The Ottawa rumour mill is churning on one story these days: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apparent desire to replace Michaëlle Jean when her term is up this autumn. It’s a challenge for the Conservative leader, whose approval rating (29 per cent) is markedly lower than Jean’s (57 per cent—what the Star calls “the kind of approval numbers Harper—or any of his political opponents—can only dream of”). Shall it be a westerner? Someone bilingual? Another CBCer? We’ve read the stories and boiled the criteria down to these eight.
A number of names have surfaced in the past week. The Star is claiming wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen has already turned down the gig, though his spokesperson is denying it. (If he were to take the job, around 50 per cent of Canadians would support the decision.) After Hansen, things get sketchy. CTV is claiming everyone from Inuk leader Mary Simon to William Shatner is being considered.
Let’s look at the factors in play:
Won’t be a CBC alum
Four out of the previous five governors general have, at one time or another, worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Jean, Adrienne Clarkson, Roméo LeBlanc and Jeanne Sauvé. The chances of Harper going for another Corp alum are pretty slim, making it a strike against Mary Simon, who used to head CBC North.
Might be someone from the Canadian Forces
Harper’s support-the-troops rhetoric suggests that he might be combing the country’s military ranks for a GG. This would be a particularly interesting choice for the coming years, when Canada is facing up to NATO for its Afghanistan pullout in 2011. Put a check in the column of retired general Jean de Chastelain.
Won’t necessarily be a dude
While it might seem as though, after two consecutive women, it’s time for a man to redecorate Rideau Hall (mounted deer heads and such), only three women have ever occupied the position. If we’re looking at balance, women have a few more turns before things are even (23 to be exact, and that’s just since Canada became a country). Good news for Simon—the only woman whose name has been bandied about.
Might be a visible minority
Not to sound like a sociology prof, but there have been a lot of old, established, white, heterosexual, able-bodied men in this position. The suggestion of Hansen makes us wonder if Harper’s looking beyond that tradition. Bad news for Preston Manning, who is apparently the preferred choice of the Tory base, but who is an old, established, white, heterosexual, able-bodied man if there ever was one.
Might be someone sporty
Many hockey players’ names have surfaced in the media’s wild GG guessing game, but the ones that have stuck are Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. The problem? Neither speaks French.
Likely to be someone from the west
Many have suggested that Harper’s western political roots mean that he’s looking in the left-most time zones. Additionally, there has never been a GG from British Columbia, which means that province, which has been very good to Harper over the years, is due. The Times-Columnist puts forth a few names: Mike Harcourt (too lefty?), Ujjal Dosanjh (too lefty!) and Kim Campbell (just right?).
Won’t be someone with a Facebook group
When there are Facebook groups set up to support every conceivable aspect of the human condition—ranging from ones that promote turning over pillows to enjoy the cold side to ones maintaining that Michael Jackson is still alive—why do news stories report on Facebook groups created to promote so and so for governor general? Sorry, Mr. Shatner, we mean no disrespect.
Will be Canadian born
The two previous GGs emigrated to Canada, but we’re guessing Harper will pick a viceroy who was born here, if only because this and the “visible minority” criteria have never been met by the same person.
• Rick Hansen has not turned down GG job [CTV]
• Stephen Harper on the hunt for governor general [Toronto Star]
• Canadian content with Governor General Jean [Angus Reid]
• Jean’s potential successor remains a mystery [National Post] • If Michelle Jean is gone, who will be the next governor general [Montreal Gazette] • A governor general who skates [Edmonton Journal]