Jul. 8, 2021

New Governor-General gives hope for positive change

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.