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The Next GG Should be Elected

April 4, 2010

News today that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking for a new Governor General. A number of names have already been suggested for possible replacements.  I won’t speculate but my guess is we won’t get another former CBC employee.  But I’d like to suggest to the Prime Minister that he think creatively about this choice.  He has suggested along with others in the past that the Canadian Senate should be elected.  One approach being using in a few provinces already is to hold local, technically non-binding elections for Senate positions for a province’s portion of empty senate seats seats and forward these names on to be used to nominate the Senators.

I would suggest that the Prime Minister consider, right now, instituting the same process for the selection of the Governor General.  Hold a national election, in due course, perhaps during the summer. It would be more a plebiscite or informal referendum with minimal campaigning, but with a chance for the public to consider the choice.

The PM would commit to putting forward a short list of candidates, selected from amongst notable Canadians, produced in consultation with all opposition parties.  Then the entire country would vote on who they choose to act as the Queen’s Viceroy. The PM would commit to abiding by the choice of the electorate.

The effect of this would be to add a little bit of democracy to one of the most undemocratic institutions in our country while simultaneously giving it more legitimacy.  The new Governor General would be someone vetted and approved of by the Canadian people.  They would be able to wear the mantle of Head of State with a confidence that no Governor General has been able to claim since 1867.  They would make the few constitutional roles allotted to them real, valid powers. Powers to be used with caution, lest this grand experiment ends before it begins, yet powers that would have an effect on the way government is carried out.

No more would the Prime Minister be able to prorogue parliament on a whim, or a weak excuse, for political purposes. No more would the Prime Minister be able to hold democracy hostage, threatening that a loss of confidence by the House of Commons must result in another election, even when a larger minority or majority coalition is ready to rule. Finally, we would have a some  check on Priministerial power.  Such a check exists in most other western democracies.  The President or Congress in the US do not have as much power as our Prime Minister.  Even the PM in Britian might have a slightly better chance of expecting his Queen to speak up, especially in matters of extreme parliamentary manipulation.

If you are to be true to your Reform roots Mr. Harper, you must consider this.  Surely if senate appointments are an anachronism, then appointing our stand-in for Head of State is only more so.

Update: For a far more thorough proposal of pretty much the same thing make a cup of tea and go read this great article over at counterweights.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 11:51 am

    Can’t we just cut to the chase and eliminate the governor general and the senate?

    • April 4, 2010 4:44 pm

      I think they both serve an important purpose, but they should be selected in a more democratic manner. Most democracies have a head of state seperate from the legislative leader and two legislative houses to balance each other somewhat. I have no problem with the Senate being the weaker house or even appointed as long as its done in a bipartisan, fair way, but elections probably are best. The real question would be if we had an elected GG would we really need the Queen anymore in any constitutional sense.

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