The federal government had already launched the Universal Broadband Fund and now promises to expand the program
Canada’s minority Liberal government is promising job creation, better rural internet access and a commitment to combat climate change in its newly revealed legislative plans.
In an ambitious Sept. 23 throne speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party committed itself to implementing universal child care and extending or enhancing many of the economic measures put in place to curb the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s a commitment to enhancing rural broadband that farmers will likely find most intriguing.
“In the last six months, many more people have worked from home, done classes from the kitchen table, shopped online and accessed government services remotely, so it has become more important than ever that all Canadians have access to the internet,” read the throne speech, delivered by Governor General Julie Payette.
“The government will accelerate the connectivity timelines and ambitions of the Universal Broadband Fund to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet.”
The Universal Broadband Fund was launched in 2019 and, according to the government, is meant to “support projects to build or upgrade access and transport infrastructure to provide fixed and mobile wireless broadband internet access services in eligible underserved areas of Canada.”
Efforts to expand access to health care were also highlighted in the speech.
“The government will ensure that everyone — including in rural and remote areas — has access to a family doctor or primary care team. COVID-19 has also shown that our system needs to be more flexible and able to reach people at home. The government will continue to expand capacity to deliver virtual health care,” read the text of the speech.
“The Throne Speech was promising, but it’s the details and execution that will really determine if they are effective in unleashing the potential of Canadian agriculture,” said Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Grain Growers of Canada expressed disappointment over the “lack of federal attention for agriculture priorities” in the speech, saying they would have liked to see mention of their priorities, such as reforming business risk management programs.
“We are disappointed that so little attention was paid to addressing the challenges facing our sector,” said president Jeff Nielsen.
Canada’s government also plans to legislate the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 as part of its effort to combat climate change.
The speech specifically mentioned the need for the “know-how of the energy sector” to be involved in such an effort.
Two key priorities were listed:
Support existing manufacturing and natural resource sectors as they “transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs.”
“Recognize farmers, foresters, and ranchers as key partners in the fight against climate change, supporting their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience.”
Trudeau’s government plans to create a new way of managing Canadian waters. Citing the closure of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, the speech committed the federal government to creating a “Canada Water Agency to keep our water safe, clean and well-managed.”
“The government will also need to identify opportunities to build more resilient water and irrigation infrastructure,” Payette said.
The speech said Canada will also continue to fight for free trade and reform the World Trade Organization.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the existing trends toward a more fragmented global order. It remains in Canada’s interest to create and maintain bilateral and multilateral relationships to advance peace and economic prosperity.”
Canada’s poultry and egg farmers jointly released a statement welcoming the government’s reaffirmed commitment to assist producers negatively impacted by recent trade deals.
“Honouring the commitment to offer full and fair support to supply-managed farmers will help ensure the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our sectors,” the statement said. “This will be critical in helping farmers navigate the unprecedented dual impact of market losses from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, and the challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
Signed by Egg Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, the parties said they look forward to seeing “concrete plans and clear timelines” on implementing support measures.
Details of the legislative plans highlighted in the speech are expected to emerge in the coming days and weeks.