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The GGGG: welcome to the Governor General Guessing Game

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]

  • Josh D

    “Not to sound like a sociology prof, but…” – I love it!

    I think with Harper choosing, there’s a decent chance it could be a white man anyway. And my guess is someone from the west, but not Alberta.

    I wonder if Kim Campbell would be willing? She’s very qualified for the wining and dining of dignitaries, not to mention the whole legal expertise thing.

  • stella

    I don’t know I would rather have someone who has actually contributed something good like Rick Hansen. Or even someone like Moe Sihota would be more suitable since he has good experience. I think it is time for a change for someone who doesn’t go around wasting taxpayer money for fancy jets and ludicrous arts. I would rather have someone who is willing to penny pinch and be honest with how they spend our money rather than trying to impress other countries with how much they can spend. Not Kim Campbell as she doesn’t speak for me as a woman or anything else. We need someone more real and not fake.

  • Anthony

    A gay south east asian immigrant from Vancouver who happens to be a conservative? yes please.

  • Rob Wolvin

    I believe that Canada’s democracy is severely impaired and in danger of a crash & complete destruction! Ignorance about our form of government and apathy, has resulted in a continuing erosion of our democracy. The worst aspect of this erosion is the concentration of power in the Office of the Prime Minister!

    Canada’s constitution is a reflection of the British North America Act of 1867. That document was negotiated by prominent Canadians for Canadians and was presented whole and approved whole by the British parliament to create our nation. It was written to include checks and balances on power to the various branches of government. The sovereign has executive power but must work through the House of Commons & Senate to exercise that power. The judiciary is supposed to interpret & enforce the laws of the land, independent of the government of the day. Anti-monarchy activism has been successful in the name of democracy & nationalism. The erosion of the legitimacy of the crown & the crown’s representative, the Governor-General, has created a vacuum in executive authority. That has certainly been the intention of successive Prime Ministers! How can judges, senators & Governors be seen to act independently if they are dependant on the good graces of the Prime Minister’s Office, who appointed them? This office is completely unelected, unconstitutionally sanctioned and operates with one purpose, to keep their boss, the Prime Minister, in power! This concentration of power in the PMO is DEFINITELY, NOT in the interest of Canadian democracy!

    We are supposed to be a constitutional monarchy. When the Fathers of Confederation created Canada’s unique version of constitutional monarchy, most Canadians felt a part of the greater British Empire and therefore recognized the legitimacy of a British monarch. That is not true today because of immigration from around the world and because of the efforts of successive Prime Ministers to remove the monarch from the Canadian consciousness. They have been successful by playing two cards, legitimacy based entirely on being elected & appeals to nationalism. Dependence on the ballot, as the only form of legitimacy, leaves us open to what I would call ‘tyranny of the majority’. We have a senate that is supposed to represent regions equally & a monarch who is supposed to represent ALL of us with equal regard. Legitimacy is based on the consent of the people, regardless of the form of selection. Voting, particularly first past the post, or 50% + one does not, in itself represent the will of the people, only that small number who voted for the elected members. If the ballot is to mean anything, we must address this problem as well as the voter apathy that results in lower and lower voter turnout. Of course governments won’t do that! The current system is to their advantage.

    It has been made abundantly clear that we will be unable to change our constitution, even if Canadians wanted to become a republic. So I suggest we reform what we can. One of the best things about our system is that it is organic, adaptable to any national context and can continually evolve. That’s our distinct form of democracy, as it was conceived, in 1867. That would, of course, require that Canadians understand the system we have, why we have it, how it is supposed to work and what the implications of changing it would be. Democracy can only work if a public is informed, engaged & active in the democratic process.

    Many of the younger generation don’t even know that we are a monarchy. Many Canadians, even the government and national media, treat the Queen like a visiting Head of State and her family, like visiting celebrities.

    Constitutional monarchy can only work if a monarch is resident in and seen to be a part of the national daily life. I’d argue that our countrymen must see royalty working for us in our own daily Canadian experience. I recommend that Canadians, in defense of our heritage & our democracy, lobby for the appointment of HRH Prince Andrew to the post of Governor-General of Canada. He’s someone with an international reputation, experience and contacts that can help Canadian diplomacy & industry and would be a true representative of the Queen!

    After our royal heritage is reflected in our daily life, for 5 years… Let’s see then if Canadians want to reform or get rid of the monarchial system we have.

    The current situation, where Canada has a foreign Head of State is intolerable. It becomes more intolerable with each passing decade.

    I believe that we need our own, resident royal family.

    The only requirement to make this happen is an act of Parliament that changes the succession laws. We could have anyone we liked when Her Majesty passes away or abdicates. She could abdicate tomorrow, since Canada is a separate crown, with no effect on her role in the UK, or her other realms.

    It would make sense for the indigenous house to be a branch of the current royal house. After all they inherited the authority of every sovereign house that has been associated with this land since Europeans arrived. One could argue, that Canada’s only right to sovereignty over these lands stems from the rights of the monarch, as Queen of Canada, who inherited lands seeded to her family, and not to the government of Canada or the United Kingdom. First Nations, some with royal traditions of their own, have negotiated treaties with the crown or at least have expressed loyalty to that same crown throughout our history. Were the sovereign present in Canadian daily life, this special relationship may have allowed for greater prominence & respect to be afforded our First Nations.

    There is precedent for this type of evolution, a new royal house being a branch of the old. For instance, Brazil gained it’s independence and 80 years of economic & social progress when they took the heir to the Portuguese throne as their own Emperor in the early 19th century. Norway is another example.

    What if, when the current sovereign passes away, the new monarch was selected through a partially elective process. What if the only requirement to run for the office was to be a descendant of Canada’s first Queen, Queen Victoria and be a resident of Canada? To keep the candidates above the frey, they could be required to have a group advocate on their behalf, in the election, rather than running actively themselves? The post would be for life unless resignation is requested. If the post becomes vacant then the same process could be followed or some other succession law could be enacted, with the consent of Canadians, after we have our own resident family.

    This way Canada could get it’s own monarch and that person or family would have the legitimacy of election as well as ancestral heritage.

    We need someone who will defend the constitution from Prime Ministers who try to close parliament instead of facing criticism! The senate must effectively protect the interests of the regions equally, not their respective political parties. Minorities must be represented at the highest levels. First Nations must have their unique statis reaffirmed in the minds of all Canadians.

    According to our constitution, the cornerstone of government, federal & provincial as well as the judiciary, is the crown. For that institution to be disrespected and misunderstood is to created a vaccumn of legitimacy that power hungry politicians are too happy to step into. Addressing this impairment goes a long way to saving our democracy. Let’s get it done so we can move onto the next challenge.