On the GG speculation: no contest - Macleans.ca

On the GG speculation: no contest

If former top soldier John de Chastelain is being considered, the job should be his


John de Chastelain’s name keeps popping up in speculation about who might be Canada’s next Governor General. I have no idea if Canada’s former top soldier is really being considered, but the way I see it, if the general is willing, there’s no question the job should be his.

Some Canadians will remember him from his years as chief of defence staff, though he was a far less in-your-face figure than one of his successors in the role. A few might recall that he helped settle the Oka standoff without bloodshed. His leadership during the ugly 1992 Somalia affair was viewed as flawed, but that hardly overshadows his other accomplishments in uniform. He was also briefly Canada’s ambassador in Washington.

But even that impressive record is dry stuff compared with de Chastelain’s retirement project: for the past decade and a half, he has applied himself with unquestioned integrity and tireless determination to the heavy task of overseeing the destruction of the arsenals of Northern Ireland’s fighting factions.

From the outset many doubted it could be done. Indeed, de Chastelain’s Independent International Commission on Decommissioning faced many setbacks along the way. But they prevailed. Under “the general’s” trusted eye, between 2001 and 2005, the notorious Provisional IRA rendered “beyond use” its stockpile of Libyan-supplied guns and bombs and ammunition. Other armed groups followed, up to the decommissioning early this year of the weapons cache of the once murderous Ulster Defence Association.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair praised de Chastelain, along with his fellow commissioners, Andy Sens of the U.S. and Tauno Nieminen of Finland, “for their authoritative and effective oversight of this process.”

Ted Kennedy credited de Chastelain for his “leadership and patience.” That was in a speech the late, legendary U.S. senator gave at University of Ulster, in Derry, Northern Ireland—on Jan. 8, 1998. Little did Kennedy know how much more patience de Chastelain, then just three years into the job, would need before he was done.

John Hume, the former leader of Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party, in his speech on accepting the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with John Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party, paid tribute to de Chastelain by putting him on a short list of key figures who “so clearly facilitated the negotiation” of peace.

Do we really have another contender of that sort of accomplishment? A few commentators have suggested that at 70 he might be too old. Not by the look of his recent workload. And it’s not as if he’s some dour soldier who would be downer in Rideau Hall. He plays bagpipes and paints in oils.


On the GG speculation: no contest

  1. Personally I disagree : I think Kim Campbell would be the most perfect choice. Excellent knowledge of entire system, Former PM (the first woman PM) and most of all because she is from my neck of the woods and the lady is sharp as a tack and the bestest part is that this would drive the left wing loonie crowd completely insane with their heads exploding all over web forums everywhere …. and let us not forget the GG convention about taking turns between english and french and this will be the english' turn so it works all around!

    • Can we have her after this one? I agree she'd be a wonderful GG (I always did like her, and the biggest criticism on her is now almost universally acknowledged to be the truth) but I think it might be a good idea to mix things up a bit and we haven't had a man, especially a military man, for some time (if ever?)

      • Rick HIllier.

        Thanks. Bye.

      • Last one was Major-General Georges P. Vanier, 15 Sep 1959 to 5 Mar 1967 when he died in office.

      • Just wanted to point out that no-one ever thinks we can't have a man because we've had so many in a row.

        I'm reconciled to the fact that we're going to get a small-c conservative of some kind, even though that's not my personal background, and either de Chastelain or Campell would be fine with me.

        • That's a specious argument. It would be as easy to say that we had Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean as GGs because someone apparently thought we'd had too many men in a row before them.
          Pendulums swing one way, and then another. It is called balance.
          Personally, I'm just grateful that none of the rumoured GG candidates are former CBC hacks. Not yet, in any case. MP Lee Richardson might be bending the PM's ear with a suggestion, however :-)

    • psiclone on "Mad Dog" Shelley Glover: "Shelley is spot on and this lady knows her stuff – she makes the critics looks silly and ill prepared but I guess it's damn hard to argue with someone who actually KNOWS what they are talking about! Go ahead thumb me down fols but … mark my words here .. this lady is dynamite and devfinitely going places – and she's hot as well!"

      So let's totally take him srsly on the selection of the next Governor-General. Clearly the man knows the Ladies and knows who's "hot!" Look out Mary Hart, here's your next co-host!

    • Kim Campbell would actually be a good choice.

      • I strongly disagree Kim Campbell is not a good choice to hold any public post, she was a huge mistake.

        • I think Kim would do an excellent job. I think she is probably enjoying life too much right now to want to take it on at this point though. And the PM is unlikely to appoint an overtly political person to the job.

    • Does it matter that she has not resided full-time in Canada — by choice — since she completed her term as Consul-General in Los Angeles in 2000, and that she recently testified before the Airbus inquiry that she followed Canadian politics only "intermittently"?

