3 Key opportunities after 2020 throne speech


On Wednesday September 23, 2020, Governor General Julie Payette gave the throne speech to open the latest session of Parliament. The throne speech is similar to a to-do list for the federal government, signalling their priorities and what they hope to accomplish. For too long, food has been left out of the throne speech, with the 2019 speech only making reference to farmers and their role in global trade. However, this year’s speech included substantive mentions, touching on topics such as food insecurity, food supply chains, and farming. This is encouraging as the food movement and Canadians have continually told the government that food is an integral part of our country. And as we continue to navigate a world in pandemic and climate crisis, it is one of the strongest levers for change and building resiliency.

"This year’s speech included substantive mentions, touching on topics such as food insecurity, food supply chains, and farming."


What the speech mentions

We’ve compared what the throne speech states and promises about food with the relevant recommendations we outlined in Growing Resilience & Equity, our evergreen food policy action plan that summarized key asks from the food movement. We will do our part to hold the federal government accountable for the positive steps it is promising, and advocate for bold structural change.

The federal government pledged to address systemic racism, and committed to do so in a way informed by the lived experiences of racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples. This has to be at the heart of food systems change.

Throne speech (September 2020)

GRE policy recommendations (May 2020)

“The CERB helped people stay healthy at home while being able to keep food on the table.”

“Just like everyone deserves a home, everyone deserves to be able to put nutritious food on the table”

Address the root cause of food insecurity through establishing a universal livable income floor beneath which no one can fall, while ensuring that everyone in Canada has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.
“The Government will continue to work with partners – including directly with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation partners – to address food insecurity in Canada.”  

Support Indigenous food sovereignty where First Nations, Métis and Inuit  determine their own place-based food systems, advancing policies that will best support resilient futures.


“The Government will also ensure that those in Canada’s supply managed sectors receive full and fair compensation for recent trade agreements. Farmers keep our families fed, and we will continue to help them succeed and grow.”

“And recognize farmers, foresters, and ranchers as key partners in the fight against climate change, supporting their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience.”

“The Government will also strengthen local food supply chains here in Canada.”


Build resilient, ecological local food systems that shorten and diversify food chains, revitalize communities, ensure greater access to healthy and fresh foods, support lower-emissions food systems, build greater resiliency to shocks and reduce food loss and waste.

“The Canadian and migrant workers who produce, harvest, and process our food – from people picking fruit to packing seafood – have done an outstanding job getting good food on people’s plates. They deserve the Government’s full support and protection.”

Champion decent work and justice for all workers along the food chain by ensuring decent pay and conditions for every Canadian and international food worker, and meeting the specific demands of migrant workers.


Going further

While the speech was heartening, the commitment expressed has to be translated through the next federal budget and associated policies and programs. Here are three key opportunities for improvement:

1) Implement a National School Food Program

“The Speech from the Throne commits to strengthening local food supply chains, to a feminist action plan to ensure women stay in the workforce, and to investing in climate-friendly job creation. This approach is long overdue. One way to stimulate the economic recovery, support women and families and the health and wellbeing of all children, is by investing in a universal, cost-shared National School Food Program.

To this end, the government of Canada should follow through on its commitment in Budget 2019 and be consistent with the Food Policy for Canada to develop a National School Food Program, in collaboration with the provinces, territories and Indigenous leaders, who already invest considerably in school food. With schools opening, Canada needs such a program more than ever. If well designed, this can serve as a strong institutional procurement mechanism resulting in multiple benefits related to health, social justice, the economy and the environment.” – Read more from Gisèle Yasmeen, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada, and Debbie Field, Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, in this op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: Tell your MP that it’s time for a dedicated School Food Fund to nourish kids now. In a recent meeting with Minister Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, he stressed the importance of reaching as many MPs as possible to gain their support.


2) Establish a universal livable income floor beneath which no one can fall

This can and should build on increasing existing diverse government income supports, including those used during the pandemic (e.g., CERB and tax credits); mandated livable minimum wage; and other subsidies for necessities of life such as rent, complemented by well-designed a universal liveable income floor (with social safeguards and public review). While the government has committed to building an “EI system for the 21st century, including for the self-employed and those in the gig economy,” this is a tall order to ensure that no worker gets left behind.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: Support campaigns that call for a universal livable income floor (e.g., UBIworks.ca), or other anti-poverty campaigns (e.g., Dignity for All’s Chew on This!).


3) Use decolonization and anti-racism as a lens across all policies and programs

The federal government recognizes that the pandemic has disproportionately affected racialized Canadians, and acknowledges systemic racism and the need to address it. For the community sector, this has translated into concrete funding for Black-led organizations to purchase equipment and renovate workspaces. While this is a start, more targeted funding is necessary, along with tailored supports for racialized populations across departments. When implementing all policies and programs, an anti-racism and equity lens should be used – who will be able to access these resources and who will not? How can we remove barriers to participation? 

Answering these answers will not be easy, and more race-based data is needed, specifically around food insecurity. Data collection should be in consultation with the affected community, and results should be shared in a way that findings will be useful to them. The community sector can offer expertise in this regard, and there are organizations that already call for race-based data collection, such as the Black Health Alliance. And in the new Beyond Hunger report, Community Food Centres Canada called for the federal government to work in partnership with Black communities to create a fund to decrease food insecurity for Black Canadians.

Going back to the throne speech, the federal government continues to reiterate their intention for reconciliation work, notably by implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, as well as the National Action Plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. Moreover, they promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020. While all of these actions are overdue, the spirit and principles of these recommendations must be applied across policies and programs, across all departments. For example, respecting and implementing UNDRIP would include the principle of free and informed consent, and the right to approve or disapprove incursions onto Indigenous land.  Implementation of these agreements should also have a clear timeline and sufficient funding.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: Learn more about Indigenous food sovereignty, for example through the Eat Think Vote backgrounder on this topic. Consider supporting efforts to strengthen food sovereignty, such as through the COVID-19 Indigenous Seed Crisis Response Circle.


Keeping food on the federal agenda

The throne speech sets the tone and direction, providing opportunities for citizens to hold elected officials accountable. Furthermore, in working with provinces and territories to ensure that high-quality childcare is accessible to all, there is an opportunity to encourage other jurisdictions to also source local and sustainable foods that encourage the local economy and build into the health of our next generation. Some provinces such as Québec are already setting ambitious goals for buying local in institutions such as daycares, aiming for 60% of all food purchasing to be local by 2025.

Work from the food movement, civil society, academics, farmers, consumers and others has helped keep food on the federal agenda, further to the Food Policy for Canada announced in June 2019. However, we all must continue to impress upon our elected officials the importance of healthy, just, and sustainable food until the federal government follows through on what it has promised.

Until then, our team will be keeping an eye on the mandate letters to ministers and the federal budget, both of which will provide more detail on how the federal government plans on achieving the goals set out in the throne speech – goals which are lofty but undeniably necessary in a year as critical as 2020.