Governor General for What?

by MaxPower “Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, invites you to learn more about the history, roles, responsibilities and activities of the Governor General.” Ok let’s do that.

What exactly does the Governor General of Canada do? Well according to the website: “Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. This means Canadians recognize The Queen as our Head of State. Canada’s 26th Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, carries out Her Majesty’s duties in Canada on a daily basis and is Canada’s de facto Head of State.” Right, so that’s why the Queen is on our coinage.

The British often complain about the fact that they have a Queen at all. Not all of them mind you; there are strong pro-republican and pro-monarchist positions in the UK. But what I found to be the biggest complaint about the Queen was that A. she cost too much money in an era of social service cuts and rising taxes, B. was not a legitimate ruler (ie. not democratically elected) and C. didn’t speak for the majority of Brits.

So someone please tell me how A., B., and C. do not relate to Canada?

A. We’re spending boatloads of money on the ‘de facto Head of State’, while our peace-keeping troops drive around in cheap unarmoured jeeps? I’d rather spend the money on a real head of state or better yet save that money for other uses. Adrienne Clarkson is the Commander-In-Chief for crying out loud. Her last position was: “Madame Clarkson served as Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, as well as President of the Executive Board of IMZ, the international audio-visual association of music, dance and cultural programmers”. If that is what qualifies someone to be Commander-In-Chief of the Canadian military then throw my hat in the ring for the Governor General position next time it comes free. Bottom line is that she is a journalist, not even a politician or a diplomat.

B. Who here thinks the Queen of England is the legitimate head of state (ruler) of Canada? If this is not a throw-back to an imperialistic past that most people are ashamed of (vis-à-vis imperialism in Africa and Asia) then what is? And so if the Queen isn’t a legitimate head of state of Britain how can Clarkson be legitimate to Canadians?

C. Finally, does the Queen or for that matter Ms. De Facto speak for the majority of Canadians? I can, and have, made a strong case in the past that the democratically elected government of Canada doesn’t speak for a majority of the population so how could an appointed ex-CBC journalist who has made a career of hobnobbing with the cultural literati speak for the average Canadian?
But there are plenty of Monarchists out there. Personally I think that it is in Britain’s favour to have a strong and visible Queen if for no other reason than it relates directly to their history and is a huge boon for tourism. What is one of the top stops on any London tourist’s list? Buckingham Palace, Windsor Palace, or any of the thousands of shrines to monarchy in England – Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the list goes on.

But does this history of monarchy really relate to Canada’s history. Undoubtedly the answer is yes; the English colonized Canada and have played a large and important role in Canada’s political and national history. But should the Queen continue to be our head of state and by that logic should we continue to have a Governor General, an outdated and democratically regressive figurehead? Chretien appointed Clarkson, so the idea that Clarkson would be anything but another yes-woman to Chretien is preposterous.

The answer could be yes – we should keep the Governor General if one places a high value on the history of the position. However, this was the same discussion that played out when Canada was looking at adopting a new flag and replacing the Union Jack/Red Ensign. I highly doubt now that the Maple Leaf has become a visible and important symbol of Canada’s independence and tolerance that anyone could argue that we should have kept the British symbols of our ‘history’. Likewise, it is not as if this Governor General position comes for free. Oh no, the taxpayers of Canada shell out huge amounts of money to support the representative of a foreign head of state. Honestly, it should be the opposite. The British should support Clarkson here, and the Queen should pick whoever she wanted. That way at least the appointment process would be free of political patronage.

The cost of maintaining the Governor General of Canada has grown from about $10 million in 1995 to around $35 million in 2002, according to documents prepared for the House of Commons Operations and Estimates Committee. That is completely unacceptable, and this total doesn’t even include the cost of her ‘protection’ when she travels around Canada and on million dollar boondoggles to Iceland, Scandinavian countries and Russia. This trip just happened recently, and the purpose of the trip? To meet other diplomats and encourage Canadian exports. But what exports were they encouraging? Exports of Canadian wine. Total Canadian wine exports to these countries? As far as I can tell… Zero. Additionally, a story came out of the trip that shows just how much the GG and her posse disregard fiscal prudence.

The aforementioned committee was holding a hearing on why Governor General spending had increased so dramatically over the last seven years. Two members of the Governor General’s staff were called to testify. These two staffers just so happened to be in Finland on the Clarkson junket. The commission offered to let the staffers appear after they returned to Canada. But no, the two flew business class from Finland to Ottawa for a ONE hour appearance and then proceed to fly back to Finland. Cost to Canadians = $35,000.

This lack of accountability (fiscal or otherwise) is just one more reason why the outdated Governor General position should be abolished in the name of progress.

  • Governor General for What?
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on November 1st, 2003

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