PROPOSAL FOR ELECTING THE GOVERNOR GENERAL ANNOUNCED

Toronto, ON, March 18, 2004 - Canada's republican movement, represented by the two-year old group Citizens for a Canadian Republic, is calling on the Prime Minister to appoint a special parliamentary committee to examine democratizing the office of the Governor General.

Tom Freda, National Director of the non-partisan, not-for-profit group says, "this week’s polls which show increased support for an elected senate as well as the recent decision to have parliament rather than the Prime Minister involved in selecting heads of Crown corporations, are very positive developments."

"However", he points out, "our feelings are that Canadians want more reforms and in light of the budgetary issues at Rideau Hall, we think now is the time to also move towards the concept of electing the Governor General."

Policy analyst and political science author Randall White, PhD agrees. "Of course, addressing the ‘democratic deficit' is an important issue these days, especially when raised in the context of public accountability. But as republicans, we also see how addressing the selection process of the Governor General - which does not require amending the Constitution - could also ease the difficulties inherent in the eventual process of Canadianizing the head of state."

"Australia lost their 1999 republican referendum mainly because they couldn't agree on the selection formula of the new head of state."

White adds, "here, we resolve that issue in advance so that, for instance, when the Queen's reign ends and Canadians are faced with the prospect of Charles III becoming the next King of Canada, a simple Yes/No question in a quickly arranged referendum could be all it takes for the public to decide if this is the direction Canada should take."

Helen Irving, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, reinforces the feasibility of this proposal:

"It would be quite possible constitutionally to have a parliamentary choice, even a direct popular election, for the Governor General, leaving the constitution undisturbed, with the name of the chosen candidate going forth as the Prime Minister's nominee to the Queen ... The means of selection is really a matter of convention, and of the manner in which the largely-undefined role of the governor general is interpreted by the incumbent."

This procedure is not without precedent in Canada. Senators are traditionally appointed by the Prime Minister but, on June 11, 1990, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Canada's first democratically elected senator, Stan Waters, to the Upper Chamber.

"We realize that Prime Minister Martin has already spoken out against appointing elected senators", acknowledges Freda, "saying he prefers to deal with senate reform as a package rather than piecemeal."

"Likewise, Citizens for a Canadian Republic would also prefer the entire issue of the monarchy to be dealt with fully, on a constitutional level and sooner rather than later. However, we believe the conditions with which we're faced require immediate attention and this proposal allows a way to address an integral part of it without a constitutional amendment process."

"Polls show that while the Queen retains some measure of personal popularity in Canada, that can't be said for her heir or, for that matter, the institution of the monarchy itself. Canadians, possibly within this decade, will eventually be faced with making a choice on who will be our next head of state and we believe it's in Canada's best interest to resolve the most difficult aspects of this issue now, while a popular monarch reigns in apparent good health".

 

 

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