Monday, February 20, 2006

Axe The Governor-General

Canada's Governor-General Michaelle Jean made big news today with her first official visit to Ontario. A spectacle of choirs, 21 gun salutes and the usual pomp and circumstance greeted this important figure- cough. Jean made an impassioned plea to stop the marginalization of young people and stressed equality of opportunity.

With all the problems in Canada, wasting time, energy and resources to prop up practically useless ceremonial entities gets me riled. If we really want to give young people more opportunity, I'm sure the 41 million(2003 figures) wasted on Jean's post would be better served by investing in programs that actually help kids. What are Jean's important duties that justify the position:
Representing the Crown and ensuring there is always a prime minister.

Acting on advice of prime minister and cabinet ministers to give royal assent to bills passed in the Senate and House of Commons.

Signing state documents.

Reading throne speech.

Presiding over swearing-in of prime minister, chief justice and cabinet ministers.

I'm fairly certain that Canada's government would survive without notifying the GG. Surely, someone else could read the throne speech- are her oratory skills and inflection so unique? Pardon the sarcasm, but Canada can't afford to invest in appearances over practicalities. I would much rather have an MRI machine than waste money on fancy lunches with stuffed shirts.

How many provincial legislators and staff wasted their day to accommodate the "first official visit" of nothingness? The people of Ontario are not well served when the government is handicapped so it can listen to hollow words from a glorified ornament. In a time where governments struggle with expenditure and tough choices, axing the Governor General, and the Lieutenant Governors for that matter, seems a no brainer.

I don't mean to suggest the money saved would alter the world in any significant way. But, equally, where is the ideological consistency in a society that can afford to waste expenditure on ceremony and concurrently cry about practical revenues. Our history is not compromised, our traditions not neglected, if we do away with the irrelevant obsolete. Can someone please tell me why we need to keep the Governor General?


lept said...

In order to get rid of the position would we not have to dump the Windsors first?
Now that'd make sense...

Steve V said...


Or maybe they could pay for their representative.

Anonymous said...

"Can someone please tell me why we need to keep the Governor General?"

If we get rid of her the fine china and silverware industries will suffer irreparable harm. Its for the good of the economy really, consider it a reinvestment.

Mark Dowling said...

You can throw out the ceremonial bathwater without the constitutional baby. A GG is handy to go to all sorts of "state occasions" abroad which would otherwise require the PM to represent Canada for the sake of diplomatic form. Similarly with stuff like ambassadors. The other handy thing about the GG is that they can visit and meet with all sorts of "marginalised" groups but it doesn't create any political/financial liability to do so.

Steve V said...


I think Canada's ambassadors should go to "state occasions" abroad. Given that the GG is supposedly apolitical, she can't practically speak to issues that would arise with other leaders. The GG is not a credible representative to speak for Canada.

James Bow said...

I'm also not willing to let the GG position go. As Mark D notes, she takes the load off the prime minister by attending functions as Canada's head of state that the prime minister doesn't need to attend. Many of the connections we make with other countries are ceremonial connections, where policy isn't discussed.

The GG position is also quite important during minority governments, as she is the point of stability in this parliament. Should Harper fall on his throne speech, it will be up to her to decide whether Canadians go to the polls really early, or if Bill Graham gets a crack at forming a coalition. During elections, she's the one nominally in charge while the PM and the other parliamentarians duke it out.

Maybe we should roll the GG's duties in with that of the Speaker of the House, and stop pulling an MP's vote out of contention -- although the fact that the Speaker DOES vote in the event of a tie could cause problems. We'd have to be firm on the nature of the GG/Speaker's vote in these situations (during first and second readings, vote for the bill to prolong discussion; during third reading, vote against the bill to preserve the status quo).