CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY IS A GIFT
Many people in Canada, especially in French-speaking Québec, often wonder aloud about why we still have a government based on the principles of Constitutional Monarchy. We regularly hear journalists, especially in the French-language media, complaining about how much the Lieutenant Governor and Governor General cost, and how supposedly insignificant they are.
I can tell you one thing, that as a former tour guide at Rideau Hall, the Official residence of our Governor General, the Vice-regal representative is a very active person. He or she represents Canada here at home and abroad, gives out honours and distinctions such as the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, decorations for bravery, literature, etc…
The GG, as he or she is known, also has various ceremonial responsibilities, opening and closing parliament, reading the Speech from the Throne, and choosing a new government, especially in the case of a possible crisis like we had before last Christmas. The GG is also the Chief Boy Scout in Canada, encouraging young people throughout our country to engage themselves in their community through Scouting.
The GG also welcomes and accepts the official letters of credence from foreign diplomats from throughout the world, an important ceremonial function which a head of state , or representative of a head of state must do.
All of these things would still need to be looked after by some sort of ceremonial President if we were to abolish the Monarchy and become a Republic. So there would still be a need for someone to be paid from taxpayer money to do all this stuff and to have an official residence in Ottawa and maybe even keep the one at the Citadel too!
Which brings me to the heart of the matter: We’ve maintained a Constitutional Monarchy here in Canada because, essentially, it’s a very stable and balanced form of nation-building system, or ‘projet de société’ as we say in Québec.
It combines the best elements of chivalry, honour, valour, and respect for tradition that we inherited from the Middle Ages, combined with all of the best elements of democratic reforms inherited from the French and American revolutions, as well as the English Civil War: Free speech, the Writ of Habeas Corpus, freedom of peaceful assembly, equality between men and women, parliamentary democracy, etc…
In fact, out of the 32 Constitutional Monarchies which exist on this planet, 15 of them, including Canada, have a comparable system of government and redistribution of wealth to us, which is close to 50%. On the other hand, there are 137 Republics on this planet, and only 13 of them have a system of government comparable to ours with a similar redistribution of wealth, which works out to about 10.5%. So perhaps our type of country knows something that the others don’t?
The way I see it, the continuing presence of a blend of Monarchy and Parliamentary democracy puts something of a brake on the unbridled influence of bourgeois capitalism, the type of which prevailed during the late 18th century period of laissez-faire, Adam Smith ‘Wealth of Nations’ capitalism in America. As for France, the bourgeois influence which so violently suppressed the nobility, monarchy and clergy, eventually became such a powerful and oppressive elite unto themselves, that a huge secular, Socialist/Communist backlash swept over that country, and left it bereft of virtually any of its formerly rich spiritual heritage.
As for GGs being useless, just look at Lord Dufferin. He used his pull as GG to convince the bourgeoisie and city council of Québec to stop the destruction of the city’s fortifications. We therefore have Lord Dufferin to thank for being so forward-thinking, long before it was fashionable to be interested in heritage conservation.
After him, Lady Aberdeen, Lord Aberdeen’s wife, used her pull as the GG’s spouse to found the Victorian Order of Nurses, who were among the first people to go into people’s homes at the turn of the 20th century and educate them as to the causes of disease, to encourage people to keep a clean house, and to wash their hands before handling food, etc.. This at a time when most people didn’t know about the link between lack of cleanliness and the spread of disease.
So, in conclusion, the next time you see a picture of the Queen on your money or your stamps, don’t resent it, I know I don’t. I’m a descendant of Irish, French-Canadian, Scottish, as well as English ancestors, three out of four peoples who got slapped around by the English. What I’m trying to say is that these institutions are ones which have allowed us to evolve and grow as a nation and to build a more balanced nation.
So may I most humbly invoke an old and time-honoured expression, which, sadly, seems to have fallen into disuse: God Save the Queen!!!