      • Heck of a lot better than Iggy's 1970 departure, isn't it? But she's nowhere near wanting to become prime minister, is she? In fact, she chose to stay here as an adult and in fact become one for a wee bit. Iggy preferred to be British or American until the second the Liberals promised him Canadian rule on a silver platter. I guess it's something he can brag about to his friends at Harvard and Cambridge – unless we little folk have something to say about it, of course. So far, he doesn't seem much to care about democratic processes and such. But, heck, that won't stop his worshipers from bashing Harper over democratic rule, will it?

  2. Do we really have another contender of that sort of accomplishment?

    Probably not.

    But Harper is going to appoint a long-time crony to that post, not somebody with a record of accomplishment who would want to be independent, like that pain-in-the-neck parliamentary budget officer, for example.

    • as opposed to another CBC hack with an agenda?

    • His appointment of David Onley as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario was hardly the picking of a "long-time" crony. So I hardly think Harper is the kind of one-dimensional tyrant that you bashers make him out to be. And since when is the GG supposed to be a "pain-in-the-neck" for the government? You make it sound as though every person appointed by the government should hate Harper as much as you do. Heck, we already have a civil service just like that! lol

      • I actually don't hate Harper, Dennis_F***, because that would imply strong emotions, and I'm not sure anybody, not even his wife and kids, would admit to feeling strongly about the man, lol.

        I consider him to be one of the most inconsequential PMs of Canada, especially given that he's been around for four years now.

        Do I want to see him gone? Yes, sure. But I thought Paul Martin Jr. and the Liberals needed to be replaced too, and he was, and we ended up with Harper.

        Unlike you, who is apparently paid to be a 24/7 sycophant, I kind of want our leaders to exceed our expectations. Stupid, eh?

        • This is exactly what I'm talking about Here you are using "F***" for my last name, and accuse me of being a "24/7 sycophant." This is what the Harper bashers do. You come on here spewing this stuff non-stop, and cringe when you're called on it, then all you leftist friends click "thumbs-up" like trained apes. lol

          • way to say it … right spot on!

      • "His appointment of David Onley as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario was hardly the picking of a "long-time" crony."

        Don't the Premiers and provincial government generally have a lot of say in the choice of Lieutenant-Governor? It isn't in the PM's (or G-G's) interest to foist someone on a province who doesn't enjoy some degree of support. The PM recommends the appointment to the GG, but I think the provincial government does most of the choosing.

        • This is the first I've heard of it. My understanding is that it's completely the prime minister's call. But I'm not an expert.

  3. de Chastelain *isn't* French?? Whodathunkit?

  4. Pontificating at CBC seems to be all that's required for the GG's post to date.

    Real life world experience and accomplishments – that would be a change.

    • I must have missed it when Monck and Lisgar and Dufferin and Lorne and Lansdowne and Preston and Aberdeen and Minto and Grey and Connaught and Devonshire and Byng and Bessborough and Tweedsmuir and Athlone and Alexander and Vincent Massey and Georges Vanier and Roland Michener (apart from a 1980s PSA) and Jules Léger and Ed Schreyer and Ray Hnatyshyn pontificated at the CBC. Even those who did work at the CBC seemed to report more than pontificate.

      • There are some accomplished people in that crowd, no doubt.

        Let's get back to that tradition instead of appointing government media bureaucrats.

        Canada's deserves better than that.

  5. John de Chastelain sounds like a great choice for GG.

  6. Yeah, a military leader for Head of State (sorry, representative of the Head of State). Woo!

    • He's retired.

    • Well, given that the GG is technically our Commander in Chief…why not a military leader?

  7. Dunno… does a de Chastelain appointment garner any new votes for the Cons.?

    Not ethnic. Not French – although the name might fool some not playing close attention. Not a "northerner". Solid military and international resumé, as Mr. Geddes as argued.

    Apart from being likely to receive widespread support, what does a de Chastelain appointment yield politically for the Cons? A reasonable expectation is that this PM would not be content with an "accomplished" appointee but by nature, would want a political benefit. Don't see it.

    • The "political benefit" would be to be seen to fill an important non-partisan job in a respectful, responsible, and non-partisan manner. The PM has taken his worst hits politcally (somewhat deservedly) when he is seen to act in an overly partisan manner. Being seen to rise above politics and recommend a good, non-partisan GG would help erase the memory of times when he has been seen to be a bit too political.

  8. I thought Rick Hansen's name had come up? He'd be a good choice and win a few votes in BC.

    • I think that was just speculation.

      • Rick would be a great choice, and BC has never had a native son or daughter as GG. He is handicapped by his uniligualism, and his dedication to his own charity on spinal research. He may not want to take five years away from that project. He would, by any other measure, be an inspiring choice.

        • I like him too, he is very Canadian!

  9. "A few might recall that he helped settle the Oka standoff without bloodshed.'

    ??? I seem to recollect some blood being shed at Oka, or was that before he was involved?

    • See above comment. Before and during. The Mohawk women did more to prevent bloodshed.

