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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston leave the Senate chamber the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston leave the Senate chamber the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Tories pledge to tighten their belts and play nice in Throne Speech Add to ...

Armed with the first Conservative majority in 17 years, Stephen Harper's government spelled out an ambitious agenda in a Throne Speech that promised to balance Ottawa's books by 2014, clear growing obstacles to trade with the U.S. and continue generous increases in health-care funding.

Titled Here for All Canadians: Stability, Prosperity, Security, the address tried to strike a note of inclusiveness as it laid out a road map heavy on economic measures such as trade deals and a securities watchdog

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As Mr. Harper had promised after his May 2 re-election, his speech, read by Governor-General David Johnston in the Senate Chamber, sketched out a "no surprises" mandate that closely matched the Conservatives' election promises.

While it was preceded by the normal pomp and circumstance of Throne Speeches - including military gun salutes and uniformed processions - the workmanlike address was largely devoid of flowery passages or stirring phrases.





The government renewed its commitment to Canada's troubled aboriginal population. "Concerted action is needed to address the barriers to social and economic participation that many aboriginal Canadians face," it said. This comes shortly after now-retired Auditor-General Sheila Fraser warned Ottawa must do more for Canada's first people.

Mr. Harper's Throne Speech provides him with an agenda for one or two years, apart from the budget balancing that could take until 2014.

Back to business: The Tories will proceed with a national securities regulator to police capital markets and will sign major free-trade deals - with the European Union by 2012 and India by 2013.

They are pursuing deeper co-operation with Washington on border security with the aim of ensuring commerce between Canada and its largest trading partner is not choked off by an ever-expanding U.S. security clampdown.

Playing nice for the common good: In a nod to calls for more civility in the Commons after years of fractious minority-government conflict, the speech urged MPs to remember: "You have been entrusted with a profound responsibility: to serve the public interest on behalf of all Canadians."

Weaker words on foreign investment: Thirteen months ago, the Throne Speech promised to open the doors to more foreign ownership in telecommunications, but Friday's address merely pledged to "continue to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada."

A growing threat: The government drew brief attention to a looming demographic shift - a new theme it's starting to address. "Canada's work force is aging and it will no longer grow as it has in the past … [it]will impact our economic future and put long-term pressures on our pension and health systems that must be addressed."

More democracy: The Conservatives are promising to inject more accountability into the Senate - including term limits - and add more seats to the Commons to ensure increasingly populous provinces have more clout.

Crime crackdown: They're promising an omnibus crime bill - which bundles 11 pieces of law-and-order legislation that Tories failed to enact as a minority government - will be introduced and passed in the fall. These include ending house arrest and pardons for serious crimes.

Red meat for party stalwarts: Several promised measures are particularly important to long-time Tory voters, including axing the long-gun registry, ending the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly control over wheat and barley exports and phasing out $2-per-vote subsidies for political parties.

International affairs: Mr. Harper will ask the Commons, which he controls, to approve an extension of this country's participation in the NATO-led mission in Libya.

The Conservatives will also set up a $5-million Office of Religious Freedom to monitor the global persecution of religious groups such as Coptic Christians.

Big-ticket election promises: Mr. Harper is proceeding with a campaign pledge to back the Lower Churchill River hydroelectric project in Newfoundland and Labrador. This could mean guaranteeing a loan for $4.2-billion.

The Tories also pledged by Sept. 15 to cut a long-sought harmonized sales tax deal with Quebec that could see the province receive about $2.2-billion in compensation.

Stable health cash and false marriages: The Conservatives are sticking to their promise to keep increasing health-care transfers to the provinces by 6 per cent annually.

Separately, they're vowing to crack down on "marriage fraud" in the immigration system where people enter unions of convenience to immigrate to Canada.

Follow on Twitter: @stevenchase

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