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Canada's new government outlines its agenda

December 5, 2015

Canada outlined its legislative agenda for the upcoming parliamentary session under new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In addition to new fiscal policies, the government plans to reconcile with its indigenous population.

Justin Trudeau with Cabinet
Image: Reuters/C. Wattie

Governor General David Johnston delivered the so-called "throne speech" in the Senate, presenting the government's legislative agenda while largely echoing the new government's campaign promises.

The new government promised to pursue a fiscal plan "that is responsible, transparent and suited to challenging economic times," including new investment in infrastructure to boost the country's economy.

The throne speech also recapped Trudeau's pledge to cut taxes for middle-income earners and provide a more generous child benefit to those in need. It also outlined a tax hike on the wealthiest 1 percent in the country.

But it wasn't clear whether the Liberals would be able to stick to their campaign pledge to limit budget deficits to 10 billion Canadian dollars ($7.5 billion) per year. Finance Minister Bill Morneau refused to answer questions at a press conference relating to the handling of the budget.

Justin Trudeau
Canada's new prime minister Justin Trudeau had run on a campaign promise to run budget deficits down to 10 billion Canadian dollars annuallyImage: Reuters/J. Young

The government also announced plans to cut down spending on military personnel, focusing on building a better-equipped but leaner military instead.

As a further shift, the new government said it also intended to replace Canada's voting system before the next election. Under its current system, a candidate that wins a relative (but not necessarily absolute) majority of votes can be elected to the House of Commons in the "first-past-the-post" voting system.

First G7 country to legalize marijuana

The agenda includes plans to review Canada's environmental assessment regulations, restricting ownership of handguns and assault weapons, and legalizing marijuana.

According to a 2014 survey, close to 3 percent of Canada's population of 35 million people regularly smoke marijuana. Prime Minister Trudeau surprised the public after divulging that he had smoked pot at a dinner party with friends since being elected to parliament in 2008.

Trudeau also said publicly that his decision to propose legalizing cannabis was strongly influenced by his late brother Michel facing possession charges for a "tiny amount" of marijuana before his death in an avalanche in 1998.

Reaching out to Canada's indigenous population

Trudeau also said that the Liberals would launch an official inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. According to the federal police, almost 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing since 1952.

Indigenous peoples would also be more involved in reviewing and monitoring development projects relating to natural resource, including a number of designs to build new oil pipelines.

ss/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)