The Liberal government delivered a throne speech Thursday that was short on details while prioritizing a middle-class tax cut and action against climate change.
“As its first act, the government will cut taxes for all but the wealthiest Canadians, giving more money to middle-class families and those who need it most,” Governor-General Julie Payette said Thursday in Parliament.
During the fall election campaign, the Liberals promised to increase the basic personal amount for all but the highest income earners.
Scotiabank economists said in a Friday report that governments’ first moves are typically the “quick-win crowd-pleasers that garnered votes.”
“We can expect swift action to bring this into force,” the Scotiabank report said. “The 2015 middle-income tax cut was introduced by the last Liberal government within weeks of Parliament’s opening. We can anticipate similar speed whether through a stand-alone motion or as part of a fall economic update.”
The tax cut will put about $15 billion back into the economy, the report said, roughly the same amount as the 2015-16 tax cut and child benefit enhancements.
Those measures “provided a transitory bump to consumption” over several quarters “before tapering off sharply,” Scotiabank said.
“Canadian households likely have a similar propensity to spend the windfall given prolonged affordability challenges and stretched balanced sheets, along with a waning growth cycle.”
While the tax cut provides “a welcomed backstop to consumption,” the report said it’s unlikely to affect the outlook for growth, inflation or central bank policy.
The speech identified climate change, the middle class, reconciliation with Indigenous people, health and safety, and Canada’s global position as the government’s top priorities, in that order. Like most throne speeches, it was short on specifics.
“If the goal was to be deliberately vague, well, the Trudeau team’s speechwriters absolutely nailed it,” Maclean’scolumnist Paul Wells wrote on Thursday.
There was little detail on fiscal policy, beyond pursuing “a responsible fiscal plan to keep the economy strong and growing,” and no mention of priorities from the 2019 budget that haven’t been legislated. Advisors will have to wait for details on how the minority Liberals will proceed on stock option limits, Advanced Life Deferred Annuities and other proposals.
A common practice in dissecting throne speeches is to count word use. Scotiabank’s breakdown of the speech’s 3,627 words found Indigenous reconciliation, fighting climate change and middle-class prosperity to be the top priorities.
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) said in release that it welcomed the government’s emphasis on tax fairness and climate change.
“The federal government faces a difficult balancing act,” said CPA Canada president and CEO Joy Thomas in a statement. “It must be mindful of global economic uncertainty while also paving the way to create prosperity, boost job creation and protect the environment.”
Even with the climate change emphasis, the throne speech committed to getting resources to market and offered “unwavering support” to resource workers facing tough times.