Editorial #11 – Not my governor

Bottom of the ninth, and it’s not looking good for Stephen and his little league team. “Time out!” screams little Stephen, and runs home to mommy, who quickly cancels the game. Stephen sips his hot chocolate, and hopes everyone forgets how the game was going; after all, he won’t need to step on the field again until after the excitement of the Olympics.

Now, do we blame little Stephen for his selfishness and immaturity? Of course not, he’s a five year-old with the power to call a reset whenever things look bleak for his team. Given that this is the second time he’s used this trick, maybe it’s time we thought about whether his mommy should be a part of the game at all.Governor General Michaelle Jean is an unelected official, with great power to step in the way of the democratic process.

Last year this irony was taken to a new level when Harper, moaning about the “undemocratic” coalition government, used her ancient, throwback power to put an end to this challenge to his power. This year he has abused her power once again when things looked dark, wasting months of work – not to mention the actual time off, effectively adding another month to Christmas. It is time to reevaluate the role of the Governor General in our government.

First of all, let’s look at the origins of the position. In the colonial years, this position was one of true power, as a political position governing the colonies in the interests of the homeland. Upon constitution, however, the position was essentially stripped of its inherent political power over Canadian affairs, and remains today as a figurehead position representing our devotion to our roots. The Governor General today is responsible for many very important tasks – such as appointing the Prime Minister – except that she is more or less expected to just nod her head at the leader of the party with the most seats. Ditto for most of her responsibilities: the Governor General is expected to simply blend in and sign her name on the dotted line.

This is where we encounter a problem. If Stephen Harper wants to prorogue parliament, Michaelle Jean has the legal power to say no, but only in the same way as she has the power to appoint Keith Publicover as Prime Minister. Realistically, she can’t say no to Harper, and realistically, being a politician, he will use any chance he has to get out of trouble. This leaves Canadian parliamentary process at the mercy of Stephen Harper’s nerves.

It is important to have someone in a position of power like hers, with the legal authority to stand up to abuses of power and shut down parliament when things get out of hand. Such power, however, should not be so easily handed over to the Prime Minister, and should always be in the hands of someone democratically elected by Canadians – not the Queen’s representative, whose significance to Canadians is on the same level as one side of a loonie. Let her take care of the awards galas and speaking tours, and leave the politics up to the people.

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