Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Monarchy Is So Yesterday

I thought this was a timely finding on Canada Day:
Should Canada cut its connection to the monarchy after a new monarch is crowned?

Cut connection to the monarchy 65%

Next monarch named king of Canada 35%

Interestingly, the majority sentiment cuts across all of Canada's regions.

On the question of whether Canadians feel a strong connection the Queen or Governor General, only 20% find any affinity for the Queen, 10% for the GG, and a whopping 70% say neither.

My personal opinion, the monarchy is an obsolete application in Canada. Representative of old world elitism, in the most obscene fashion, nothing would make me happier than to erase any deference to blue blood in the Canadian constitution.

The above shows that Canadians no longer find much use for the monarchy, which provides political cover for any party who is bold enough to challenge outdated tradition. Taking my personal view to the partisan arena, if you want to make a statement which is mostly symbolic but has psychological weight, the Liberals would be wise to consider advocating a end to any ties to the monarchy. In Quebec, where the monarchy solicites nothing but negative connotations, a move to divorce Canada from the symbol of British imperialism bring obvious advantage. The fact that the monarchy's popularity has waned in English Canada, makes any proposition a less risky adventure.

In these supposedly modern times, I've always found our connection to the British monarchy as nothing more than romantic irrelevance, elevating an out of date hierarchy that has no bearing on the real world. Tradition is fine, but I see no need to revere and give status to entities which represent ancient entitlement. When you consider the "irritant" factor, why we maintain our outdated model escapes me.

Happy Canada Day!


Anonymous said...

I would have agree with you, but constitutional, and legal changes must occur if Canada wanted to go down that road. I politicians are timid for that reason.

RuralSandi said...

Years ago I think politicians were timid because they went by the polls and the majority wanted the monarchy, but things have changed.

Trudeau gave us our first steps by having our own Constitution. Let's finish it up.

My father-in-law used to say the monarchy was the richest welfare family in the world.

We're all grown up now - it's time.

Mark Dowling said...

Okay - we get it. You're against the monarchy. But what are you FOR.

One of the reasons republican referenda have failed in places like Australia is that people liked the alternative Head of State proposal less than what they had.

Do we convert to the American model of Head of State AND Government? The Irish model of popular election of some kindly old duffer (at least pre-1990) with GG-like powers? A president elected by Parliament as in Germany or Israel?

Remember, this means "OMG REOPENING THE CONSTITUTION!!!1!!"

Steve V said...

"Okay - we get it. You're against the monarchy. But what are you FOR."

Mark, not sure why you have to react that way to an opinion, but anyways... I don't think we need to make drastic changes, and if the question was kept to a narrow focus of eradicating the monarchy, the constitution might not be as tricky as you suggest. If you could build some sort of consensus first, then come to the table, it's nothing more than doing away with the references to the monarch. The courts could easily fill the GG consitutional void. I just find it hard to believe that we're stuck with this medieval dynamic, particularly when a good portion of our population finds it representative of past imperalism.

Mark Dowling said...

Steve - it wasn't a proposal. What you proposed doing was eliminating the monarch as Head of State, not the position of Head of State with the constitutional implications therein. It's easy to "propose" all manner of things without explaining what to do about the consequences, and thus my reaction.

In Canada, there is one other small problem. Many First Nations have pointed out over the years that their treaties are with the Queen of Canada, not the Government of Canada and the provinces, who negotiate with them in her name at present.

Steve V said...

"In Canada, there is one other small problem. Many First Nations have pointed out over the years that their treaties are with the Queen of Canada, not the Government of Canada and the provinces, who negotiate with them in her name at present."

That's just symbolism again. I don't recall the Queen being involved in the Kelowna Accord, do you? Again, she's a head of state in name only, so I don't see the herculian task to simply put into words what is already practice.

Mark Dowling said...

Seriously - you couldn't google the following?

"the queen in right of canada" kelowna accord

here's just one hit:

There's a lot of symbolism in a constitution - which is integral to its nature. But reopening basic issues such as sovereignty is going to start rumblings in QC - do Liberals really want that now?

JimmE said...

The thing I LOVE about the Monarchy is it is so Canadian. Britain might become a republic a long time before Canada. The Ozzies went down this road & ended up keeping the Queen because they could not decide on what else to do. I used to think like you, but I now love the Monarchy in an ironic post-modern kind of way.

Anonymous said...

I think the important thing about this poll is that Prince Charles is more popular in Canada than either King Harper or Count Ignatieff.

Anonymous said...

The Queen is head of state in name only - offers nothing to us or for us but a bunch of pomp and circumstance.

