Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What I Sent the Globe and Mail

I never heard back from the Globe and Mail about this submission to their Op-Ed Page. Fortunately, I have a blog.

Is Time Running Out for Canada's Republicans?

Well, this was the week for republican rants in The Globe and Mail. Allan Fotheringham (05 May 08), gave a dubious account of history that linked Canada's Crown to the mess Mugabe's making in Zimbabwe. Then Bloc Leader, Gilles Duceppe, attacked the Governor General for doing her job by representing all Canadians, including Francophones outside Quebec.

So what's causing these outbursts from depression babies like Fotheringham (only six years younger than the Queen) and proto-boomers like Duceppe (who's turns 61 in July)? Could time is running out on their dreams of re-creating Canada/Quebec in their own images?

It appears that, even in like countries like Australia, supposedly way ahead of Canada on its path to a presidential utopia, republicans are in trouble. This showed up in my in-box this morning:

"The West Australian 2006 survey of youth attitudes showed that support for a republic in the 18 to 30 age group had fallen to 38%. Then the Morgan poll of 22 February 2005 found that only 37% of those aged 14-17 were in favour of a republic. Now in 2008, this has fallen to a dismal 23%, with 64% supporting the constitutional monarchy and 13% undecided. Some undecided voters may be just unwilling to reveal their intentions; in any event they tend to vote No in a referendum. And it is not only that young people are disinterested in a republic. It is that they are positively interested in their past and their heritage. The republican attempt to shred our flag has collapsed. It looks now as if the republican attempt to shred our constitution is going the same way. The overall result is equally dismal for republicans. Support for a republic is at 45%, the lowest for 15 years.

There are signs the same trend is showing itself in Canada. For example, a 2005 Globe and Mail poll put support for the Monarchy at an unprecedented 82%. A 2007 Angus Reid poll found that youth supported the monarchy more strongly than Canadians aged 35-54. (This increase in support among youth was evident even though the survey questions have been attacked as biased and confusing. For example, Angus Reid asked Canadians if they wished to end formal ties to the British Monarchy. In fact, the Queen ended formal links between between the Canadian and British Monarchies when she signed the Constitution Act of 1982)

Despite their negative nit-picking at our Constitution for the last 40 years, republicans haven't succeeding in convincing enough Canadians that their vision is best for Canada. They claim to support democracy and accountability. So why is it that they never mention this article in the Constitution Act 1982?

41. An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assemblies of each province:
(a) the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province;

In plain English: The Crown's place in Canada cannot be changed without approval from the Senate, House of Commons and every provincial legislature.

Since in some regions, like Atlantic Canada, support for the Crown reaches over 80%, that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Besides, on her worst day, the Queen's poll results are usually higher than the Prime Minister's.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the man who reformed of Canada's Divorce Act and legalized homosexuality, presided over the Repatriation of the Constitution. Trudeau was clearly not afraid of unpopularity or change. But in 1982, when he had his chance to weaken the Crown's place in the Constitution, he entrenched it. Why?

Maybe after years of governing this country, Mr. Trudeau came to the same conclusion the Fathers of Confederation came to in 1867: That remaining a Constitutional Monarchy with a shared Head of State is the best path for Canada.

Canada could have become a republic in 1867. It could also have become part of the United States. (Some British bureaucrats wanted to buy peace and trade with the Yanks at almost any price.) But those options were rejected. Not by the British. They were rejected by Canadians.

Canadians, not British bureaucrats, came up with the vision of nationhood for Canada, fully equal to Britain, and a shared Crown. They believed they could retain their cultural, economic, and political connections and still be a sovereign nation. That success of that vision led to the birth of dozens of nations. And eventually to the creation of the Commonwealth. Canadians should take great pride in this.

The guy who convinced Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Etienne Cartier to pursue this dream was Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt. In the 19th Century, Galt was as controversial and enigmatic as Trudeau was in the 20th.

By the time Galt died in 1893, this one time annexationist and rebel, was as attached to his radical new vision of reforming the British Empire into a Federation (decades before there was a Commonwealth) as he had been to federating British North America in the 1850's and 1860's.

The Fathers of Confederation considered many options for Canada. But they came to the conclusion that a federated empire with a shared Crown was the best political, economic and cultural path for Canada.

Could they have stumbled on something that took psychologists like Abraham Maslow another 60 years to discover: that self-actualized, creative people flourish in an interdependent state that values relationships and gives them leverage in the world?

Maybe sharing a Head of State isn't a sign of immaturity. If so, then monarchists may have a broader view of Canada's place in the world. And maybe, just maybe, their eyes are more firmly fixed on Canada's future.



Jane Harris Zsovan (Jane Harris) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Harris Zsovan (Jane Harris) said...

Michael in Alberta, emailed the following comment. He had difficulty posting this comment, so I'm adding it for him. Jane, 9:47 pm 27 May 08

"An eloquent post.

For me, the monarchy's role in Canadian politics has been transitioned fully from a role oriented towards the exercise of power to a role oriented towards the maintenance of cultural and traditional links with some 50 odd other former British colonies.

There are many more serious problems with the organization and execution of government in Canada for most people to be bothered.

Arguments like "it's a matter of principle" are moot.

Presidencies often don't work out so well for the people their supposed to govern, despite some obvious exceptions like France and the United States (following in the French tradition).

I think your point about the system we have being actually generally well designed needs to be brought up from time to time so that people focus their energies making smart criticism of the country."