A Double-E G-G? - Macleans.ca

A Double-E G-G?


In the journalism game, we call it “burying the lede”. Friday’s Postmedia papers have a column by Stephen Maher in which he waxes utopian about “modernizing” Canada’s monarchy by introducing an elected head of state. “Pfaugh,” I hear you say, “I’ve read it all before.” For the most part, you have. After all, most of the heavy lifting in the argument is done by the mere use of the loaded word “modernizing”; who’s against modernity? Maher chats admiringly about other countries (Jamaica and Ireland) for a few hundred words before letting fly with an easily-overlooked bomblet of originality:

If the prime minister is able to hold consultative elections to select senators—a question the Supreme Court may ultimately decide—then surely we could select our governor-general the same way.

My reaction to this idea was: “Good heavens, I suppose that’s right.” I’ve never heard anyone suggest it before, even in technical literature on the constitution. But like Senate elections, it would appear to be a natural consequence of responsible government: the prime minister can presumably use whatever process he likes—a reality show, a Ouija board, a lottery—to arrive at a candidate for recommendation to the Queen.

It’s hard even to count the things that would have to happen before it would be in some credible political leader’s interests to advocate an elected governor-general. But, then, it wasn’t political leadership that got the Senate-reform ball rolling in the first place.


A Double-E G-G?

  1. Bagehot ~ The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other. 

    I don’t have many conservative tendencies but modernity can kiss my arse when it comes to our system of Government. Right now we appoint obscure CBC journos to GG and they can’t do much damage but if we start elections we will select popular CBC journos –  Mansbridge v Cherry in first election for GG – and they will have legitimacy of having been elected. It would be dystopian.  

    No reason for any PM to change system from how it is now – GG is lackey, if elected they have own power base and agenda. 

    • So you’re for the status quo in the senate then i presume?

      • The point of the senate is that people want it to be EEE, that is elected, effective, and equal.   That means giving it its own power base and agenda, namely balancing regional interests against being run roughshod over the majority in the large cities.

        That’s why the NDP wants to abolish the senate, because they like the idea of the power resting primarily where the bulk of the population is. 

        • Oh i know what the point of a EEE senate is; i just don’t happen to support it. Setting up a rival elected  house to the commons is not in my mind a very smart thing to do – unless you’re a fan of legislative gridlock.

          • Well yes, that is partially the point.  There is a sentiment that the cities shouldn’t be able to run roughshod over everyone else, simply because there is a large concentration of people who earn their living the same way (wage-earning consumers).   A little bit of legislative gridlock is considered pleasant in those circumstances by the people who are getting run roughshod over by the friendly dictatorship.

          • If there was an elected senate by region, the current seat distribution in the house would become completely unfair.  It would be absolutely necessary to finally redistribute seats based on actual population. 

            And people who like a little bit of gridlock obviously haven’t thought too much about it.

          • Why don’t we just give rural-dwellers 10 votes each? In the name of democracy no less.

        • Perhaps that’s because they perceive the bulk of their support being in densely populated areas?

        • Absolutely, after all, everybody knows the more land you own, the more power you should have in government.

      • I don’t even know what status-quo in Senate is anymore, so I am not sure.I would like better quality of people within Senate and I don’t care if they elected or appointed by PM. 

        I should be careful what I wish for but Senate should be for people who have exhibited commitment to their communities as long as it’s not connected to politics. No more bagmen, failed MPs, jobs for the boys, msm types …. etc. 

        I want do-gooders as my sober second thought types, not clowns we have now. 

        Burke ~ Reflections On French Revolution:

        To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.

    • I share your feelings. However, Monarch/GG and Senators are not lackeys to the PM.  Their  roles  are protectors of democracy, not actors in democracy; they’re the lackeys of the people of Canada who govern themselves by electing deputies to a parliament.  At coronation the monarch swears to govern according to our laws and customs, hence a PM who looses the confidence of the house  looses the legitimacy to use the monarchial powers passed on to him when he is appointed PM.

      Senate is for ensuring that the voice of the minority is heard – the majority being the majority vote of parliament – because in a democracy dissent has a right to be heard. What I strongly oppose is the arrival of Senators who publicly declare that they will work to further the agenda of a prime minister.  This is scandalous.  Their role is to listen respectfully to the people of Canada who appear before their committees, with an open-mind and away from partisan politics, and to recommend to the HoC amendments when something might have been missed.  That’s why I think, and put my view to you before, that Senators should not be part of political caucus. Our PM is not God, our ministers are not popes and the majority in the house have a right and obligation of fairness to the people they represent, NOT TO THE PEOPLE WHO VOTE FOR THEM.

