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Governor-General David Johnston and his wife Sharon wait to deliver the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber on June 3, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Governor-General David Johnston and his wife Sharon wait to deliver the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber on June 3, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Analysis

A Throne Speech <br/>for winners first <br/>- then 'for all Canadians' Add to ...

You could call it Goldilocks conservatism, as Stephen Harper seeks to advance his agenda without alarming those who think that agenda is hidden and extreme.

As Friday's Throne Speech demonstrated, the Prime Minister believes such balance is found in promoting people, provinces and regions who are dedicated to growing the country - and in "good jobs, security for our families and a prosperous future," as Governor-General David Johnston intoned.

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Those who place other values over growth already know this Conservative majority government is not here for them. Quebec's politicians, especially, are waking to the fact that they no longer have an effective veto over federal initiatives under this government. Over time, this could become one of the most profound - and potentially disruptive - shifts in decades.

But neither are disadvantaged regions or classes utterly ignored. Goldilocks conservatism decrees that, though winners come first, those left behind are not left entirely behind.

Whether the Conservatives have, in fact, struck the right balance as they start out on this majority government will determine how that government ends up in four years.

The centrepiece of the Throne Speech, of Monday's budget, and of the election campaign and budget that preceded it all, was the continued reduction in corporate taxes, the balancing of the books and the elimination of red tape.

There will be investments in digital technology and training for the jobs created by it. Enhanced trade with the United States, Europe and India is also a priority.

But this is not simply a Throne Speech celebrating laissez-faire conservatism. After all, there will be pension increases for 680,000 low-income seniors and tax credits for those caring for family members - hardly are-there-no-workhouses initiatives.

And there will be federal money to retrain older workers and others at risk of being left behind by a digital economy.

The proposals for political reform also advantage winners. The plan to eliminate public subsidies for political parties favours strong parties over weak; electing senators to limited terms will benefit parties with strong local organizations across the country, something the Conservatives might also be thinking about as they move forward with Senate reform.

And the Throne Speech proposal to enlarge the House of Commons so that Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta - and the multitudes who live there - are properly represented, will strengthen the voice of the growing suburbs surrounding cites west of the Ottawa River. This is where the Conservatives have made their electoral greatest gains in recent elections.

The promise to maintain health-care funding - more vital to those weak provinces who lack the tax base to finance the system on their own - and to preserve the principle of equalization ensures that the weak provinces, if not pampered, are at least not abandoned.

Jean Charest's Quebec government is already angered by news of the move to elect senators and to increase the representation of the growing provinces, for it can only diminish French Canada's and the Quebec government's voice on the national stage.

But after four attempts, the Conservatives have only five seats in Quebec. Mr. Harper must be calculating that if Mr. Charest wins the next election, things will go on as before, and if the Parti Québécois wins, there is nothing the Conservatives could have done to prevent it anyway.

But Quebec is not left entirely in the cold, as the Throne Speech promised a new deal on a harmonized sales tax - with about $2-billion in compensation expected - within three months.

For the red-meat element of the Conservative base, there will the crime legislation, which will lengthen sentences, limit bail and parole, and generally continue the Tory shift from prevention and rehabilitation to punishment. And of course, the gun registry is toast.

But Goldilocks conservatism required that there be nothing on abortion, on capital punishment, on limiting gay rights, and the speech was silent on these issues.

Don't be fooled: this is a Conservative Throne Speech. In tone as well as substance, it unabashedly celebrates a Canada of winners. But it promises also to be "here for all Canadians," and offers measures to prove it.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnIbbitson

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