I am writing to call on you to make changes to make the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors democratically chosen, and to pass clear rules they can enforce to stop abuses by the Prime Minister and premiers.
A survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in May 2012 showed that 65% of adult Canadians want the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors to have clear powers and to be elected. As well, a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.
A survey of more than 2,000 Canadians conducted by Harris-Decima in February 2013 found that a majority of Canadians (55%) want to change to a democratically chosen Canadian Head of State, while only 34% want to continue with a member of the British royal family.
This means more than 15 million adult Canadians (and likely their kids as well) want to retire the monarchy and change to a democratically chosen Canadian head of state, and about 23 million adult Canadians (and also likely their kids) want clear rules to stop abuses by the Prime Minister and premiers.
These key changes to make the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors democratically chosen, and to give them clear powers, can be made very easily. Most countries in the world made these changes decades ago.
Canada’s Prime Minister currently effectively chooses the Governor General (GG), and the Governor General appoints the provincial Lieutenant Governors (LGs) as advised by the Prime Minister (and often the premiers are also consulted). There are no legal restrictions on how the Prime Minister chooses the GG and the LGs. As a result, the Prime Minister can change the way they are chosen tomorrow, and could use a general election, an election by party leaders across Canada, and within each province, or some other democratic method for choosing the GG and LGs.
Democracy Watch recommends that the GG be chosen by creating a new federal Cabinet appointments agency made up of 5 people chosen with the approval of all federal political party leaders that have members in the House of Commons; then having that agency do a public, advertised, merit-based search to come up with a shortlist of 3 qualified candidates for GG (this agency will also do searches for candidates for all other federal Cabinet appointments); and then having a convention attended by the leaders of every party that has members in any federal, provincial or territorial legislature, and with the GG approved by two-thirds of the leaders. This will result in a representative, non-partisan, qualified GG being chosen every time.
Democracy Watch recommends that each provincial LG be chosen by having a similar provincial Cabinet appointments agency created (if it does not already exist); have that agency do the search and come up with a shortlist of candidates, and; then require that all the leaders of every party that have members in the legislature agree on the choice of LG. This will also result in a representative, non-partisan, qualified LG being selected for every province every time.
As well, while Canada’s Constitution says that the GG is the representative of the Queen, it does not say that the Queen has to approve the person the Prime Minister chooses as GG. The Prime Minister traditionally asks for the Queen’s approval, but there is no legal requirement that the Prime Minister do this, or that the Queen gives her approval. As a result, the Prime Minister should simply stop requesting the approval of the Queen, as very likely the Queen will accept this as the new GG appointment process and it will become the new, fully Canadian way of selecting Canada’s GG.
As for setting out clear rules for the GG and LGs to enforce, this can be done very easily by the federal Parliament, and each provincial legislature, simply passing a resolution or law containing rules to restrict abuses of power by the Prime Minister and premiers (as the British, Australian and New Zealand legislatures have already done). The rules should cover the following key areas: when the legislature must be opened; when it can be closed; what a vote of confidence/non-confidence is; what can be included in omnibus bills; the freedoms and powers of individual politicians to vote how they want on resolutions and bills; how members of legislature committees are chosen; when elections are held; what a Cabinet can do during an election campaign period until the next Cabinet is chosen etc.
Canada’s Governor General, and provincial Lieutenant Governors, need to be modernized – we need Canadians selected democratically to represent all voters, and clearly empowered to ensure democratic government, as a large majority of Canadians want.
I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.