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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Time to update our tired old government institutions

The recent visit of President Obama and his meeting with Governor General Michaëlle Jean got me thinking about how confusing our government structure must be to Obama-Jean visiting heads of state. Here is the U.S. president discussing the situation in Haiti with the Governor General who represents the Crown in Canada and carries out the duties of Head of State. Two heads of state discussing the problems and challenges of a third nation. How nice.

But President Obama might as well have spoken to the average Haitian immigrant on the streets of Toronto or Montreal. Our GG has little more real political power than they do.

Canada has a sovereign and Head of State with no real powers and virtually no ceremonial responsibilities. And because she is a foreigner and lives thousands of miles awayqueen, we have her local representative, the Governor General who, at least, is a Canadian, but also has very little real power—hers is almost entirely a ceremonial role.

It’s time to retire this archaic, confusing institution.

Many Canadians adamantly claim we have separation of church and state, even though our Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with the statement,

quote-left-red-beige-bgWhereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God [Emphasis added] and the rule of law…quote-right-red-beige-bg

senateAnd the Queen, our Head of State, is the “Supreme Governor of the Church of England” signifying her titular leadership over that Church. So much for separation of church and state, eh?   

Then we have the senate. If Canada is to have a bicameral parliamentary system (and I think it should), isn’t it time we had an upper house that is accountable to the people and has real powers? A significant proportion of our population does not even know what this place does. Was not the Senate supposed to be comprised of economic and social elites who would act as a check on the “commoners” or “lower classes,” of the democratically elected House of Commons. How relevant is this in 2009? gg Jean

Governor General Michaëlle Jean is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces for Pete’s sake. This is ridiculously absurd.

How many figureheads and meaningless, obsolete government institutions does one country need? At what point do we cut our ridicously outdated ties with our foreign Queen?

Surely we are confident and mature enough as a nation to have made-in-Canada institutions that mean something and are accountable to us the people of Canada.smleaf

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  1. I am sure you know very well that visiting Heads of State have no confusion what so ever with respect to the relative positions of the GG and PM. I am also sure you are well aware that many other countries have similar government structures to greater or lesser degree.

    While the Queen and GG have very limited residual powers they are none the less real and can be very important as we saw with the Coalition. The trick is to ensure the person picked for the GG position is intelligent, reasonable, unbiased, does not have an agenda and will not accept any agendas of his / her staff or the politicians who arranged the appointment.

    The GG serves as an above politics focus for the country and takes most of the ceremonial burden off the PM.

    Any change to an elected head of state would radically change the nature of government and the balance of power as an elected head would immediately have an electoral mandate to exercise power and if not why would anyone run and what benefit would there be over a Monarch / GG.

    Regarding Church and State, how does "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…" demonstrate that we do not have separation of church and state? As I read it, this is a statement of historical fact, or are you trying to claim that when founded it was not with those recognitions.

    In so far as the Queen also being head of the Church of England, so what? In what way does this have any impact whatsoever on Canadian governance?

    On the Senate, we may have some agreement. If we can reform the Senate in such a way that it can offset or reduce some of the games played in the Commons and act to represent provincial and regional interests that could improve our governance. However given the current low level of statesmanship and extreme power politics I doubt it will ever happen.

    Why is the GG being Commander in Chief absurd. Among other things, the CAF is intimately linked to the Monarch /G. G. with Officers and NCO authority deriving from the Queen and Military histories, symbols which feature in esprit de corps are directly tied to the Monarch.

    Can our Monarchy be replaced? Sure but it would be a sweeping and very extensive change with many implications that would have to be well considered before acting and there would be a huge risk that in the process governments would be larger more pervasive and freedoms reduced.

    For my part I would accept two things instead, one that Senators and MPs always remembered why they are there and acted accordingly and two that our institutions and people stop destroying our nation and society through misplaced multiculturalism, political correctness and relativism.

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