Our scorecard tells you whether or not the government’s plans will curb inequality and fix the climate crisis.

The federal government delivered it’s Speech from the Throne on September 23rd, a formal address that opens a new session of Parliament and outlines the government’s plans and priorities. 

This year’s speech was one of the most hotly anticipated — and we’re here to tell you if it made the grade. The speech was so important because so many lives are on the line as we navigate a rising number of covid-19 cases and an economic recession that has hit women, racialized people and low-income households the hardest. The plans outlined in the speech will directly shape our future.

On top of it all, climate change and the collapse of biodiversity haven’t stopped impacting our daily lives. Wildfires are getting worse and their toxic smoke knows no borders. Major floods and storms are getting more frequent and insurance costs are going up. Researchers have linked 31% of the outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases to forest and ecosystem destruction. 

We asked for the Speech from the Throne to put forward a plan for the multi-layered crisis we’re facing. Moments of crisis can open up whole avenues of possibility that were once considered unthinkable. So, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals have a chance to think big and think bold in order to start fixing our society’s problems at their roots. In fact, we gave them a roadmap for doing just that, while building a strong, sustainable and fair economy — we even wrote it down in our version of what the Throne Speech could look like. 

How did the Liberals’ promises stack up against what Greenpeace wanted to see? Read on and find out.

Overall impressions

The Liberals’ 2020 Speech from the Throne was one of the most ambitious and progressive seen in years — but these ambitions are empty without concrete actions to turn them into reality. We’d give the Liberals better-than-usual marks for this year’s Throne Speech, but the proof will be in the pudding (which, in this case, are the upcoming ministerial mandate letters and fall economic update). With many policies we tried to evaluate, there simply weren’t enough details to tell whether or not the Liberals’ plans truly made the grade…even if the promises sounded pretty.

The good, the bad & the ugly: how did the promises made in the stack up against what concrete actions must be taken to achieve a green & ? breaks it down with these scorecards:
Will the words in the translate into concrete action to make a Green a reality? ‘s scorecard give you the good, bad & ugly👇 pic.twitter.com/Ig04adNzSy pic.twitter.com/mVU1zSR8Id pic.twitter.com/N6tU7i2iBw >

Legend: Was it in the speech?

Yup. This is progress in the right direction.
Kind of, but not completely; or, not enough detail given to evaluate properly.
Nope. This was either missing altogether or steps backward were made.

Transform social safety nets

Greenpeace Canada recommendationIn the speech?
Living wage and universal basic income.
National childcare program.
National pharmacare program.
National sick leave.
Safe employment conditions for care workers.

Safeguard the environment

Greenpeace Canada recommendationIn the speech?
Strategy to decarbonize the economy by 2040.
Plans to protect 30% of lands, oceans and freshwaters by 2030. 
Expand electric transit, cycling and walking infrastructure.
Help transition automakers to EVs by 2030.
Jobs in emergency efficiency and low-carbon housing for vulnerable communities.
Nature-based jobs that rebuild vital, degraded ecosystems.
Jobs in community-based farming and regenerative agriculture.
Take steps to build a circular economy by supporting zero-waste innovation and implementing the ban on single-use plastics.

Justice for women, Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities

Greenpeace Canada recommendationIn the speech?
Address the “she-cession” and ensure equal pay and safe employment conditions for all women.
Respect Indigenous rights, act on reconciliation, ensure justice for MMIW and guarantee clean water and good housing. 
Defund the RCMP and invest in mental health for racialized people.  
Citizenship and fair employment conditions for migrant workers.

How would we pay for it?

Greenpeace Canada recommendationIn the speech?
Implement a wealth tax.
Ban the use of tax havens.
End fossil fuels subsidies.
Cancel construction of the TMX pipeline.
Make big polluters pay their fair share to stop climate change.

Here’s a quick look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 2020 Throne Speech.

The Good: Steps forward on a green and just recovery 

  • A commitment to making climate change a cornerstone of a strategy to create one million new jobs.
  •  Plans to decarbonize society in ways that make life healthier and more affordable, such as zero-emission vehicles, transit and active transportation, better access to nature and parks, and green housing.
  • A plan to address the she-cession with a ‘feminist jobs plan’ and a national child-care program.
  • Support for communities to strengthen their resilience to worsening climate disasters, like floods and wildfires.

The Bad: Recycling old, unmet and underwhelming promises

  • Unimplemented measures from the 2019 election platform or the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change were included without higher levels of ambition.
  • No new promises were made on the year-old promise to tackle single-use plastics. Renewed promises of more recycling give Canadians false hope that we can recycle our way out of the problem and let plastic producers off the hook.
  • The reappearance of an old promise to plant 2 billion trees, which is alone insufficient to achieve the level of nature protection needed (not to mention, it’s a promise on which no progress was made).
  • Old commitments to Indigenous rights and reconciliation that ring hollow with years of stalled progress and failures to respect Indigenous law. As AFN head Perry Bellegarde said on the topic of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “I won’t be happy until I hear two words: royal assent.” 

The Ugly: The invisible threats hiding in plain sight

  • Over the last few weeks, the Liberals have been dropping not-so-subtle hints that they plan to roll out green measures alongside a host of dirty “false solutions”: measures that sound green, but actually cause environmental damage. Specifically, they indicated they will: expand fracking (natural gas) and roll out unproven and risky nuclear reactors. This is the kind of greenwashing that would set our climate goals back and endanger our future.
  • If you’re thinking that you didn’t see any references to these types of harmful energy in the uplifting Throne Speech, you’d be right. But if you were also wondering what the Governor General’s reference to “next-generation clean energy and technology solutions” meant, well…you might have found your answer.

Looking ahead: What happens next?

The next official step will be for the Prime Minister to give his Cabinet ministers more detailed instructions in what are called ‘mandate letters’, where he lays out what legislation and programs he expects them to work on. We expect those instructions to be made public within the next couple of weeks, followed by a mini-budget (the Economic Update) that is expected within the next couple of months. 

Want more detail? Click here to see a more technical and policy-level breakdown of how the promises made in the Throne Speech stack up against the recovery policies Greenpeace Canada recommended.

[1] Royal Assent is the approval by the Sovereign of a bill that has passed both houses of Parliament in identical form.  It is the process by which a bill becomes an act of Parliament and part of the law of Canada.  In Canada, Royal Assent is given by the Governor General or one of the Governor General’s deputies (a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada or a senior official such as the Secretary to the Governor General). (source)