Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Governor-General: Let's evolve!

Sikander Z. Hashmi

With tears rolling down her cheeks, a dancing Michaëlle Jean became Canada’s 27th Governor-General yesterday.

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?


Blogger Melanie Holubowski said...

On Tuesday, I did a streeter, asking people about the new governor general and what they tought about her.

Most responses amounted to nothing but a blank stare...Who is Michaelle Jean? What does a governor general (GG) do?

I wasn't so shocked because I didn't know all the details of the GG position until I took a Canadian POlitics Class. I figured, not everyone is interested in politics, fine.

What did shock me is that no one cared.

The GG position is one of tradition, one that is mostly ceremonial and is basically the government's PR person.

The GG is there to represent the prime minister and all Canadians at the national or international front.

THe PM does not have time to go to all these ceremonies and ribbon-cuttings. Someone needs to do it.
Sikander suggested using MPs do to the job.

Bad idea. If any of you know an MP personally, they are overworked and have enough of their constituency and national affairs to deal with.

I say keep a little tradition - that's what makes us special. But revamp the GG position - make the GG's duties more visible. Explain where she is going, who she is meeting and why.

People might think it is a foolish thing for a GG to be attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony somewhere in the world, for whatever cause. BUt think about it - if it was YOUR cause, you would be more than glad than someone in the political world cares.

She may not be the one making decisions, but she certainly can talk to the PM and suggest things to him. Change happens with communication. The GG is the communicating agent between government officials and the people.

Jean is a journalist - she is a great communicator. As a GG, she will hopefully bring the political world and citizens together.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Sikander said...

True. If not an MP, then maybe a Senator (as I also suggested in the article)? Based on the attendance records of some Senators, it seems they don't have enough to do.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Darcy O'Brien said...

I pride myself on being a thoughtful person. I do my best to look at all sides of an issue before rendering my opnion, but the mere idea of a Governor General, well, that just chafes at my core.

Canada's health care system is in a tail spin, its provinces are allowed to have differing educational systems and laws, and scholars and journalists still can't answer a simple question - What does it mean to be a Canadian?

Simple solution - get your own identity!

England, you're a nice place to visit, but take your GG,your swearing of allegiance to the Queen, and your deathtrap submarines, out of here.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address this issue without addressing the very political model that brought it into existence.As this is only a blog, and not a pulpit, I will only address the facts.

Fact - our nation's medicare sytem is ready to implode. Fact - we send money overseas, when spending cuts (over the last two decades) have hurt Canada's social programs, and the citizens they were designed for.
Yet we still have positions in our government (GG and Senate) that soak up the tax dollars of hard working people, and they're not even elected by the people?! Enough is enough. Canada grow up already! No taxpayers money should go to a fundamentally ceremonial position. Not when the public at large, or small as the case may be, has to make fiscal sacrifices.

How about Mr.Martin paying for the expenses of the GG, from his company, you know, the one he say's he has no involvement in? The one that builds steamships in the Carribean, with foreign nationals, and operated by still more foreign nationals? Goes by the name Canada Steamship Lines,and doesn't pay Canadian taxes, you know that one?

This country can no longer afford to support archaic institutions or positions that are not answerable (by public vote) directly to the lawful citizens of this country. Need someone to represent Canadians at a ribbon cutting ceremony? Call on a elected minister, that's why they're paid - to represent us.

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should abolish the position! What a waste of money on a figure head!

12:49 AM  

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