As Parliament Opens, Canada's Leader Promises the Basics

Article excerpt

CANADA'S Parliament opened Tuesday, a grand event with formalities that included a period-dressed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod rapping on the door of the Senate chambers to gain admission for members of the House of Commons. The members of Parliament filed in and shortly thereafter, Governor-General Ramon Hnatyshyn, the Queen of England's representative to Canada, launched the 35th Parliament in Ottawa with the traditional Throne Speech, authored by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

But the ornate preliminaries contrasted sharply with the 17-minute, no-frills speech outlining the Chretien government's agenda. Normally 45 minutes to an hour long, the new government's sober message was stripped of the self-congratulation that has come typically to adorn it.

Instead, Mr. Chretien pledged first to restore government integrity and then to create more jobs, overhaul social programs, reduce the deficit, and revamp the nation's health care system. Specifics included:

* Restoring government integrity by requiring the highest ethical standards of his own party and by reforms that include appointing an ethics counselor to Parliament and modifying the parliamentary pension plan.

* Boosting the economy and creating jobs through a national-provincial infrastructure program and youth service corps, while making capital more available to small and medium-sized businesses. He also wants to create a special fund to provide capital for firms with leading-edge technologies; knock down trade barriers between provinces; and form a national data highway.

* Reforming the social security system in two years. …