      • Oh please -more mythology in an attempt to feed the myth of the brave, noble native warrior. If the Mohawk men wanted a piece of the Canadian military, they could have had some anytime. They turned tail and ran. Remember the nose to nose standoff between the Mohawk and the young Canadian soldier? Guess who backed down? Hint – it wasn't the soldier.

  10. That is an impressive resume and I hope he continues to do similar fine work. My single reservation would be a lack of specfic background regarding the thorny constitutional issues surrounding the role of the GG (I've said before I think this time we need an eminent scholar in that specific area.

    • Michaelle Jean received opinions from eminent scholars before making her prorogation decision.

      We don't need the actual scholar as GG. We'd end up with lawyers all over the place. That profession is already overepresented in positions of power. Without going so far as the sentiment uttered in the Shakepeare play below, there are too many lawyers, we need to diversify:

      God save your majesty!
      I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
      and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
      that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.
      The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
      Nay, that I mean to do.

      Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

      • I'm not sure we're the worse for wear for having these lawyers, though. Who better to work for and as lawmakers than people who have facility with the law itself?

    • I think you're absolutely right.
      I also think that de Chastelain is the kind of man who would both take the job seriously enough and be sharp enough to learn whatever he needs to learn in short order.

  11. Sorry, but Oka wasn't resolved by de Chastelain and it wasn't without bloodshed.

    Firstly, a Surete du Quebec officer was shot when they fired on the barricades initially. Also, some CF cowboys went behind the lines and beat up at least one of the self-proclaimed warriors.

    Secondly, the only reason there wasn't bloodshed when the CAF eventually broke through the barricades is that the Mohawk women rushed around and prevented their men from retaliating.

    The whole affair was amped up by media briefings the Department of Justice held falsely claiming that the protesters had a large cache of automatic weapons behind the barricade.

    The fact that CAF either sent in, or didn't punish the antics of its members for going behind the wire, only prolonged the standoff.

    A major setback for Canada-First Nations relations. The best you can say is, at least they didn't shoot the protesters.

    • toby, and even that ignores that there was bloodshed after barricades were breached and during the arrests. Waneek Horn-Miller, a child at the time, was stabbed by a Canadian soldier. She later went on to represent Canada at the Olympics. Indeed she would make an excellent choice for GG.

      • i really wish John would correct this post.

  12. Mr. de Chastelain seems as good a choice as any.

    I'll be curious to see who Harper picks. My first, somewhat cynical, thought was that he would find some compliant Conservative to take the post. Someone who will let him prorogue any time he wants to.

    • I don't think one needs to be a "compliant Conservative" to let Harper prorogue any time he wants to. Heck, if that's all he's looking for, I don't see why he wouldn't be happy to just keep Jean.

  13. I had the honour to meet de Chastelain once. I think he'd be a good pick.

  14. How about Mike Duffy ,a fine journalist who did not take sides when reporting ……..Yes definitely ….Mike …he could double dip as senator and GG….Yes a wise choice

  15. I'm sure he would do a good job. It's too bad he's spent so much time working outside of the country lately, which I've been told is a very unpatriotic thing to do in Harper's Canada.

    • Actually, I don't think he chose to spend his entire life running away from here, nor has anyone actually been accused of being "unpatriotic" in "Harper's Canada" for doing so. Just obviously unqualified to lead us. And, so far, it shows.

  16. I have never heard of a provincial government having a role, even indirectly, in the choice of Lieutenant Governor. If there is a close relationship between a provincial government and the PM there may be some discussion, and certainly a wish to avoid controversy by appointing someone hostile to the provincial Premier of the moment, but the appointment is generally, in law and in practice, solely the decision of the PM (well, the GG, on his advice). This PM, in particular, has been scrupulous in not using the post as a reward for his political supporters. It would be very surprising if he made an appointment here that appeared to be partisan.

  17. Not de Chastelain, please! How about Rick Hillier – he's the best choice. Think about it!

  18. I believe John de Chastelain would be a good choice. He clearly understands patience an diplomacy, but has the ability to exert quiet influence where and when necessary. All that being said, I have great respect for our current GG. She has humanized the position and has clearly reached out to all Canadians. I wouldn't be the least bit upset if she was extended, and can't understand why that doesn't appear to be an option.

  19. Rick Mercer would be my choice. I think a little humor would keep the government on it's toes. And besides, have we ever had a GG from Newfoundland?

    • I think a little humor would keep the government on it's toes.</i?

      a) Then why would Mercer be your choice? Ha!

      b) This is at least the second person in this thread that seems to think that it's the GG's job to in some way oppose the government of the day — at least when non-leftists are in power. I suggest that some people learn about our system of government, and what the word "ceremonial" means, too. It's basically not the GG's job to do anything except do what they're told. Why? Cuz they're UN-elected.

  20. What about Tom Jackson? Canada needs a First Nations or Metis GG for the first time.