GG vs PMO: The Slovenian Theatre -

GG vs PMO: The Slovenian Theatre


The Governor General is in Slovenia today, and she weighed in on Canada’s immigration troubles. Help me out here — is this appropriate subject matter for the GG? The second quotation in particular seems to get a bit too close to policy. At any rate, I don’t imagine the PMO will be too happy with this.

“The (immigration) system is right now almost overloaded and requires that we look at it carefully because we want to keep our good ways of doing things,” Michaelle told a joint news conference with Slovenian President Danilo Turk at the start of a two day visit to EU member Slovenia.

The European Union warned Tuesday that it would take retaliatory action against Canada unless its authorities lifted visa requirements by the end of the year for citizens from the Czech Republic imposed after refugee claims soared.

“This specific issue of the visa is, I would say, something that we are looking at carefully because it is a matter also of putting in place the right administrative measures in order to make sure we can manage large flow of demands,” Jean said.

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GG vs PMO: The Slovenian Theatre

  1. Was she saying these things in her capacity as our Head of State?

  2. given that she is out of the country she is no doesnt even have formal power, that would be Bev McLauglin while MJ is in the EU.

    I dont think she said anything the government disagrees with, she just shouldnt say anything.

    Sigh, if she finds the job requirements too restricting nobody is saying she has to serve her full term.

  3. "given that she is out of the country she is no doesnt even have formal power, that would be Bev McLauglin while MJ is in the EU"

    I'm not sure what this means, but I'm almost positive that it contains (yet another) fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the office of Governor General.

  4. "is this appropriate subject matter for the GG? "

    Who cares? We don't have a PM who's doing the job he's supposed to either.

    In fact, no one's doing their jobs. They're all to busy tweeting and wasting company time commenting on blo…

    …er, never mind.

  5. I imagine Harper cuts her some slack on these issues and only gets involved if too many other start complaining like the Monarchists did the other day. It must be one of the worlds hardest jobs to be the GG and have little or no real ability to do anything and at the same time say little or nothing but somehow make it it appear to be real and actually have some influence …

  6. given that she is out of the country she doesn't even have formal power

    That's an interesting interpretation of the constitution. How do you figure? Sure, there are some duties that a delegate may perform on behalf of the Governor General if said duties require a physical presence while the GG is out of the country, but that's not nearly the same thing as her powers somehow evaporating once she leaves Canadian shores.

    Saying that the GG loses all formal power the moment she steps outside of the country, based on the fact that certain duties can be performed by others in her physical absence, seems to me to be as inane as suggesting that the Queen isn't Head of State because she's delegated certain "Head of State" powers to the Governor General.

    • Aren't some of her duties, including visiting foreign nations, on behalf of the Canadian government? Or does she create her own travelocity account and just drop in? Nothing that she said above seemed to conflict with the government's own 'uncohesive message' to my eyes, either.

  7. The post of Governor General is an anachronism, and by extension so is the Queen of England irrelevant to democracy in Canada. Additionally when a prominent Canadian is appointed to be Governor General there is a huge elevation in prominence for him/her with semi-royalty treatment and lavish expensive opportunities (i.e. witness the excesses of Adrienne Clarkson). Now the Governor General elevates herself to be Head of State. Quit this nonsense!
    England persists with providing a royal family with extremely lavish lifestyles. Let us not do it in Canada.

    • It's true, the position of the Queen of England is definitely an anachronism in the 21st century. That's only because there hasn't been a "Queen of England" since 1707!!! The Act of Union merged the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. It became the Kingdom of Great Britain, which after the 1801 Act, became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Queen's British title is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    • We have a choice: republic or monarchy. In a republic, you diffuse power and accountability by making it seem the President is in charge, but s/he has to work through Congress. In a constitutional monarchy, the legislators have power and entrust it to the PM – theoretically. As we have seen over the last 40 years, that relationship has been distorted out of all recognition.

      Nonethless, I wouldn't waste energy worrying about our GG, in terms of priorities. And slagging Clarkson or anyone else for a "lavish" lifestyle is also ignorant of the Executive's role in authorizing and directing activities and destinations indulged in by the GG. Sure she gets to put a stamp on it, but don't pretend she has carte blanche.

  8. Well, I would like to live as Governor General in splendor, free, with servants, access to the rich and powerful, able to travel the world at will, with really no real "job". And no travel agent to deal with, no restrictions, no money concerns about the travel arrangements, take your best friends,servants and "hangers-on", eat the very best, stay in the very best accomodations, tour the world at large!!

    And where is the average Canadian taxpayer? A peon that pays his/her taxes in support for such an anachronistic irrelevant person in Canada.

  9. Prof Wiseman brought it attention last week I believe. Essentially that the GG's powers are geographically based, both of the sovereign and of the GG. Vestige of a time when communication did not travel as fast I suspect.

    From Mr Wisemans Oct 12th letter to the Globe

    "Section 9 of the Constitution Act, 1867, designates the Queen as head of state by giving her “Authority of and over Canada.” The Governor- General is the de facto head of state in the Queen's absence. When she referred to herself as “head of state” in Paris, she was not even the de facto head of state. Section 10 makes “the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator” (usually the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) the head of state in her absence. That is precisely why Ms. Jean rushed back from Prague last December to address the constitutional kerfuffle. Outside of Canada, she is not the constitutional head of anything.

