Monday, September 26, 2005

Reforming the Governor General's Office

It's funny sometimes how relevant I am. No sooner did I post how happy I am to have heard that Michaëlle Jean had renounced her citizenship than I found that CTV reports that a "small knot of demonstrators" will be showing up to protest the office of the Governor General, regardless of who is appointed:

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.

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.
More specifically, the problem that is pointed out here:

[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.

My thoughts?

Who cares.

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.

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1 comment:

bijoux55 said...

I am a survivivor of a FLQ bomb that blew out the windows on my home when I was a kid. No Hurricane Katrina but bad enough for me. I have posted unrelentingly on this issue and I have written my Member of Parliment Steven Owen and Paul Martin himself begging that this appointment of Michaelle Jean be rescinded. Remember the FLQ murdered innocent Canadians, kidnapped the British Consul and assassinated the Honorable Pierre Laporte, member of the Quebec Cabinet. They garrotted him with his own religious medialion chain and dumped his body in the trunk of a Montreal taxicab.

We used to call people like her and her husband traitors. I look at her and I feel a stab of betrayal of pain in my heart. I do not want five years of that feeling.

We have thousands of Canadians above reproach who could fill this position which could be very important. The GG assents to legistions such as the War Measures Act, he/she can dissolve a minority government...or not. All the more reason for someone like Paul Martin to have a weak, unqualified and beholden person whose loyalty is in question, in that position. Don't give up the fight to have the GG positon appointed to a qualifed person, or better still, elected.
The Prime Minister can be reached at pm@pm.gc.ca