The CBC reports the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages will investigate the process for nominating governors general after receiving hundreds of complaints from Canadians upset that the newest nominee, Mary Simon, cannot speak French.
Simon is Inuk and was educated in a federal day school in the Nunavik region, where she was not given the opportunity to learn French as a child.
Commissioner Raymond Théberge said said the investigation will look not into Simon personally but rather examine the process used to nominate a governor general. She will be installed as governor general on July 26. READ MORE
Our French-speaking friends are determined to remind us that blackmailers are insatiable. They will, until they are ignored or jailed, forever demand more.
Commissioner Théberge is messing around where he is unwelcome. The Governor General, with or without the Privy Council, is the executive arm of our government. The language commissioner cannot set requirements for a Governor General candidate. The position is well above his pay grade.
The Privy Council belongs in the Governor General’s office, not in the Prime Minister’s office and must be politically neutral.
Ironically, the Governor General, acting with or without the advice of the Privy Council, has the power under her Letters Patent to withdraw Théberge's appointment. He is in very deep waters.
The most glaring aspect of Théberge’s foray into how the Governor General is appointed is that we have to return to public service appointments and promotions based on merit, not linguistics.
No position in the civil service can be designated as bilingual. Our constitution promises services in English and French, not that supervisors and managers must speak English and French. We spend a fortune on interpreters to ensure services are available in both official languages.
With Quebec declaring that it intends to be a unilingual French province, it is irrational to contend that we need a bilingual federal civil service outside of Quebec.
Some Francophones are miffed that the Governor General is not fluent in French. They want equality of language to equate to equality of political power which is not acceptable.
Few people know that more robust French language protection was included in the 1982 constitution. There is no need for the Official Languages Act. All it does is allow a Commissioner to arbitrarily declare positions within the civil service as required bilingual, thus exchanging capability, competence and experience for linguistic mediocrity.
The idea that the federal civil service must accommodate a French-speaking employee to work in his language is ridiculous.
Canada’s membership in La Francophonie is utterly ridiculous. We are not a French-speaking nation and should not pretend we are. Quebec must not be allowed to represent Canada in any venue. This band of petulant upstarts must be curbed.
Quebec favoured confederation in part as she feared that with the U.S. civil war ending and massive federal armies at the ready, the US might mount another effort to invade Canada. The French knew that if the US succeeded in an invasion, they would lose the right they had gained under the Quebec Act and would not have language rights or the Civil Code under an American administration.
Quebec refuses to accept that it is a linguistic and political minority in Canada. We have accommodated but will not capitulate to Quebec.
NOTE - I made an error in part 1 – the shift of the Privy Council from the Governor General’s office to the Prime Minister’s office occurred in 1940, not 1941. Tip of the hat to a sharp-eyed reader.
The federal government has a long string of areas with announced funding for projects in the provincial domain. One particularly annoying area is housing. The federal government came up with protecting mortgages through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. People buying homes that met specific criteria such as a minimum level of down payment were insurable by the federal government, making it is easy to obtain a bank mortgage.
If a person buys a home for $450,000 with a 5% down payment, he will have an insurable mortgage of $427,500. The lender (bank) will pay an insurance premium of 4% or $17,100, which must be paid upfront, or the lender will add it to the mortgage bringing the mortgage amount to $444,600. Looking at a 25-year amortization and a five-year fixed term @ 2.09%, the insurance premium will increase the monthly mortgage payments by about $73.16. That comes to $4,389.60 over the first five years. The kicker is that the money goes to protecting the bank, not the purchaser.
Every federal political leader spouts nonsense about increasing affordable housing, which is another fairy tale. Property is in the provincial domain. The federal government has no business interfering.
Cities are wailing that they cannot meet housing demands or the costs of infrastructure. That is mainly due to a combination of greed and poor planning. Cities don’t want cheap housing. Their primary income is from property taxes, and if prices fall, they are in deep fiscal trouble. They make no effort to limit growth to allow the construction of infrastructure to meet demands. Most cities avoid spending on infrastructure maintenance and upgrades until they face failures. Then they demand the province step in to fix infrastructure deficiencies due to bad planning. We are subsidizing mediocre civic governance.
The federal government is all too willing to step up and offer to fund city infrastructure deficits. That presents numerous problems. First, the federal government cannot deal directly with cities without undermining the sovereignty of the provinces.
