Who in Canada has the royal jelly?

Harper seeks a replacement for Governor-General Michaëlle Jean

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Sunday, April 11, 2010

It is a measure of how well Michaëlle Jean has performed in the role, as well as the job, of governor-general, that there is so much interest in who might succeed her.

Can anyone recall such a swirl of speculation over who might succeed Ray Hnatyshyn or Roméo Leblanc, or even Adrienne Clarkson? Nope.

The list of who might replace Jean at Rideau Hall is also a tribute to the power of wishful thinking, in that some of the names don't meet the requisite test of bilingualism. Rick Hansen is undoubtedly an inspirational role model, but, sorry, he doesn't speak French.

Equally, Mary Simon has been a worthy representative of first peoples, but she would need to acquire a working knowledge of French, at least enough to read a throne speech.

And in any event, there's only one opinion that matters – Stephen Harper's. This is the prime minister's call, and his alone.

In the rotation of l'alternance between French and English mother tongue, it's the turn of an anglophone. Jean was both a francophone and a multicultural nominee. She has also turned out to be a superb communicator. She has managed to connect with Canadians, in unprecedented terms, while maintaining the dignity of her office.

It begins with her narrative - the immigrant girl from Haiti, with her own adoptive daughter from her native land. Then, she wears her emotions on her sleeve, and people like that. When she shed tears for Haiti, on the morrow of the earthquake in January, she was doing so not only for the Haitian diaspora in Canada, but for a sister country of Canada for which there was an extraordinary wave of sympathy and generosity.

With the Arctic seal hunt under constant attack from European activists, she made a very public display of eating seal meat.With her five-year term ending in September, it appears she will not be extended by a year or two, as had been the case with some of her predecessors, notably Vincent Massey and Georges Vanier, as well as Clarkson.

There is even well-sourced speculation that she might leave a few months early, enabling the installation of her successor by the queen on Parliament Hill on July 1. It's hard to see that happening in the sense of who would bell the cat. Who would have that conversation with her? Certainly not Harper, it wouldn't be appropriate.

Much has been made of Harper being annoyed with the G-G over her keeping him for two hours at Rideau Hall before agreeing to prorogue during the parliamentary crisis of 2008, averting the coup by the Three Stooges coalition. Well, it was worth having a good conversation about it, though she was always going to sign off – no G-G has ever refused a request to prorogue, as we saw again last December.

And the alternative, the turmoil of a coup that was constitutionally correct but politically illegitimate, was the last thing she wanted as part of her legacy. You can look this up under King-Byng.

On the other hand, Harper graciously invited her to a cabinet briefing on the aftermath of the Haitian quake, reminding us that while the crown and legislature are separate branches of government, she is also a member of the queen's Privy Council. Moreover, at a time when her nomination went wobbly over whether she and her husband, Daniel Lafond, had supported the sovereignty option in the 1995 referendum, Harper as opposition leader quieted his caucus and refused to join the drive-by shooting.

So, what of the next choice? Here's a thought – an anglophone from Manitoba who lives in Quebec, an inspirational figure for young Canadians to take their game to a higher level, a youthful 37 who gives back through her Right to Play fund raising, flag bearer at the Vancouver Games, our most decorated Olympic medalist and the only person in history to win multiple medals at the Summer and Winter Games. Clara Hughes.

There you go, Prime Minister. You're welcome.

 
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