Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The PM who would be Queen

Lost in all the furore over the Conservatives being caught politicizing the stimulus program (again), was this article: 1 or 24: Which comes first?

This is a shame because it touches on an important point (MEIB).

But last week's frosty public exchanges between the lord of 24 Sussex Drive and the lady of 1 Sussex Drive -- or, more properly, between their delegated spokespersons -- has observers simultaneously bewildered and transfixed by a bizarre spectacle: blunt words whizzing between the capital's two most exclusive addresses over a fundamental fact about Canada's system of government.

The unresolved "head-of-state" debate between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaƫlle Jean -- sparked by a Canwest News Service story about Jean's controversial use of the phrase to describe her job during a Paris speech -- has also ignited a lively, nationwide discussion about who truly personifies the Canadian state, and whether it's time to recast that symbolism and redraw the boundaries between the Queen, governor general and prime minister.

...How the two most recognizable faces of Canada came to engage in a stare-down over the definition of head of state is baffling.But behind the unprecedented public disagreement between PM and GG are suspicions -- which await archival confirmation decades from now -- that the debate is linked to last December's drama over whether Jean would grant Harper permission to prorogue Parliament, thus preventing a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition from taking the reins of government.
She eventually agreed to Harper's request, but observers have been left to speculate about whether the decision followed arm-twisting by the prime minister, hard bargaining by the Governor General, or threats from one side or the other about calling on the Queen herself to help resolve the potential impasse.

For this highlighting this issue, Randy Boswell is awarded recognition for taking a baby step towards redemption. He does, however, miss the big picture.

The panel -- devoid of the words "de facto" or "Queen" -- is now a flashpoint in this unseemly and un-neighbourly struggle, a symbol of the strange clash between Canada's top two officeholders over symbolism itself.

This is not an issue of mere symbolism. There is a fight going on over the power at the heart of our government. Harper is laying the ground work for any future confrontations with the GG. His minions openly challenged the authority of Jean during the prorogation crisis. He has assumed and publicly yearned for some of the perquisites of the Office of the GG. His lack of respect for the Office Jean holds weakens it. By challenging her, arguably correct, assertion he further erodes Jean's authority in a future crisis.

This suits Harper's modus operandi perfectly. He often seeks to foment a crisis to force an issue to his benefit. This is what disaster federalism is all about. By challenging her authority, assuming portions of her role and challenging her authority he is actively seeking to weaken her for when the next, inevitable, confrontation comes about. The fact that the idea of recasting her role is in the media shows he has had a considerable measure of success in this endeavour.

I am no monarchist but seeking to undermine the authority of the Crown seems a bit seditious to me.

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