Monday, 25 January 2010

Prince William's visit a blow to republicans Down Under

No surprise here. Prince William's visit to New Zealand and Australia was a smashing success. And, it has delivered a devastating blow to the republican movements in those countries.

Before the second in line to the throne touched down, the party-poopers..errr...republicans were nervously readying themselves for what surely even they knew would be an enormous wave of monarchist sentiment. The small republican group in New Zealand staged a protest that was easily outnumbered by well-wishers; and, instead of explaining to New Zealanders just exactly how they would be better off in some republic the group channelled their energy into unfurling a banner reading "It's time for a republic."

Republicans called it "extraordinarily ironic" to have Prince William open the Supreme Court (one of the main reasons for the visit) because it was established to replace Britain's Privy Council as New Zealand's highest court of appeal. I found this line of thinking a bit peculiar given that the Supreme Court of Canada has been our highest court since 1949. Really, there was absolutely nothing ironic at all in having Prince William open the NZ Supreme Court; rather, it was a sign of a mature country's new court being opened by a member of its shared Royal Family.

In Australia, where the national media have a strange, unhealthy obsession with all things republican, people came out in droves to support the Prince - leading to headlines reading "Prince Charming" and "Sydney's Favourite Son."

The Australian republican movement - still cranky 10 years after they were thumped in a referendum - used the occasion to unveil something big: the new reason why Australians should abolish the monarchy. Apparently, Australians need a republic because - are you ready for this? - Prince William wants England to host the World Cup of Soccer in 2018. Now, I must say that I've heard all kinds of arguments against the monarchy, but few have been as silly and desperate as this one.
In the end, the Crown is better off as a result of Prince William's visit. According to a poll released today, support for the monarchy has surged in Australia. Good news, for sure. But, what does all of this mean to us here in the Great White North?
Here in Canada, there is no republican movement. The media are much more balanced. And, none of the major political parties want to abolish the monarchy. So, at least for now the monarchy/republic debate is a non-issue - nothing more than meaningless chitchat, really.

However, the long-term strength of the Canadian Crown is obviously tied to Prince William. Ultimately, it is imperative that Prince William visit Canada in the not to distant future - as early as 2011, perhaps? - to enable him to learn more about this country and to enable its people to get to know their future King.

Until next time,
Rober / The D.C.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Michaëlle Jean's defining moment

I believe Michaëlle Jean has just experienced her defining moment as Governor General of Canada.  In the hours following the devastating earthquake in her native Haiti, Mme Jean has shown true leadership, compassion, selflessness and a genuine human touch at a time when, quite frankly, the world needed it.

Her tearful address to the media where she offered an emotional thanks to Canadians for moving so quickly to help was what - for many, me included - drove home the severity of the situation in Haiti.  Her sincere warmth and compassion for the people of her native homeland has moved us and has earned her well-deserved praise and respect.

There are some who maintain that the Monarch and her representative shouldn't show emotion in public.  I disagree.  I believe that if the Crown is to be the personification of the state, then it must also reflect the mood of the people of the state.  A kind, caring modern monarchy does not forbid its representatives to shed a tear when circumstances call for it.

Her direct participation in discussing Canada's relief efforts provided a unique opportunity to leverage the vice-regal's experience and non-partisanship.  The Governor General's right to be consulted, advise and to warn was truly demonstrated.

Mme Jean has not escaped criticism from the League or from me personally.  We Monarchists expressed our outrage when royal portraits were removed from Rideau Hall.  And, we were quick to correct her when she referred to herself as "head of state." 

But, Mme Jean's actions these last few days have done much to endear her to us.  I have earned a whole new respect for our Governor General as I suspect many Canadians have. 

When I look back years from now and assess Mme Jean's Governor Generalship I believe I will remember Mme Jean most for the way she conducted herself these last few days.  For me, this is her defining moment.

Until next time,
Robert / The D.C.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Upset with prorogation? Don’t blame the GG

Below is a letter yours truly sent to the Toronto Star in response to Bob Hepburn's column ranting against the Governor General.  After reading his piece, I'm sure you will agree that Mr. Hepburn should stick to writing opinion columns instead of trying to rewrite the constitution :)
Bob Hepburn is wrong when he says Michaëlle Jean has failed in carrying out her constitutional responsibilities as Governor General. His suggestion that Canadians should focus their anger towards Mme Jean and the vice-regal office if they don’t agree with the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament is absurd.

Mme Jean has done nothing other than follow normative behaviour for The Queen's representative: that is, to accept "advice" in the Constitutional sense from her sole Constitutional "advisor”, the Prime Minister of the day. She would be justified in refusing his advice only if a) his government had been defeated in an election or lost the confidence of the House; b) was personally implicated in corruption or misconduct; c) he asked her to thwart the Constitution by, for instance, ignoring its requirement for elections every five years.

Absent such a situation, Her Excellency is doing exactly what Canadian convention requires: avoiding implicating the Crown in a political controversy which, inevitably, would become the focus of the next election, when the focus should rightly be on determining whether Mr Harper's advice to Mme Jean - along with the rest of his record - justifies giving him another term or removing him from office.

Mr Hepburn’s proposed solution is equally unreasonable. To imagine that Canadians could casually abolish the fundamental Constitutional Office of Governor General - making our past wrenching Constitutional debates look like picnics - is as fanciful as it is inappropriate. Even if one disagrees with Mme Jean's actions, the remedy is not to change our entire system of government any more than we abolish Parliament when it passes a law we don't like.

Robert Finch,
Dominion Chairman
Monarchist League of Canada