Wednesday, March 03, 2010
加拿大的御座施政方針演説和預算案演辭2010年3月3,4日 / Canada's Speech from the Throne and Budget Speech, Mar 3, 4, 2010
There you have it, the Speech from the Throne (SFT) delivered earlier today in the Senate (Red) Chamber on Parliament Hill by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, to officially open the Third Session of Canada's 40th Parliament. The GG was accompanied by her husband, His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond. As depicted in the photograph, our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper was sitting close to the Queen's representative as the speech was being delivered.
Today's Throne Speech and tomorrow's Budget Speech are the direct procedural results of the PM's decision to prorogue Parliament abt two months ago. By now, many Canadians are familiar with the controversial word "prorogation" which ended with the official opening of the Third Session of Canada's 40th Parliament. However, I would submit that few Canadians would understand the nuts and bolts of the process that leads up to the two speeches which outline and support the broad agenda of the Government in power.
Here is an approximate summary of the process, based on my limited understanding of the subject matter.
1. Concerns of Canadians are monitored and analyzed by policy analysts within both the political regime and the federal public service (FPS). The sources of information could be from opinion polls, public media, the private sector, provincial/territorial/municipal governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), reports and studies on national and international affairs, lobby groups, public consultations/townhalls, etc.
2. Non-partisan advice from line departments or agencies of the FPS are submitted by deputy ministers or deputy heads to the responsible Ministers who in turn make recommendations to their political colleagues and/or Cabinet. It should be noted that the line departments/agencies are expected to work collaboratively among themselves and closely with the central agencies (such as the Treasury Board Secretariat, Dept of Finance, Privy Council Office (PCO), etc) in the development and submission of all cabinet documents.
3. Partisan advice from the political staffers are provided to the elected and/or appointed politicians for the latter's considerations. The political regime may choose to accept/reject in whole or in part the non-partisan advice from the FPS, based on, but not limited to the following factors (not in any particular order of importance):
- fundamental ideological principles and beliefs of the Government in power.
- majority or minority situation in the House of Commons and the Senate Chamber.
- first-half or second-half of the Government's mandate.
- strategic analyses of the geo-political landscape nationally (e.g. federal/provincial/territorial relations) and globally (bilateral and multilateral relations e.g. USA, China, BRIC, G-8, UN, WTO, etc).
- social-economic, environmental and other need assessments of Canadians living in specific regions of Canada (e.g. urban, rural, north), across the country (provinces/territories/municipalities/crown lands), and overseas (military personnel, Canadians living abroad, diplomats, etc).
- specific national 'hot' issues (e. g. aboriginals, Afghanistan, climate change, economic recovery, national debt).
- specific riding-based regional issues (e.g. auto industry, forestry sector, oil sand).
- analyses of cost, benefits, and risks (political, social-economic, health and environment, mitigation, etc) associated with each recommended option.
- the past and future status of these options in the Canadian Parliament system (e.g. proposed legislation, white paper, green paper, studies by Committees, debates by Senates, Royal Accent, etc)
4. Once the PM and Cabinet have decided on the broad Government agenda, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), with support from the Privy Council Office (PCO), then takes the lead in the preparation of the Speech from the Throne that is to be delivered by the Governor General of Canada. Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance is responsible for preparing the Budget Speech that in essence serves to "flesh out" the fiscal framework and financial measures that will help implement the Government's agenda.
5. In a way, the Speech from the Throne and the Budget Speech serve to inform the federal public service whether their non-partisan advice have been accepted/rejected in whole or in part by the Government in power. Simply put, those public servants whose advice have received the "green light" (even if only one or two key words of their programs/initiatives were mentioned) may proceed with the next step, including a proposed strategic action plan that may or may not require "new" money. On the other hand, bureaucrats responsible for government programs/activities that are declared low priorities or even labelled "axed" will have no choice but to wind down their operations. As to most government programs that have not received any "honourable" mention, one could assume that it is "business as usual" in the context of a highly scrutinized, value-for-money work environment.
6. As to Canadians living coast-to-coast and abroad, they may exercise their democratic rights to express their pleasure or displeasure with the Government's broad agenda by considering, among others, the following options:
- Citizens may communicate with the elected representatives of their respective constituencies to express their concerns.
- They may freely affiliate themselves with legally sanctioned political parties, interest groups, or organizations to advance their agenda in support of or against those of the Government, as long as these activities are: (a) within Canada's constitutional, democratic, legislative and legal framework; and, (b) in compliance with national and international laws/conventions.
- Finally, eligible Canadian voters are entitled to cast their votes during election time to choose the next Government in power !!!
Obviously, the above is just my over-simplified version of some of the process elements related to the Speech from the Throne and the Budget Speech. Please do not consider this article as the authority on the subject matter. Readers are advised to consult the Government of Canada for any official position and information.
Photo Credit / Related info:
* Speech from the Throne: The website of the Governor General of Canada http://www.sft.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1388