By Jason Menard
Phew. I’m glad that’s over. Michaelle Jean has come out of the closet finally. After much hand-wringing and back and forth debate: Is she or isn’t she? Was she or wasn’t she? Our governor general-designate has finally come forth to say her and her husband are proud, flag-waving Canadians.
Thank goodness that’s been decided. Now the position can go back to its irrelevance and Jean can assume her place in the annals of Canadian historical trivia.
Interestingly enough, many of those who claim that Jean’s alleged support of separatist causes would undermine the integrity of the position are the very same people who were ready to abolish the whole post in response to Adrienne Clarkson’s free-spending ways during her tenure. Suddenly a position that was no more than a benign, but necessary, growth on our system of constitutional monarchy turned into a malignant growth that threatened the very political life of our Prime Minister.
While the uproar over Jean’s alleged nationalist leanings may have its basis in simple politicking, part of it reeks of our Canadian need to be loved and validated. With separatists factions gaining steam in the West due to its economic prosperity, and dissatisfaction with Jean Charest’s Liberal government fanning the flames of nationalism in Quebec, maybe those on Parliament Hill are just looking for someone to tell them they love them.
Like an insecure lover, Canadian federalists need to hear that their expressions of amour are reciprocated. There’s nothing worse than professing your love, getting hitched, and then finding out that the object of our affection has a wandering eye and her heart is somewhere else.
Of course, there are the whisperings from the Prime Minister’s camp that the seeds from which the rumours of separatist sympathy have grown were actually sown by nationalist forces in Quebec. Essentially, the idea is that sovereigntists are acting like jealous lovers — if separatism can’t have her, then nobody can. And that they don’t want to see a federalist Quebecker in a position of prominence as she may be able to effectively woo soft-separatists or swing voters in the province towards the Canadian cause.
But let me tell you, if these first few days are indicative of Jean’s tenure, then I may hop on board the pro-Governor General bandwagon. Essentially a patronage appointment, this office has long been looked down upon by many Canadians. Viewed as a necessary, but largely irrelevant, position in modern Canada, the Governor General’s office is a reminder of our Commonwealth affiliation and attachment to an absentee sovereign.
So when you combine the outgoing Governor General’s penchant for being free with the ol’ taxpayer-filled wallet with the questions over the incoming Governor General’s loyalty to our nation, maybe the motivation will be there to take a good, solid look at the role of the monarchy in our day-to-day lives.
Maybe instead of courting the Governor General, we’ll decide as a nation to walk away from the position entirely. The fact of the matter is that the Queen’s presence in this country – well, not her physical presence of course – is cause for debate in our society. While not a front-burner issue like separatism, sponsorship inquiries, or human rights, it is, nonetheless, a simmering pot heating up on the back burner.
Perhaps the passions that have been incited by our two most recent appointees will finally fan the flames of that debate and cause it to boil over. If that’s the case, we’ll finally able to engage in a nationwide debate on the role of the Governor General, the monarchy, and what it means to be a Canadian.
Then, at least, we’ll be able to say that the Governor General is far from irrelevant.
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