Governor-General: Let's evolve!
Sikander Z. Hashmi
With tears rolling down her cheeks, a dancing Michaëlle Jean became
Regardless of whether the Haitian-born former journalist, who just renounced her French citizenship before accepting the gig, is a good choice for the post and notwithstanding the debate on whether we actually need a Governor-General, I wish her well.
But do we really need a Governor-General? Yes and no.
The responsibilities of the Governor-General need to be discharged by someone – someone who’s not the prime minister.
Think about it: would you want Paul Martin to be the figurehead of this country, presiding over swearing in ceremonies for ministers and the chief justices, attending ceremonial events, doing all the outreach Governor-Generals tend to do across our vast land, and traveling overseas to represent us in events that, in all honesty, aren’t all that important?
Surely, he has better things to do, I’d hope. But someone’s got to do all that stuff.
In the odd one-in-a-light-year chance that a decision needs to be made on a serious issue such as the dissolving of parliament in a confidence loss or a PM wanting to hold an election two months into his or her mandate, there needs to be someone who can make that decision.
And that’s definitely not a decision to be made by Paul Martin.
At the same time, at 138 years old, we’re old enough to take care of ourselves, thank you very much.
The Queen has played a dignified ceremonial role and we appreciate her love and concern, but with all due respect, we can do without it.
We need someone to discharge the ceremonial responsibilities associated with the Governor-General, as well as someone who can make a decision for the country when a decision needs to be made, without being involved in politics.
So why not have two people?
MPs have proven that they can put partisan politics aside and choose a speaker for their House from amongst themselves.
Meanwhile, we all accept the judiciary to be free of bias and politics.
Therein lies the solution.
Let either the MPs or Senators choose a member to be President or Governor, what he or she may be called, from amongst themselves. Let him perform all the ceremonial duties of Governor-General, except for things like giving bills royal assent, which isn’t needed anyway.
Give him a tightly controlled budget, approved by parliament, with no perks. Place limits on voting powers in the Commons, similar to limits on the Speaker of the House.
Whenever an important issue comes up that the Governor-General would have otherwise handled, let the Supreme Court solve it in an emergency sitting.
There. We’ve gotten rid of the position without affecting the responsibilities, and most importantly, without costing taxpayers a fortune.
And to prove that we don't hate the Queen, we'll let her visit whenever she wishes, at her own expense. After all, doesn't a mother visit her daughter after she has moved out?