With the recent announcement of Canada’s next Governor General, I am once again reminded of how dumb a post it is.
The current kerfuffle over Michaëlle Jean’s dual citizenship is particularly silly. To sum up, Canada has just named a French citizen to be the representative of the Queen of England as well as Canada’s irrelevant head of state. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure that Ms. Jean is going to splendidly satisfy the requirements of the irrelevant head of state position. But I’m counting on similar absurdity to continue in G.G. appointments so that Canadians start to realize the farcical nature of this office.
Wikipedia.org has a pretty good description of the Governor General’s roles and responsibilities, so I won’t go into detail here. But to paraphrase, the Governor General:
- Is Canada’s head of state (but not really);
- Is the representative of the Queen of Canada, who also happens to be the Queen of England. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the latter happens to be the UK’s head of state too (but not really);
- Sets the government’s agenda every time a new session of parliament opens (but not really);
- Is the Commander-In-Chief of Canada’s fearsome armed forces (but not really);
- Has the power to veto any law passed by parliament (but not really);
- Earns a six-figure salary, gets to live in some choice digs and jet sets all over the country on my nickel and that of my compatriots.
Money well spent, eh?
If Canada ever plans to shake its perpetual inferiority complex, a great first step would be to blow some of this fluff out of our system of government. I have a few ideas about this.
- Firstly, enough of this “constitutional monarchy” crap. Canada has been a sovereign country for many years. Trouble is, when we became independent from Great Britain, we either didn’t have the intestinal fortitude –or we just forgot– to name our own head of state. We’ve been mooching off the Brits ever since. No offense to Her Majesty Liz #2, but we could be printing the pictures of far more relevant Canadians on our money.
- Since our de facto head of state is the Prime Minister (and other than the lack of an elected senate, our system works adequately) let’s call a spade a spade. The Prime Minister is Canada’s head of state. Period.
- The sole practical raison-d’être of the office of the Governor General has been to perform the official ceremonial functions for which a real head of state has no time. Someone still needs to hand out literary awards and such while the PM actually runs the country, or at least tries to. I therefore propose that we rename the post of Govenor General to the more accurate moniker “Ceremonial Representative Of Canada”, or C.R.O.C.
- The C.R.O.C. could be elected by the members, companions and officers of the Order of Canada from one of their own, significant Canadians in their own right, and approved by the PM.
- The C.R.O.C. probably already lives in a community to which he or she contributes richly, so why force such an illustrious citizen to move? Make Rideau Hall into a revenue-generating tourist trap, or sell it. I’m sure it would make a fine embassy for someone.
- Ditch the ersatz “head of state” responsibilities such as reading the throne speech and free up some time for the C.R.O.C. to continue doing whatever he or she was doing to make him or her such a great Canadian in the first place.
- Since it’s a part-time job now, the C.R.O.C. should be paid by the event. Pay the C.R.O.C. a reasonable honorarium plus meals, powdered wigs and travel expenses. OK, scratch the powdered wigs.
The office of the Governor General of Canada is a vestigial appendage that could stand to evolve into something useful, or to simply be excised. I hope my fellow Canadians can begin to come to terms with this reality too.