The Canadian parliament began its fall session here Wednesday with the government outlining measures it will undertake to seize what Prime Minister Stephen Harper called "Canada's moment" in an "uncertain world."
In a speech similar in purpose to the State of the Union address delivered by the U.S. President, Canadian Governor General David Johnston,who represents Canada's head of state, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II,delivered a "Throne Speech" that identified the government's priorities, likely until the next general election two years from now.
Touting itself as the government that "launched the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history" with free-trade agreements signed with nine countries and more than 60 others pending, the Harper Conservatives signalled that negotiations would soon be concluded on a long-awaited comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union.
To that end, the prime minister travels to Brussels on Thursday to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to finalize the free-trade deal, which the Canadian government said has the potential to create 80,000 new Canadian jobs.
Ottawa also plans to introduce a new "model" to select immigrants based on the skills "Canadian employers need," said the government, which noted that it lowered wait times for skilled workers coming to Canada.
Canada's Immigrant Investor Program will also be reformed so "these investors make a real contribution in exchange for the security and pathway to citizenship that Canada provides."
The Harper government also unveiled an ambitious northern strategy, with plans to complete a highway to the Arctic Ocean that would link Canada "from sea to sea to sea." Also in the works is the opening of a world-class science and technology research facility in the Canadian High Arctic, and the country's first deep-water Arctic port.
In terms of resource development, which the Harper government said generates 30 billion Canadian dollars (29 billion U.S. dollars) annually, the Throne Speech signalled that Canada "must be able" to sell its vast energy reserves while the "lack of a key infrastructure threatens to strand these resources at a time when global demand for Canadian energy is soaring."
Canada is awaiting a decision from U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the Keystone XL pipeline project that would transport crude oil from the resource-rich Canadian province of Alberta to the refineries of the U.S. Gulf Coast of Texas.
Meanwhile, domestic opposition has stalled construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline that would send Alberta petroleum to the Canadian West Coast to then be transported via tankers to Asian markets.
"The window for gaining access to new markets will not remain open indefinitely," said Johnston during the speech, also noting that Canada's natural resources sector would remain open to foreign investment.
Promising to balance the federal budget two years from now, when it expects to achieve an 800-million-Canadian dollar (775-million-U.S. dollar) surplus, the Harper government said it would also introduce balanced-budget legislation.