Completely out of touch

So apparently one of the candidates for the presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada says that they need to bring in new ideas. In particular, Mike Crawley thinks we should debate the role of the Monarchy in Canada. Is this the best they’ve got? Because, if so, we are completely and utterly in trouble. If the Liberals cannot rebuild their party we will be stuck with some brand of a Stephen Harper government for the foreseeable future.

I have a few suggestions for the LPC if they can’t think of new ideas:

  • Re-assess the relationship between the government and the governed. Our first-past-the-post system is broken. We need a much more representative government with some mechanisms to make our voices heard in between elections.
  • They must engage youth. If the LPC were smart they would tap into the energy of the Occupy Movement in Canada. They need to harness and organize the movement’s ideas and use some of their methods. If the Occupiers feel valued and listened to by the LPC they will gain a whole new constituency.
  • The must look at the relationship between corporations and consumers and corporations and their employees. There needs to be some serious discussion about consumer rights and corporations being held accountable. Similarly, corporations must be regulated when it comes to how they treat their employees. The situation at the Caterpillar plant should be high on the government’s agenda.
  • As a country we must pledge to stop filling the DTES with new souls. Every child must be given a minimum standard of living and access to opportunity. We must eradicate poverty and invest heavily in child development programs. Finally, we must value stay-at-home parents. It has been proven time and time again that children who are stimulated intellectually by a parent at home have much better outcomes.

As for the Monarchy, who really cares? Besides the odd Royal Visit and the need for extra security it really does not cost as that much. In fact, given the last couple of Royal visits, it would seem that the Monarchy is more popular than ever.

The Meaning of a Word

Today the Government of Canada has decided to add the word ‘royal’ back in to the official names of the Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Navy. The word Royal was removed in 1968 when the Canadian Forces were amalgamated. The 1960s was also a time in Canadian history when we were trying to move away from our British ties. It was a time of Canadian pride and a change in direction. Canada was starting to align ourselves more with the United States as they began to eclipse Britain as our major trading partner.

Of course this change has garnered both positive and negative resposnes. Those in favour, generally monarchists, love the return of the word ‘royal’ to our Airforce and Navy. They support the monarchy and love anything that expresses our relationship to it. The detractors think we should keep the ‘royal’ out of our armed forces. It is not like the monarchy helps to pay the expenses associated with our military. Peter McKay states the change was made to align us with our Commonwealth countries who have ‘royal’ in their names. I think he is grasping at straws. I think the name change definitely tells us something important and may even be a predictor of things to come with the Harper government.

I really don’t care if we have the word ‘royal’ in front of the names of the various branches of our military. Even before Peter MacKay adding it back in we still had references to royalty for example, ‘Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry’. The fact is we live in a constitutional monarchy and our head of state is the Queen’s representative in Canada. We have the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet what does it matter if our military has ‘royal’ in the name.

Returning to the past is something conservatives[1] value. They believe that the values of the past are superior to current values. Conservatism, by nature, is a reactionary political belief system. One thing we can expect for sure is very little to no progression on social issues. What will be interesting to see is if they begin to attack and roll back some of the progress the LGTB community has made. I can’t imagine they would try to roll back same-sex marriage. However, they may try to convert our marriages to civil unions or some other name. They won’t be able to take away the legal privileges we have as married couples but they may take the word away from us. After all, if they can add a word why can’t they take one away?

[1] In this I mean small-c conservative. Conservatism is defined by Wikipedia as: is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were.

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!