Advising the Prime Minister?
Ardent monarchists close to Stephen Harper are helping to pick the next Governor General, who is likely to be more of a Buckingham booster than recent representatives of the Queen, insiders say.
Conservative sources say Ray Novak, the prime minister's principal secretary, and Kevin MacLeod, Canadian secretary to the Queen, have been involved in the search. They say both men are strong supporters of Canada's links to the monarchy.
"Only a few people in government care about it, but they care about it fiercely," said one source.
At least someone in government does! A determined minority can accomplish quite a lot. Including keeping the monarchy alive in the years ahead. It's true that from a purely constitutional perspective the Queen's position in Canada is impregnable. All ten provinces and the federal government couldn't agree on the entree at a restaurant, much less dramatic constitutional change (last week we marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Meech). Still, Ottawa's caste of determined crypto-republicans, some of whom are working at Rideau Hall, continue to plot.
One of the most frequently mooted approaches would be to fail to proclaim the next monarch. That would leave a constitutional vacuum to be filled by an appointed or elected head of state. Canadian republicans know that the current sovereign is too popular to be overthrown, and denying her grandson the throne is likely to raise strong objections as well. They have zeroed in on Prince Charles as the weak link in the line of succession. Who succeeds to the throne, of course, is of secondary importance. It is the institution of the monarchy which needs to be preserved. Personally, I believe the Prince will turn out rather well. Yet the principle remains, we should not confuse individuals with institutions. We don't junk Parliament because the Prime Minister of the day is a fool or coward - otherwise parliament would have been done away with centuries ago.
Talk, sometimes even from confused monarchists, of skipping Charles and going straight to William is very dangerous. The second you transform the succession into a popularity contest, the monarchy is done and finished. It becomes American Idol or Britain's Got Talent with better scenery. Either you have a hereditary monarch or you don't. By continuing to remind the public of this basic idea these "ardent monarchists" are doing their country a great service.
If Canada were to lose the monarchy, either from direct constitutional challenge or simple neglect, we would lose far more than its pomp and circumstance. The ordinary person - who is ignorant of the Crown's role in our history, and indeed of that history itself - might not care much if Canada became a Republic. This is all the more worrisome. A nation without a sense of its own history and traditions (the later being an embodiment and reminder of history) is a nation of amnesiacs. The amnesiac does not know what he lost, so in a limited sense he feels little pain, regret or longing. Yet imagine his state. Without memory he is without identity, susceptible to suggestion and temporary impulses. All the days of his life filled with a nagging doubt he can't quite define. The question of monarchy vs republic in this country is one over the soul of Canada. Are we a nation with roots and tradition, or a nation of insecure juveniles constantly reinventing itself?