Friday, December 11, 2009


Relax; lest you later claim to have been duped, this piece is about the Governor- General, but not about Tiger Woods.

In her 2006 memoir - "Heart Matters" - the former Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson, writes of the "unspoken rivalry" between the Office of the Prime Minister and Rideau Hall.

It's been a year since the Governor-General, Michaelle Jean was forced to wade into the Parliamentary drama over whether the Conservative Government of the Prime-Minister would receive permission to prorogue the session, and prevent a Liberal-NDP-Bloc (Quebecois) coalition from snatching power away from Stephen Harper.

Ms Clarkson was frequently criticised for her imperial notions and expensive habits. On the surface at least Mme Jean has evoked a more frugal lifestyle. She's due back this weekend from a week long good will 3 country visit to Mexico and to Central America. Parliament has already begun the Christmas recess, so she'll be far removed from the tumult, nail biting disagreements of a year ago that cost the Liberal Leader, Stephane Dion, his job and which some constitutional experts suggest permanently damaged Canada's parliamentary democracy.

Michaelle Jean's five year term as Governor-General is scheduled to conclude on September 27, 2010. And, expectations in Ottawa are that she is unlikely to have her appointment extended, as was the case with her predecessor Adrienne Clarkson. As Clarkson suggests in her book disputes and tensions between the Head of Government and the Queen's representative in Canada, though they may be polite, occur frequently.

Few observers doubt that the unprecedented public disagreement between the Prime Minister and the Governor-General this past October when Mme Jean described herself in a Paris speech as "Canada's Head of State" was rooted in the Constitutional crisis provoked by Harper a year ago in response to the "Dion Coalition". In doing so, the Governor-General sealed her own fate over an extended Vice-Regal term come September 2010.

The Queen surely would not "have been amused" if she'd been called-in to settle last December's Parliamentary impasse as some have suggested was threatened by one side or the other. What is clear is that Michaelle Jean backed-down from the "Head of State" fracas when the Prime Minister's Office rebuked her comment with an extraordinary public reminder that: "Queen Elizabeth II is queen of Canada and head of state." Buckingham Palace also did not get involved in that debate; but at the time a spokesman for the palace didn't back away from Harper's interpretation either.

Game, Set, Match - The Queen is in Canada for a couple of weeks next June and July. She has accepted the Government's invitation to headline the "Canada Day" July first celebrations in Ottawa as "Head of State". Thus pretty much relegating the Governor-General to the lesser role of "lady in waiting" as Mme Jean begins her last summer in Rideau Hall...And, the Prime Minister grooms his own choice for the highly ceremonial role come September. (If not Tiger Woods, maybe Mike Duffy, Oye!)

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