Charles & Camilla

Apparently Charles and Camilla* are wending their way towards BC at this time. This Royal visit, as with all Royal visits sparks off the call-in shows asking whether we should abolish the monarchy all together. The problem with the question is that many people do not really understand the role of the monarchy in our political system.

Most countries have a head of state and a head of government and usually, these 2 positions are held by 2 different people. For example, in Canada the head of government is the Prime Minister and the head of state is the Governor-General who is the Queen’s representative in Canada. In Canada, if the Queen were here she would take over the responsibilities of the Governor-General, for example reading the speech from the throne. In most cases, the head of state only has ceremonial powers. In the United States, the President is both the head of state and the head of government.

Those who advocate abolishing the monarchy do not generally have anything in mind to replace the head of state functions. Having a separate head of state allows that person to rise above the politics that would otherwise hamstring a head of government. It means that the greeting of dignitaries and other heads of state can be done on behalf of all Canadians rather than it devolving to a partisan event. Although the Monarchy is completely out of date, I believe that there is value in retaining the monarchy.

Through the British Monarchy we are part of the British Commonwealth. We share closer relationships with other, former British colonies. These relationships may increase our ability to trade with other member nations. The Monarchy also provides a degree of continuity – while political heads may change, the head of state does not. It does cost money to support the monarchy however most of this is borne by British taxpayers. Canadians do pay to support the office of the Governor-General.

Having a separate head of state can be indispensable in times of political crisis. In times of unstable government, having a head of state who can make serious decisions and intervene if necessary is priceless. The Governor-General and the presence of the monarchy help to stabilize countries and provides guidance and a final decision making process.

Before we can entertain plans to eradicate the monarchy in Canada we would need to have serious discussions about what would replace it.

*Huh! I bet you all thought I was incapable of blogging about another subject other than H1N1 and dogs!

 

 

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Published in: on November 6, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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  1. How refreshing to discover that someone shares my favourable opinion of a monarch as head of state, and for the same reason–that the monarch “personif[ies] the continuity and legitimacy of the state.”

    I must point out, though, that the Queen, not the Governor-General, is Canada’s head of state. The GG acts on her behalf. This was in the news recently, but you were sick, Chris, so you wouldn’t have heard about it. Apparently the GG’s website referred to her as head of state, and she was called out on it. (I wondered whether she had anything to do with it, or if it was some functionary’s doing.)

    I’d also like to point out the value of the knowledge and experience the head of state accumulates. The Queen is highly conscientiousness about staying current about all of the countries she – um – reigns? (That term does seem anachronistic!) Prime ministers formally consult her–they’re constitutionally obliged to, but it goes beyond that. She has had an entirely unique view into the thinking of heads of government throughout 57 years. It strikes me that for them, she may serve as a kind of institutional memory. Trudeau praised her wisdom, and during Canada’s constitutional repatriation, the Canadian delegation found her well-informed about “the substance and the politics of Canada’s constitutional case.”

    She’s very courageous. She’s the last head of state who actually served in uniform in WWII, and at the end of the war she and her sister mingled anonymously with the celebrating crowds. “[W]e asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised … I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”

    (Writing this, I consulted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_II_of_the_United_Kingdom)

  2. Apparently, the GG has also been referred to as the head of state in Canada. I was listening to the CBC the other day when they mentioned that fact. I think that unless the Queen is actually in Canada then the GG can refer to herself as the head of state.


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