What does the monarchy do for us? Old traditions? We are grown ups now, not one of the colonies and it's time to put our grown up faces to the world.

Dame said...

We Got To the point when this "status" is simply RIDICULOUS !!

DeanC said...

Right now the monarchy provides us with some benefits (namely providing the head of state) for releatively nothing (she doesnt charge us salary to do so and we dont pay taxes to her anymore).

The appointed GG has a lot of merit, democracy is expensive, the GG covers a lot of cerimonial duties freeing up the PM. Mark really hits the nail on the head here, what do you do with head of state. You really have to think about the consequences from moving away from this system. If our head of state becomes elected, they now have a mandate to make decisions that may not be in line with that of parliment. A rogue GG can be forced to resign, an elected GG will likely not.

sjw said...

I really don't mind our relationship with the monarchy. I know that I should likely disavow it as being long past its due date as far as relevance and necessity, but there is still a part of me that enjoys the connection to the Old World. And of course it is one of the last bastions of our history that differentiates us from our neighbours to the south. I don't see how that's a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

No one without an elegant solution to the Head of State problem should be suggesting abolishing the monarchy. Whether it's a good idea or not, you're ripping one of the basic components out of the system. It's irresponsible to do that without providing and arguing for an alternative (there are several in use around the world).

And you can't have had much to do with legal documents if you think that any such change would be "simple." NOT! Rational and justified, perhaps. Simple, NOT!

Your appendix is useless too, but that doesn't mean you can up and cut it out of your body with a penknife.

Steve V said...


That's a silly link. What I said, and you're merely using more symbolism to reinforce, the Queen is just a nothing figurehead. Please find me one reference where Paul Martin huddled with Elizabeth to go over the details and get her approval. Such nonsense.

Koby said...

I am with Steve. The monarchy is putrid institution. I would love to see her head off -- our coin that is.

The question is whether it is worth the trouble.

Malcolm+ said...

There is a word to describe those who claim abolishing the monarchy is a simple process. The word is "dishonest."

Notionally, the current constitution gives "the Crown" virtually unlimited power. The reason that Mrs. Battenberg doesn't personally exercise the full scope of her notional authority (except on the advise of her first minister) is merely a convention rooted in the fact that her office has no democratic legitimacy.

Yet at the same time, the Crown is the last defence against a despotic Prime Minister. If a Prime Minister attempted to act beyond the constitution, the Governor General, as Mrs. Battenberg's proxy, can still toss in the monkey wrench. And the PM wouldn't be able to do anything about it because the GG's appointment, while on the advice of the PM, is not dependent on the PM.

Now, it is relatively simple to turn the GG into the President of Canada. But how shall the President of Canada be chosen?

If we allow the PM simply to appoint the President (as effectively happens now) then the President is no longer effective as a check on the hypothetical despotic PM because the despotic PM would simply appoint another President. There are at least two occasions in recent Canadian constitutional history - ie, post-Byng - where Vice-Regals have threatened first ministers with dismissal - one federally and one provincially. That capacity would be lost, at least at the federal level.

On the other hand, if we somehow elect the President of Canada with no other constitutional change, there would be no further justification to the extra-constitutional limitations on the office's authority. In other words, if the GG recast as the President now has democratic legitimacy, there is no legal reason that the occupant of the office could not rule as a de facto absolute monarch.

So, abolishing the monarchy isn't simple, but demands a radical rewriting of every aspect of our constitution. To suggest otherwise is pure dishonesty.

And, of course, re-opening the constitution means re-opening the whole thing. The idea that we can just re-open this particular bit is purely delusional. Once it's opened, every premier's particular constitutional bugaboo comes into play.

So, what exactly do we GAIN if we go through this long and toturous process? Nothing much, as far as I can see, except the nice symbolic "victory" of severing the relationship with the Battenbergs.

In other words, extremely high cost in terms of time, effort, money (constitutional conferences don't come cheap) and political capital to gain roughly two-thirds of four-fifths of bugger all.

Perhaps once we've solved global warming, child poverty and economic uncertainly. In the meantime, I'd rather have the government focussed on something that matters.

Castor Rouge said...

I think you'll find the vagueness of the poll question skews how people would actually act on such a proposal. The Australians were so convinced through polls that their people wanted to out the Queen they held a referendum, as you may recall. When faced with the particulars of the new system however (and the realization one of the jerks they had leading them would likely become Pres.) then the Aussies voted to keep the Queen. Think how people say they want electoral change in Canada, but then vote it down because they don't like the particular model (ex: MMP Ontario, STV BC). As for leadership, "President Harper" would be enough to drive most of the opposition to beg off change, I'm sure.