Second, the federal government uses a fictitious three-level funding model which required participation by the province and the city. That means the provinces and cities have less discretionary spending and less room to meet the needs of residents.
Third, every taxpayer is funding big-city deficits. Neither federal and provincial governments can justify requiring a pensioner in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, helping to pay for deficits in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
One solution is to turn cities with a population of 2.5 million or more into provinces. Then they can sink or swim on their own.
If the federal offer to subsidize daycare in British Columbia does not make you ill, it should. Once again, the federal government is off its reservation, trolling for votes with our money. Child care is a provincial responsibility. It is highly discriminatory as parents living outside of urban areas do not get equal funding or spaces, and low-income parents find spaces filled by high-income parents. Cities and the provinces are roped into participating in costs, diminishing their ability to govern without federal help.
The final piece to the puzzle is equalization, which the federal government has used to keep so-called have-not provinces on a federal subsidy leash. The best description for this program is that it rewards incompetence. The federal government has used it to squelch resource development outside of Ontario to prevent other provinces from becoming too successful. Envy is ugly.
The discrimination embodied in federal environmental policies is outrageous. The treatment of shipping policies between our east and west coasts, particularly respecting tankers, is appalling. Regulations should apply equally across the nation, and they are not.
The federal government will claim that equalization is embodied in the constitution, which is true. The formula for applying equalization is not. Section 33 of the constitution states that equalization is a joint effort of the federal and provincial governments (parliament and the legislatures). The current formula, which does not meet the objectives of Section 33, must be amended with the agreement of provinces without delay.
The federal government is on the road to incompetence and mediocrity. Like any government with totalitarian ambitions, our federal government has involved itself in everything and is doing it badly.
Mr. Trudeau loves to wrap himself in the flag while he ignores federal constitutional responsibilities. That charade must end.
It started long ago – in March, 1941 when Mackenzie King was Prime Minister. King was, among other less desirable traits, unforgiving and vengeful. He still smarted over the King-Byng affair (1926) when Governor General Julian Byng refused
to grant King a request to dissolve parliament and call a general election. That was and still is the prerogative of the GG.
The Governor General is not secretary to the Prime Minister of the day.
The Secretary to the Cabinet had retired in December 1940. Governor General Sir John Buchan suffered a heart attack and died in February 1941. King saw his chance and created the dual role of Cabinet Secretary and Privy Council Clerk reporting to him. King’s excuse was that Canada was at war, and he needed the Privy Council staff to help the Cabinet get its work done.
The change was made by an Order in Council that required Royal Assent, but that was impossible with the office vacant. The constitution is clear that the Privy Council is under the command of the Governor General.
Prime ministers have long perpetuated the fiction that the federal government is superior to and above provincial governments. That is not true. The ten provinces are all sovereign states insofar as their powers under Section 92 of the Constitution are concerned. The federal government is sovereign over its powers under Section 91.
The federal government has abused its taxation powers to interfere in provincial jurisdictions for decades. The most flagrant abuses are concerning health care.
In 1947, the social democratic premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) established Canada’s first publicly funded hospital insurance plan. Other provinces - including British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, introduced their own insurance plans, with varying degrees of coverage, and varying degrees of success.
These policy initiatives
increased pressure on the federal government, flush with post-war financial resources, to buy-in to health care both for its electoral appeal and to extend public financing to provinces whose citizens did not yet have full coverage for hospital care.
The result was that the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, introduced and passed (with all-party approval) the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act of 1957. This shared the costs of covering hospital
services. By the start date (July 1, 1958) five provinces - Newfoundland, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia—had programs in place which could receive the federal funds. By January 1, 1961, when Quebec finally joined, all provinces
had universal coverage for hospital care.
By this time, the Liberals, under Lester B. Pearson were in power. Following intense debate, the Pearson government introduced the Medical Care Act which was passed in 1966 by a vote of 177 to two. These two Acts established a formula whereby the federal government paid approximately 50% of approved expenditures for hospital and physician services. By 1972, all provinces and territories had complying plans. However, the fiscal arrangements were seen as both cumbersome and inflexible. By 1977, a new fiscal regimen was in place.
Constitutionally, the federal government must provide health care to indigenous people, military personnel, prison inmates, consular and embassy staff. The federal government is required to build and maintain military hospitals.
