Questions are being raised about the Governor General - not Adrienne Clarkson's spendthrift ways or Michaelle Jean's separatist sentiments, but whether Canadians should continue to put up with an appointed head of state.More specifically, the problem that is pointed out here:
When Jean becomes the 27th Governor General in a pomp-filled ceremony Tuesday on Parliament Hill, a small knot of demonstrators plan show up calling for an end to what they see as an undemocratic vestige of the colonial past.
[O]thers will be reminded that in the 21st century, a prime minister who speaks of the need to rejuvenate and democratize public life still hand-picks the only individual with the constitutional power to fire him.That's a good point and one worth exploring.
Right now, the general feeling is that the role of Governor General is largely ceremonial - she's more figure-head than head. No one expects the GG to represent Canada at the United Nations, in NATO, at trade talks, or any other formal governmental procedure. The GG is there to bring ceremony to Parliament, to assent to legislation to make it "official", and to represent Canada as royalty around the world - shaking hands and welcoming dignitaries.
She's not supposed to do anything, except on the advice of the Prime Minister.
At the heart of this minor controversy is the fact that the GG does have real constitutional powers, including the power to appoint the governing party and thereby the Prime Minister in times of minority parliaments. In addition, a law does not become a law until the GG gives assent. The GG also has the authority to deny the dissolution of parliament. The only thing really preventing the GG from doing so is "convention and precedent" and the fear of public outrage.
If the Governor General tried to pull a stunt that attempted to undermine or diminish the role of the elected House of Commons, there'd be a revolt; that's if the House of Commons were ridiculous enough to abide by the decision.
If the GG, for instance, were to dissolve parliament and appoint Gilles Duceppe Prime Minister, how long would that last? About 2 seconds.
A lot of talk was devoted to the possibility of Governor General Adrienne Clarkson appointing Stephen Harper Prime Minister should the Liberal Party fail in a confidence motion. She'd still would have done it on the advice of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper and not at some whim.
I think I like the Governor General's office as is, so long as the office has no role in directly affecting the lives of Canadians. Again, maybe cut the operating budget a bit - but that's all.
Tags: canada, governor general, michaëlle jean, politics