Thursday, August 04, 2005

Her Adequacy, The Governor General

The appointment of Montreal CBC journalist Michaelle Jean as Canada's next governor general came as a surprise to everyone, not the least to Ms. Jean.

It really shouldn't have, considering how degraded the office of the vice-regent of the Crown in Canada has become.

What is in theory the most powerful office in Canada, has been reduced to an out-relief sinecure for political hacks and other establishment cronies, a sort of chief host (or hostess) and ribbon-cutter of Canada.

The constitutional convention that the Crown can and must act only on the advice of its ministers has, over time, effectively removed any checks on the power of the prime minister. This has also been abetted by the growing separation of Canada's identity from its historical connections to Britain, as time and changing demographics render the Crown increasingly irrelevant to Canadians.

In theory, the governor general's powers of dismissal, reservation and withholding of royal assent to legislation can prevent the government of the day from violating the constitution of Canada or from passing injurious legislation. In reality, the governor general simply rubber-stamps the government's actions. To do otherwise would raise cries of protest that the representative of a "foreign" monarch was frustrating the democratically elected government. No governor general would dare create another King-Byng crisis.

Ms. Jean was not appointed because of her distinguished record of public service, nor because of her knowledge of Canadian constitutional law and government, but because of her symbolic representation of Canadian (Liberal) values.

As a black Quebecoise francophone born in Haiti, she represents several key Liberal party constituencies: immigrants, racial minorities, Quebec francophones and women. She also allows the government of the day to pat itself on the back for its promotion of tolerance and diversity.

As a CBC journalist, she is unlikely to possess any opinions which might cause offence to the Liberal government. She will dutifully espouse the party line when called upon to address the Canadian people. And presumably, she knows what knife and fork to use and how to make gracious small talk with the plebs.

She is the perfect appointee for this much-reduced office.

But not for the effective head of state our country needs to reverse its slide into one-party oligarchy.

More on that subject presently.

Read more about Ms. Jean in the Montreal Gazette

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