The Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales have only just alighted for their 10-day Canadian tour, but might be having second thoughts about the visit.
Already the naysayers are being heard. Polls show Canadians don’t care much about the Royals. Columnists are calling them anachronisms. Charles and Camilla can hardly be pleased.
Momentum for this country taking its last step to total independence has been building over time. But it has been a slow build. The idea seems to have more support among the people than politicians. When John Manley was in politics he was one of the few to muse about cutting colonial ties, but was rebuked by the elites for doing so.
In Australia, a referendum was held on dumping the monarchy a decade ago. After a boisterous campaign, the Aussies voted to keep the Queen.
Here, the politicians see polls saying a majority wish to make the break, but cower. They fear a debate on the Royals’ future would be too divisive. Since the monarchy is largely symbolic, why not let sleeping dogs lie?
As was seen last December, the monarchy is more than symbolic. At that time, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean threw the Conservative government a lifeline by granting its wish to prorogue Parliament. The government’s future was entirely at her discretion. Former governor general Ed Schreyer as much as said he would have opposed prorogation. I don’t think Adrienne Clarkson, from what I have heard, would have supported it either.
What rankled about Jean’s decision was she kept the reasons for it secret. It’s the 21st century, but we, her loyal subjects, were not entitled to an explanation.
Is it time for a full-scale debate on the monarchy? We haven’t had a dustup on the future of the country since the constitutional quarrels over the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords two decades ago. Partly because of minority governments, the Canadian discussion in recent years has been limited to short-term political questions. We don’t look beyond the horizon.
A debate on severing the last link with Britain would be of major consequence. It would be about entering a new stage of nationhood. It would be risky but invigorating. It would unleash energies, possibilities, and visions that only the prospect of a new identity can do.
We need not worry about any such Canadian drama happening soon, however. Such a break with the past requires a risk-taker, a tribune, a trailblazer. At this time, there is no one in our political class who fits the description.