Friday, November 06, 2009

"Oh Camilla, you truly are my candle in the wind..."

Guess who's currently on a (royal) tour of Canada? That's right, it's Charles and Camilla. Hoo-wah!

You non-Canadians (and perhaps even some of you Canadians) out there may not know that our head of state is actually the British monarch, that is, Queen Elizabeth II, which means that, for better but mostly for worse, we have to put up with the comic freakshow that is the British royal family.

I used to be a monarchist, that is, I used to support keeping the British monarch as our head of state (without any real authority), through a viceregal governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister, but no more.

I am British in addition to Canadian, and, well, I suppose I'm not opposed to Britain keeping its royal family, but what's the point for Canada? Tradition? But Canada is a nation that has evolved significantly over the course of its history, separating itself from its past, and from its British roots. A connection to Britain? But Canada isn't British anymore, it's a nation of two founding peoples (British and French) with a savagely brutalized third (Aboriginal), and it's now deeply multicultrual, even if its institutions and dominant cultural mores are still British? That connection to the Commonwealth? But who cares about the Commonwealth anymore? I don't.

I'm not sure what could replace the British monarch. A parliamentary system, which is what we have, should have a head of state more or less independent of the head of government (here, the prime minister). One option would be to elect a figurehead president, as Germany does, but that carries risks, such as the partisanizing of the office. So maybe we'll have to stick with QEII, Philip, Charles, William, Harry, and the rest of the madhouse simply because there isn't a desirable alternative. (And I actually quite like Charles, who does a lot of good, much of it unknown to most. He should certainly be king.)

Got any better captions?

(Photo from The Globe and Mail.)

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  • Interesting Mike. I used to discuss this all the time with a Canadian friend in Edmonton. He was rather fond of having separation between head of government and head of state.

    Those of us in non parliamentary systems have a hard time seeing the value add. It's one thing in a historical monarchy, like the UK, but Canada was a colony, not the motherland, and ties to the British royal family don't make a lot of sense as an independent nation.

    Or maybe that's the American in me talking as we broke away violently rather than having come by it later on through more peaceful means.

    What precisely does the head of state do? I understand the difference of a parliamentary system, I'm just less clear on what a head of state does that the PM couldn't and doesn't do.

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