      • I agree about partisan Senate – wish Canadian politics took Senate seriously and used it as proper debating chamber that isn’t connected with partisan politics. That’s why I would only allow do-gooders in Senate, no more partisan appointments to reward past behaviour. 

        • I could get behind that. It also has the beneficial property of not triggering a constitutional crisis.

          • Sounds good to me too. There are more ways of serving this country and your community then carrying water for a political party.
            Just for fun though, let’s play devils advocate; is it possible a chamber full of people with no political experience could be a disaster in itself.

        • Fortunately, we have a way to achieve that now.

          Elect better governments.

  2. Depending on which movement progresses the fastest, we could find ourselves one day living in a Canada that works exactly as how Naboo works in the Star Wars prequels: our Queen is elected, but our Senators are appointed.

  3. Of course we could elect a GG….the Order of Canada members could do it, or the Senate, or the population at large….and we could eliminate the monarchy in Canada.

    I doubt you’ll find much appetite for doing any of this though.

    It probably won’t be a priority until Charles is king.

    • The point, and it can scarcely be surprising that you missed it, is that we could have an elected GG without tampering with the monarchy or with the constitution.

      • Well we’ve known that all along…where have you been?

      • No.  The GG would remain an appointee, just like the PM is an appointee, and just like the Senators from Alberta are appointees.  Small wonder with journalists like you that 50% of Canadians believe we elect our prime minister.  As long as the PM has the confidence of house, she would still have all the power to recommend whoever she wants and the monarch or rep an obligation to acquiesce.

        • Well we can elect anyone we want….senators, the GG, the Queen for that matter….it’s only a matter of custom that we don’t, and customs can change.

          I just don’t see any benefit to it. It would lessen democracy, not enhance it.

          The whole point of having a hereditary monarch, an appointed GG, and appointed senators is to keep partisanship out of it….they are people who can make decisions without worrying about ‘selling’ it at the next election. They can afford to think of the good of the country as a whole, and not one bill or plan by politicians who come and go.

      • It would only be a pseudo-elected GG, as it would always then be at the pleasure of the PM whether the supposed winner is appointed.

        • The person would actually be elected in an election. Being elected would not be a SUFFICIENT condition for them to assume the office, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been elected.

          • So… if I hold a poll and elect you as the dumbest moron, does that mean you’ve been elected dumbest moron, or does that mean that elections which don’t need to be paid attention to have no validity?

          • Your argument here is “invalid elections are invalid”? Well, OK.

          • Indeed, and an election that doesn’t have to be followed (such as for a GG) doesn’t count as a valid election, hence those saying the position would still be an appointed one are correct.

          • Remember Michael Fortier?  He ran for election, was defeated, was appointed to the Senate and then given important money portfolios in cabinet.   And the people of Canada saw nothing wrong with this and gave with overwhelming support to the PM who did this.  

            Even if we vote to place the names of people on a list for possible nomination to the Senate, the PM is under no obligation to name a person from that list.  And a PM who would appoint whoever he wants may  not even be sanctioned by the electorate.  Certainly, we’ve just seen the proof of this.  These elections would have no value. So why force the provinces to hold these –  indeed, why the provinces? 

  4. The PM cannot unilaterally make grand changes to the unwritten constitution.  The Queen, petitioned, would be entirely justified in refusing to appoint an elected (and therefore democratically legitimate) GG. 

    • First sentence good, second sentence bad without adding “unrecommended”

    • I’m not sure if that’s true. Just brainstorming, but wouldn’t an elected GG  under our constitution still have to represent the Monarchy? This would render the whole thing kind of pointless and potentially dangerous as the authority/role of the constitutional Monarchy would now be represented by a democratic officer/head of state…a userper To my mind that would be like mixing matter and anti-matter…eventually Kaboom!!!
      Sooner or later it’ll occur to someone…maybe even Harper to try it.

  5. Because the governor general is an arbiter over the parliamentary
    process, it’s very risky to turn that over to an elective process.  It
    would cause some of the same problems as gerry-mandering, or the whole
    supreme court appointment fiascos in the States, in which political battles infuse the judicial or elective processes.

    That’s different from the Senate, which is composed of individuals who are expected to have political agendas.  The governor general is supposed to be someone who simply adjucates over parliamentary transitions, and it would be dangerous to start electing someone to that position who might end up taking on agendas in support of one party over another.

    Of course, since the GG is appointed by the PM, there remains the risk that the position is politicized even today. But I suspect that in the event of elections for the position, the risk would be far greater.

    • I basically agree with this. But it’s a fascinating, and as far as I know new, idea.

      • Yes, it’s an interesting thought.  The election campaign promises would be quite different.

        “Under my watch: No more prorogations!”

        “Vote for me, and you can expect me to fight for a friendlier atmosphere in parliament!”