    Nelson Wiseman, Toronto"

  10. When I was in government I had this dream of the PM asking our real Head of State to lead a major Team Canada trade mission to the UK. It makes sense that our real Head of State lead the delegation since she had such high profile in Britain. But the dream always fell apart when I wondered who would met her at the airport without insulting Canada.

  11. And that sort of reasoning is precisely why we need constitutional law experts and not political science professors weighing in on these types of issues.

  12. what because his opinion doesnt match yours? It seems like a reasonable reading of the section and you can probably find a constitutional law prof who could read it either way. That there is a geographic sense to the power makes sense to me, as it was written not how it would be written today.

    At the end of the day the Queen is the head of state, the GG is her representative. The one thing that is clear is that the moment the Queen steps off of a plane the GG is a name on a dinner guest list, her formal power ceases.

    Another point, the GG is largely a ceremonial position that represents the crown and can exercise those enormous reserve powers only in a crisis, do you really think the GG should go around using the power to annul legislation, even at the provincial level?.

    Sacagawea carried a Baby with her while she acted as a guide/translator for Lewis and Clarke, Ms Jean or any GG for that matter has as much claim to being a real political actor as that baby did to discovering America. She is there by accident and circumstance and should probably keep that in mind until the position is changed by legitimate representatives of the people.

    • "Opinion"???

      Here's sections 9 and 10 of the Constitution Act:

      Declaration of Executive Power in the Queen

      9. The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.

      Application of Provisions referring to Governor General

      10. The Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General extend and apply to the Governor General for the Time being of Canada, or other the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator for the Time being carrying on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the Name of the Queen, by whatever Title he is designated.

      How can those two sections possibly be interpreted as establishing a "geographic sense to the power" in any sense even remotely approaching what you and Wiseman are suggesting?

      And as for "That is precisely why Ms. Jean rushed back from Prague last December to address the constitutional kerfuffle". Yeah, sure. It couldn't possibly have been because discussing the dissolution of an elected Parliament over the phone would be inane. It must be because her powers as GG are magically limited by her physical position as determined by GPS.

  13. And if the schedule with Australian mission got mixed up and they arrived at the same time. It would be a me myself and I conversation.

  14. I believe the phrase that the interpretation would hang on is "the Time being of Canada" . This appears to be a succession clause, for when there isnt a GG. Defintiely covers the situation where a GG might pass and a new one isnt appointed yet. Wiseman clearly feels that the phrase indicates physical presence in country….it isnt obvious on this phrasing that it isnt what they meant.

    Time to consult some protocol experts. Is the Bev Mclaughlin allowed out of the country at the same time as the GG. What happens when the GG goes out of country, is some designation made…these things would matter, control of the armed forces etc.

    Unlike the US constitution it doesnt make reference to incapacitation, which presumes the office travels around.

    And by the way, I am not advocating, if this is true it is an amazing quirk in how our government works.

    The Queens physical position defintiely determines the power of the GG so I wouldnt dismiss it so quickly, it isnt implausible.

  15. Is it possible that PMO has vetted some of this, and even requested that Her Excellency convey a certain message to certain countries?

    And, even with that, I am STILL not sure that it's a good idea.

  16. Interesting discussion.

    Re: the Queens presence here. Could the GG sign a law while she was in the by ward market? In one scenario for sure, where the Queen says please do this. But it raises a question of explicitness. Without the Queen directing her to do so you enter the point that would have been the intent to avoid, that is single and clear line of authority. The problem wouldnt be if the Queen said don't, then its a clear breaking of a command, it is the unclear question where she is present.

    Summary: IT isnt so much a constitutional law expert I want to hear from but someone who has been in government, the PCO or Rideau hall who can address what actually happens when the Queen is present. The actions, driven by years of convention, protocol and rules would tell us what we want to know.

  17. The Byward example is purely hypothetical of course, as I'm quite certain no GG would actually sign something into law while the Queen was actually visiting (at least, not without explicitly clearing it with the Sovereign first) just for the sake of optics alone. However, to me I view your "In one scenario for sure, where the Queen says please do this" point a little differently.

    As I view it, the Sovereign has already said "please do this" through the letters patent of 1947 that delegated said authority to the Governor General. I didn't have time to re-read the letter in full just now, but I don't think it has any sort of "unless I'm there" clause in it. So, it would be rude, and perhaps a violation of protocol for such an event to occur, but I don't think it would be at all unconstitutional. The Sovereign has delegated this power to the Governor General. Certainly, the Sovereign can still exercise this power personally, if she wishes (and it's customary for the Sovereign to sign some acts into law when visiting, certainly Acts of particular import) but I don't see that as actually negating the Governor General's ability to do so.

    Of course, the Letters Patent do have the "We do hereby reserve to Ourselves, Our heirs and successors, full power and authority from time to time to revoke, alter, or amend these Our Letters Patent as to Us or them shall seem fit" line, so the Queen can always take back those powers she's delegated to the GG at the stroke of the pen (which is one of the things that makes the "Head of State" argument so tedious: How can the GG be Head of State just because the Sovereign's delegated some powers to her if all the Sovereign has to do to take that back is write a letter saying "I take that back", but whatever…) but to my mind, sans the writing of a new letter, the GG retains the ability to do all those things that have been delegated to her, even if the Sovereign is present, though it would be highly impolitic to actually do so in most cases.