Two Reporters Undermine the Role of the Monarchy in the Dominion of Canada

Early on the morning of Oct. 1, David Johnston stepped in front of the Canadian Senate in Ottawa, and was sworn in as Canada’s 28th Governor General.

Lost amid the rambunctious applause of our (unelected) representatives in the Senate was the massive flushing sound of cash swirling down the drain.

For those of you unaware of the arcane machinations of the Canadian government, the Governor General is the Queen’s representative in our government, who acts as our head of state. It is an office with an annual budget of $19.1 million dollars—the actual price tag can be over twice that, when you include other costs, such as security.

He or she theoretically has the power to dissolve Parliament and call elections whenever they see fit, appoint p­­­eople to the cabinet and ask the opposition to form a coalition government.

However, because much of the Canadian Constitution is made up of unwritten rules, the position’s power in this area has withered over the years.

The Governor General does, however, retain a small amount of power. See the controversial move made by Michaëlle Jean in early 2009, when she prorogued Parliament at the request of Prime Minister Harper, avoiding a vote of non-confidence that would have resulted in a federal election.

Essentially, we are paying for a way to circumvent the democratic principles upon which Canada prides itself.
The Governor General is also the head of the Canadian Forces, though the duties associated with this are, like almost all other aspects of the office, purely ceremonial. So, what do we get for this money? Well, we maintain our symbolic submissive position to the now long-dead British Empire. And we get to pay a lot of money to keep an unelected official housed in the elegance of Rideau Hall.

This is not a personal attack on those who inhabit the office. Usually, the person appointed is somebody of distinction, who has served Canada faithfully for many years.

Such is the case with Johnston, an academic in law who has served as a professor and administrator at several of Canada’s most prestigious schools. Isn’t it a bit disrespectful to ask such loyal, patriotic citizens to assume a position that has become little more than a glorified mascot?

The British Empire is dead. Canada is now a nation unto itself, and it has been since we repatriated our constitution almost 30 years ago. It’s time for us to cut the last tie to our colonial past. It’s time to abolish the Office of the Governor General.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 08, published October 5, 2010.