The Liberal Party of Canada had their convention this weekend and out of it came a new party president in Mike Crawley (over the Chretien-era Sheila Copps), support for legalizing marijuana, and opposition to study severing ties with the British Monarchy. The first two decisions I agree with – the party’s needed to step forward from the bygone age of Chretien for a while now, and it’s good that a major political party has finally recognized the will of our nation’s citizens (plus the swing of money spent on enforcing current marijuana legislation and new taxes into the coffers doesn’t hurt). But this last decision I disagree with.
The Globe and Mail’s article on some of the convention’s highlights quotes a delegate as being against the motion to study severing ties because it doesn’t indicate the system that would be adopted: “Do you want to hear the words ‘President Harper?’” The motion was to study severing ties so the delegate’s comment is irrelevant given the context. As part of such a study, a variety of systems – including presidential – would naturally be considered to replace having the Queen as our head of state. Attempted fear-mongering that our nation’s leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would have executive powers is ignorant of the reality that a party majority in the House of Commons means that that party has the power to effectively run the table, Queen or no Queen. In fact, no Governor General in the history of Canada has ever refused Royal Assent.
Which brings me to my support of severing ties with the British Monarchy. I agree that we became a nation because of the British and we should remember our history, but we also need to acknowledge that our history has come to include so much more since then. In the 2006 census, 32% of the population identified itself as of Canadian origin (the largest block) and visible minorities accounted for 16% (just over 5 million people) of those living here. From a financial point of view, the monarchist institution costs Canadian taxpayers $50 million each year to maintain. Not to mention the expense that Canadians have to shoulder every time we host an official British Royal visit. I for one think we can use that money more productively. Then there’s the fact that a person of a foreign country becomes the head of our nation just by being born into the right family. That person is not elected and, what is more, no one in our own nation can ever hold this position. A far cry from true north, strong and free.
It’s time for Canada to step in fully to being a sovereign nation and rid itself of the antiquated contrivance that is the British Monarchy as head of state. The study of severing ties is warranted and whatever system and recommendations that group puts forward will assuredly be Canadian. And if, as part of those recommendations, “Prime Minister Harper” becomes “President Harper,” I’ll be the first to begin referring to him as such. The delegate’s example clouds the issue by invoking anti-Harper sentiment and I wonder if he’d change his tune if it were “President Crawley” or “President Trudeau.”