Speaking about the Speech: An IOG and Parliamentary Intern Discussion on the Speech from the Throne
Auteurs: Elizabeth Zai, Maria Habanikova
The Institute on Governance believes in several guiding values and principles of governance but understands that the concept and its definition differ from context to context. The Speech from the Throne is one of the cornerstones of democratic governance in Canada. It serves as a document that leads the government’s decision-making process and informs the public about the principles and priorities that will direct the policy agenda of the next session of Parliament.
On Friday, October 18, 2013, a group consisting of IOG staff members and ten Parliamentary Interns gathered at the IOG to discuss the Speech from the Throne for the second session of the 41st Parliament of Canada. The Speech was made on October 16, 2013, giving participants two days to mull over 23 pages worth of content and prepare for an educated dialogue.
The first thing the group discussed- and kept coming back to- was the ever-popular consumer focus, including specific mention of unbundling television channel packages to be more accessible for Canadian families. This item, along with its partner- cell phone roaming charges- has become what the penny was to the last Speech from the Throne: a narrowly focused, tangible goal that garnered serious media hype.
Karl Salgo, Executive Director of the Public Governance Exchange and moderator of the discussion posed a number of interesting questions for the group to ponder, such as how much content in the Speech is new versus old? Does it have a micro or macro scope? How can we judge whether the Speech was a success or failure? What are the implications of this Speech on future Speeches or the actions of our government? Does it reflect the current values of our government well? What does the Speech provide in the way of accountability?
The group emphasized the ‘catch all’ focus of the Speech, which in turn raised questions regarding the upcoming federal election. One of the questions raised was whether the speech will resonate come election time. A majority of folks believed they wouldn’t. The Speech was thought of as a communications document, focusing on the consumer and the creation of jobs.
A number of themes and opinions were shared over the two-hour conversation, but all had one common thread: the Speech highlighted the values of Canadians and emphasized a proud representation of who we are as a nation.
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