Well, everyone else seems to be talking about Meghan and Harry, so I might as well take a shot at it too. I must say it is somewhat surprising how much attention this young couple is getting in Britain, Canada, the United States and in other parts of the world. One would almost think that nothing else of real importance is going on these days!
However, at least in Canada, perhaps there is a wider conversation lurking in the background here, and that is the future of this country as a constitutional monarchy.
Some commentators in recent days have predicted that this most recent crisis in the royal family might bring that conversation to a head. Judging by the reaction of a surprisingly large number of people lately, to the prospect of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing Canada as the place they want to spend much of their time, they just might be right.
I should state out front, that I am a monarchist. I love my Queen. I am not so hot on Charles, her heir, but in many ways he has had a tough row to hoe and if one takes an honest look at his quiet accomplishments over the years, they are quite impressive.
There is little doubt, however, that when Queen Elizabeth ends her reign, which, given her age of 94, cannot be too far in the future, there will be a real debate about the future of the monarchy in Canada.
The most effective alternative to a constitutional monarchy is a republic. We have a good example of what a republic looks like right next door. It may work in the United States, but I would not want to see it here. The fundamental difference is that here, the Head of State is the Queen, represented by the Governor General, with extremely limited powers. The Prime Minister is also limited in the power he can exercise. He or she is the servant of Parliament, and in most instances, cannot act without their consent. It is different in a republic.
In the United States, for instance, the President is also the Head of State. Except in rare instances, the President does not need permission from other branches of Government, such as Congress to act. The President of the United States has far more executive power than does the Prime Minister of Canada. Further, the President has an extraordinary ability to veto legislation from Congress unless that body reaches a two-thirds majority in their decision-making process, an extremely high bar in the reality of partisan politics.
President Donald Trump has used, or should I say misused, his executive power in ways that have stunned most democratic countries and led to genuine concerns about despotism, enlightened or otherwise. As a result, we are increasingly seeing unhealthy trends today that threaten a truly democratic society.
We do not need that in Canada, and under our current system it cannot happen here. We have survived and thrived as a relatively small country, cheek by jowl to one of the largest in the world, at least in part because we are different than they are. I, for one, would like to keep it that way. I know that there are many who would disagree. To be sure, the monarchy is not a perfect institution and a constitutional monarchy, such as we have in Canada, has its flaws. But as Winston Churchill has said about capitalism, it may not be perfect, but it is better than the alternative.
As for Harry and Meghan, I would welcome them to Canada with open arms. They represent a heritage that is an important part of the fabric of Canada and must remain so even as our diversity expands. At the same time, they are modern in their outlook, recognizing they cannot forever rely on the public purse and wanting to make a contribution to society independent of the strictures of royal servitude and public exposure.
Meghan and Harry fell in love in Canada. Many of their good friends are here. Although neither were born in Canada, they both have strong connections to this country. As they step away from royal duties, this is a natural home for them and, just because of who they are, they will make significant contributions here, whether as private citizens or otherwise. If the day comes when Prince Harry becomes Governor General of Canada, I think that would be a superb appointment.
Most importantly however, the Sussexes who have been the targets of racism and vicious media gossip in Britain, can find a less abusive home here, out of a spotlight that has been much too bright for them.
As for the comments about the cost of security if Harry and Meghan move here, they are, in my view, specious. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will cover all of their personal expenses as private citizens. But they are who they are and that cannot be changed. Because of that, they are subjected to a higher level of risk, be it terrorism, kidnapping and so on. Canada will offer security not because Harry and Meghan demand it, but because it is in Canada’s best interest to see that they are safe.
Security for people of high profile is not unique to royalty. To put a Muskoka spin on this, Shania Twain and Goldie Hawn both had homes here and when they were in residence there was a public cost in ensuring their privacy and safety. It is what you do for people who because of who they are may be subject to unwanted and dangerous attention.
We should not get all hot and bothered over this. Let’s make Harry and Meghan welcome and feel wanted here. It is the Canadian way. Because of who they are, they will be great good-will ambassadors and they will make a significant contribution to Canada in one way or another. They will give much more than they take.
So, let’s not sweat the small stuff.
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