Canada's Constitutional Monarchy Is A Waste Of Money
September 1st, 2020 | RR
In the middle of a scandal, Justin Trudeau prorogued parliament. The move effectively shuts down parliamentary committees and all parliamentary business, much of which was focused on the Liberal Party's cozy relationship with the WE charity. How convenient. Rather than exercise her authority to refuse Justin's request, Julie Payette did what he asked. This leaves the door wide open for questions about Canada's constitutional monarchy and whether it serves any legitimate purpose in the 21st Century.
When we go to court to fight tickets or any kind of charges, we see a portrait of Queen Elizabeth hanging behind the judge. We're forced to abide by her rules and to acknowledge her existence with ridiculous utterances about “her majesty”. It makes Canada's whole system sound like a joke—which it kind of is. Here we are, in 2020, pledging allegiance to some monarch that does absolutely nothing to serve the people. She rarely visits Canada and seldom lifts a finger. She even has a Governor General acting on her behalf and doing her job—which doesn't consist of much more than sitting around, collecting tax dollars and shooting the shit with aristocrats.
Like the Queen herself, Canada's Governor General is a waste of space and money.
Originally, the purpose of preserving a monarch in a democracy was to ensure that insanity, corruption and dictatorial behaviour were kept in check. The entire American system was given several mechanisms to deal with the same things, like the Electoral College and a democratically elected Congress. However, in Canada, our system is a complete failure when compared to the American system. Yes, many Canadians are smugly looking down at the United States with disgust at the moment, but, believe it or not, their system works much better than ours.
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Had there been a few more Democrats in Senate, Donald Trump's impeachment would have been a success. Much of what Trump has tried to do has been blocked by Congress and the Senate. Contrary to what many people believe, Donald Trump is not a dictator—not because he doesn't want to be one, but because the American system doesn't allow it. We hear a lot of conjecture and rhetoric about “dictatorship” and America's slow descent into fascism, but that's all just politically motivated nonsense. Republicans accused Barack Obama of tyranny in the same way Democrats are doing with Trump. It's a common talking point and a tired political narrative, no matter who the president is.
More than 200 years later, America is still a functioning democracy.
In America, Supreme Court justices and cabinet members are nominated by the President, but are then faced with a rigorous and often heated approval process in the Senate. In some cases, presidential nominees quit halfway through the process or are rejected. Much of it is partisan, but in many cases the vetting process exposes corruption and past abuses.
The Brett Kavanaugh hearings are still fresh in our memories.
In Canada, Supreme Court judges and cabinet ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister and whichever party holds a majority. There are virtually no hearings or vetting processes that take place in Canada's Senate—another body that is largely appointed by the sitting Prime Minister. If that doesn't carry the stench of abuse, you must not have a nose. It turns out, most Canadians don't. They've been shrugging their shoulders at this system for more than a hundred years.
People from other countries confuse our absurd complacency with laid-back politeness. We just don't wanna rock the boat. Hockey and shitty coffee are more important, eh!
To this day, Canada does not have a democratically elected Senate. Every Senator is appointed by the Prime Minister and holds their seat for almost their entire lives. When it comes to holding the House Of Commons or the Prime Minister accountable, you can disregard the Senate. Coincidentally, Justin Trudeau's “non-partisan” appointees have all voted along Liberal Party lines and supported 95% of everything the Liberal government has sent their way.
When it comes to holding a Canadian Prime Minister accountable, we can count out the Senate, the Supreme Court, the Ethics Commissioner and most every administrative body in government. Most of these positions are appointed by the Prime Minister and his or her caucus. Sadly, the same can be said about the Governor General—who is supposed to be the last vestige of authority when it comes to keeping a government in check.
"Like the Queen herself, Canada's Governor General is a waste of space and money."
Julie Payette is not the only GG to blindly comply with the Prime Minister's demands. Every single GG before her has either prorogued parliament for nefarious reasons or turned a blind eye to blatant corruption.
One would think that a Prime Minister who has broken ethics laws multiple times would be forced to resign, or would be legally removed by the Queen's authority.
When a US President breaks the law, he gets impeached in the House Of Representatives and then goes to trial in the Senate. No sitting President has yet been removed by the process, but some have said Nixon would have been the first had he not resigned. In Canada, Prime Ministers have stayed in power following gross corruption scandals, like the infamous Sponsorship Scandal, which eventually saw Liberals punished by voters—many years after the fact. At no point was Jean Chretien held to account by an impeachment, or by any kind of trial with meaningful consequences.
Following the Sponsorship Scandal, it took Stephen Harper two tries to finally remove the Liberal Party from power. That doesn't say much about the Canadian voter's desire for justice.
So, if the Governor General has no obligation to act against a sitting Prime Minister, even in cases of obvious corruption, what's the point? There are better systems around the world that could be used to replace our Governor General and reform our existing system. For those who still love the British monarchy, for whatever reason, there are ways to preserve the institution and to make the monarchy's role more useful.
The Presidential System
In place of a Governor General, many European democracies have a democratically elected President. The role is almost identical to that of a GG, but with considerably more power and authority. In France's system, the President appoints the Prime Minister but does not always have authority to remove him or her. In France, the Prime Minister leads the legislative branch and is not considered the head of state. Executive orders in France must be approved by both the Prime Minister and President and are limited by the country's constitution. In cases where the French President's party holds a majority, he becomes the most powerful figure in the country.
In cases where a French President's party is not the majority, things get interesting.
In either case, France holds separate presidential elections. There have been cases when a president from an opposing party is elected, but another party wins government. Having the power to appoint the Prime Minister and cabinet, the President is forced to work at putting together a stable, functioning government. If the legislature happens to disagree, they can vote to upend it all and go back to an election. France also has a second run-off vote to ensure that at least 51% of the population supports the President.
Say what you will about France, but its political system is far more superior at keeping governments in check.
Canada could configure its own system by starting small. At first, the GG could be given more power to dismiss a sitting Prime Minister, or to dissolve parliament and call an election. Regardless of a majority government, if opposition parties, the Ethics Commissioner and other legal entities can show corruption or serious violations committed by a Prime Minister or government, the GG should have the authority to dissolve parliament or to remove the sitting Prime Minister. Rather than maintain a symbolic role, the GG should be obligated, by law, to act against a sitting government in cases where corruption is evident.
The GG's position should eventually be democratically elected. We can carry on calling the GG what it is, or we can call it a President. It would all depend on how much of a constitutional monarchy Canadians want to preserve.
Any change we see will start with Canadians. More of us are beginning to see the failures of our current system. As the second iteration of the Liberal Party continues the cronyism and corruption of the last, more Canadians are beginning to see a need for major reforms.
In time, the role of the Governor General either needs to be made stronger and more democratic, or it needs to be abolished and replaced.
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