Friday, 15 October 2010

Canada's Other Governors

The Lieutenant Governors and their spouses with the Governor General, 2008

Compared to their federal counterpart, the Governor General, provincial lieutenant governors are typically not well known (especially outside their own provinces), receive minimal media attention, and often assume office with little fanfare.  Yet, these ten provincial vice-regals play a pivotal role in Canadian governance and society in general.

So, I am pleased to launch a special series on my blog called "Canada's Other Governors".  Over the coming months I will blog about each of the ten lieutentant governors - touching on the rich history of each office and discussing the incumbants' past accomplishments and how they've helped shape their provinces and communities.  The goal is to tell their story.

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The lieutenant governors are appointed by the Governor General, in the name of The Queen, on the advice of the prime minister, to represent The Queen in their provinces.  In this way, the vice-regal representatives mirror the country's federal system, underlining that the provinces are as potent in the exercise of their constitutional responsibilities as is the national government in its assigned jurisdictions.  It is an historic office, in a sense pre-dating that of the Governor General, as the earliest colonial governors - of whom Samuel de Champlain was first - in fact had responsibility for areas roughly corresponding to some of today’s provinces.

George Stanley (with his wife Ruth) served as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick
from 1982-87.  He is also the man who designed Canada's national flag.

As with the Governor General, the lieutenant governors are appointed to serve "at Her Majesty's pleasure". However, in practice, vice-regal appointments are customarily limited to five years, unless the prime minister of the day recommends to that their time in office be extended.

The role of the lieutenant governors is both constitutional and social.  As representative of the Sovereign, they form a part of the provincial legislative assemblies, summoning and dissolving its sessions and giving royal assent to legislation in The Queen's name.  They must approve all actions ("Orders-in-Council") of the provincial executive councils.  Generaly, they preside over the provinces' individual honours systems, allowing the provincial orders and similar recognitions to carry the dignity and prestige of the Crown.  Socially, they lend their vice-regal patronage to a variety of causes and community events, ranging from the Scouts to prizes for academic and literary achievement, thus underlining the important role of the Crown in encouraging Canadians to give of their best.  Each lieutenant governor chooses several areas of special concern that serve to draw the attention of the population to causes ranging, for example, from Aboriginal reconciliation to youth and disability issues.

David Onley, seen here at the League's 2010 Accession Day luncheon,
has been a champion for accessibility during his mandate as Ontario's Lieutenant Governor.

Much of the most influential role of the Crown takes place in local communities, day to day, and often under the radar of the national media, through the constant round of vice-regal activities undertaken by Canada’s ten lieutenant governors.  Each represents The Queen in a way reflective of the province and of their own personal style.

Next week, we'll begin to meet Canada's Other Governors...

Robert / The D.C.

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