The federal government has dumped its health care responsibilities on the provinces by contract. The military hospitals have been sold to the provinces. Coverage for people under federal jurisdiction is far broader than for provincial residents, so we provide superior services to federal charges while provincial residents face waiting lines for many procedures.
Worse, the federal government uses threats of reducing health care transfers to coerce provinces into accepting other federal incursions into their affairs.
When Paul Martin was federal Finance Minister in the Chretien government, he balanced the books by arbitrarily reducing federal transfers to the provinces. The provinces faced diminished incomes, but costs remained the same. It took years for the provinces to recover from the financial hit.
The federal share of health care costs diminished from 50% in 1966 to 21% in 2012 and stood at 23.5% in 2019. Government spending is dependent on whether an election is on the horizon. When an election is over, a government will make budget cuts and hope that the hurt will be forgotten by the time the next election is due.
We remain vulnerable to arbitrary reductions in transfers considering the wild borrowing by this government over the past five years.
We need the federal government to transfer tax points to the provinces to have stable and predictable health care income and to innovate to improve the efficiency of delivery. We must cut strings attached to federal funding.
Another installment to follow
I have a mixed reaction to the appointment of Mary Simon as our Governor General. It is the right choice for many wrong reasons.
First, the positive.
Mary Simon has the background and experience to restore badly needed dignity to the position of Governor General. The last four prima donnas (Julie Payette, David Johnson, Michaëlle Jean, and Adrienne Clarkson) have been shameful.
As Head of the Executive Branch of our government, the Governor General can add stability to an uncontrolled, virtue signalling Prime Minster and cabinet passing themselves off as a competent government.
I expect Mary Simon will bring a calm, competent, dedicated and honest aura to the office of Governor General, which will sharply contrast with the contradictory statements that spew from our Prime Minister. Trudeau will find himself outclassed and outmatched. It is a pity the bar is not higher.
Then for the other issues.
It is not appropriate for the Prime Minister to choose a Governor General. The GG is head of the Executive Branch and necessarily politically neutral. The Prime Minister cannot engage in the choice without tainting the office with political bias. Trudeau is clueless respecting conflict of interest, as we discovered during the Aga Khan scandal. He just does not get it.
The shortlist of GG candidates should be referred to the Queen for a choice. That removes the inappropriate relationship between the Governor General and the Prime Minister. The Governor General must be completely independent.
This is the time for us to push hard to restore the Privy Council to the Governor General’s office as required by our constitution. The Privy Council must be politically neutral as the Clerk of the Privy Council is the Head of the Civil Service, which must also be politically neutral.
Currently, the active Privy Council consists of the Government cabinet, which cannot be considered neutral and is attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, which is unconstitutional.
Few Canadians are aware of the powers vested in our Governor General.
She decides who will sit on the Privy Council and who will be removed. There has to be a balance of government, and non-government politicians and non-political people the GG may feel can provide sound advice.
She makes all appointments to office, including judicial and government appointments. She can also remove any appointed person from office if she deems that necessary.
The political independence and political neutrality of the judiciary are essential. Our courts must be fair and unbiased. The bodies who now recommend candidates for judicial appointments must make their recommendations to the Governor General, not to the Prime Minister.
Canadians have wished that we had an impeachment process similar to that employed in the republic to our south. The Governor General has the power to remove any appointed official, including the Prime Minister, from office. It would have to be an extraordinary circumstance.
Except for ceremonial aspects of the office, the Executive Branch of a constitutional monarchy is hidden from view as it should be. The powers of the Governor General are rarely employed, but control over the Privy Council must be restored to the GG and the judicial appointments transferred from the PM to the GG.
The Executive Branch’s independence is critical if we want to ensure a Prime Minister will not attempt to act as a monarch rather than the head of government. The Privy Council and civil service must be politically neutral.
At one time, deputy ministers would change with a change of government. That is because the deputies were partisan. We need to restore that practice.
One needed change is to populate parliamentary committees based on popular vote rather than on seats held. That would dampen a government’s ability to control committees where the real work of parliament takes place.
The residual powers vested in a neutral Governor General and privy Council avoid the flagrant partisanship employed by the current government. We must restore the executive–government balance to ensure our rights and freedoms are protected.