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

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I'm not so sure. Part of Her Excellency's role is to provide stability over and above the foibles of politicians. Mr Harper is at present trying to circumvent his loss of authority to govern through prorogation. I would understand checking such a trick to be within the viceregal job decription, notwithstanding the general norm of acting on ministerial advice. Surely the Dismissal and the "King-Byng thing" show that there is precedent for viceregal intervention.