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Canada could be more independent from monarchy without changing the Constitution

Tomorrow, without changing any law, PM could change selection process for Governor General to make it democratic, multi-partisan and Canadian

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, as part of its Democratic Head Campaign which is supported by a majority of Canadians according to recent surveys by the Angus Reid Institute and Leger, Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Trudeau to make three simple changes (none of which need any change to any law, or the Constitution) to democratize and Canadianize the choice of the next Governor General (GG) and each provincial Lieutenant Governor (LG):

  1. Change the selection process for the GG by having a fully independent commission (whose members are chosen by all party leaders in the House of Commons) do a merit-based search for a short-list of well-qualified candidates, and then have leaders of the parties in the House and in all provincial legislatures participate in a secret, ranked ballot vote to choose the GG;
  2. The PM would then present the choice of GG to King Charles, but make it clear he is not asking for the King’s approval, and if the King then approves Canada’s choice it will change the constitutional protocol and convention and make it clear that the King will always approve whomever Canada chooses as its GG, and;
  3. Change the selection process for each LG by having a similar independent commission search for candidates, and then the leaders of the parties in the provincial legislature would choose the LG in a ranked ballot vote, and the GG would then appoint that person as LG as set out in section 58 of the Constitution.

These three simple changes are a reasonable compromise between those who support Canada’s ties to the monarchy and those who support making Canada a republic. The changes will make Canada’s head of state more democratically representative and independent of the British monarchy, and will make Canada more a parliamentary democracy and less a constitutional monarchy. And these changes can be made without changing any law or the Constitution and so, unlike cutting ties with the monarchy, they do not require the agreement of the House, Senate and every provincial legislature.

Changing the selection process for the GG is also needed because, like the Officers of Parliament, the GG makes many key decisions about the operations of Parliament and the government and so should be independent of the Prime Minister. Currently, the Prime Minister chooses the GG alone through a secretive process that taints the position with partisanship.

Provincial party leaders should participate in the proposed new ranked ballot vote to choose the GG because Canada is a federation, and it will make the GG more representative of the entire country.

“Prime Minister Harper appointed his own advisory committee as did Prime Minister Trudeau for choosing the Governor General but it was a charade as they could ignore the committee’s nominees and they controlled the final choice,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. “Given how important it is for the Governor General to be independent of the Prime Minister and impartial, the opposition parties and an independent commission should be involved in the selection process, as should party leaders from across Canada given that the Governor General appoints the Lieutenant Governors in each province.”

“After using this proposed new, democratized and Canadianized process for choosing the next Governor General, the Prime Minister should then tell the King who Canada has chosen as Governor General, and not ask for his approval, and if he accepts that as the new constitutional protocol it will become clear that Canada chooses its own head of state,” said Conacher.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Head Campaign and Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign