a new fighter aircraft.

But while recognizing the need for Canada to strengthen alliance security, the dangers of nuclear holocaust cannot simply be forgotten. If anything, these dangers are heightened by current tensions and by the continuation of the arms race. Canada’s imperative is clear. This Government must continue its strategy to suffocate the deadly growth in the nuclear arsenals of the world. We must, and we will, actively co-operate in international efforts to negotiate agreements on verifiable means of arms control and disarmament, and seek to rally others to a cause that is no less than human survival on this planet. To assist in this process, a new position of Ambassador for Disarmament will be created within the Department of External Affairs.

Before concluding, I address a special message to members of the House of Commons from the three westernmost provinces.

It has been said in recent weeks that the three westernmost provinces have no elected voice in the governing of this country. That is not true. Parliament is the supreme law-making assembly of Canada, and every Canadian is represented in the House of Commons by his or her duly elected member.

Like all of your colleagues in the House of Commons, you who represent the people of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, have a responsibility to represent your constituents

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to the nation. You also have an extra responsibility in the present circumstances to represent the nation to your constituents. It is a task no one else can fulfill. My Government is prepared to co-operate fully in helping you to achieve this.

Members of the House of Commons:

You will be asked to appropriate the funds required to carry on the services and expenditures authorized by Parliament.

Honourable Members of the Senate:

Members of the House of Commons:

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

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