Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 20, 2023
Celebrating Victoria Day with a Hint of Irony: Should Canada Ditch the Monarchy?
As Canada joyfully celebrates the long-standing tradition of Victoria Day, it’s worth pondering the irony of a nation divided on the issue of recognizing Charles as the King of Canada. According to an Angus Reid survey, 60 percent of respondents oppose Charles taking the throne. However, what’s truly intriguing is the surge in undecided individuals, with 30 percent of the population unsure about this matter.
Why such indecisiveness? Is it due to apathy or the belief that there are more pressing priorities? Or perhaps, it stems from a lack of understanding about the alternatives to monarchy and how a transition would occur. Without a clear understanding of how Canada’s Constitution and government would function without the monarchy, making an informed decision becomes challenging. Furthermore, little has been discussed about the cost implications or the value a different system would bring.
Comparing the costs, it becomes evident that monarchy is more economical. The British monarchy, for instance, costs taxpayers $80 million, whereas presidents in other countries can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In Canada, the combined cost of the governor general and lieutenant-governors amounts to just over half of what the British monarchy expenses. Are Canadian taxpayers willing to quadruple the cost to establish a republic?
Article: Victoria Day: Its royal roots have changed over the years
Beyond the financial aspect, there are valuable attributes associated with constitutional monarchies. Transparency International, a watchdog organization, affirms that constitutional monarchies are more stable and transparent compared to other forms of governance. Monarchs transcend politics and can represent all citizens, avoiding the polarization seen during elections. Their sponsorship of important causes, such as climate change, youth empowerment, mental health, and more, brings attention and support to critical issues within the Commonwealth.
Moreover, the survey fails to highlight the specific objections people have against the monarchy. Vague statements like “it’s time” or “it’s outdated” do not provide substantial reasons and overlook the fact that our parliamentary system developed in conjunction with the monarchy. Instead of abolishing the Crown, amendments to the oath could address concerns without disrupting the foundation of our Constitution. The Crown, as a legal entity, underpins our constitutional framework, and dismantling it could potentially fracture the nation further.
The large number of undecided individuals underscores the prevailing problem of ignorance. Many Canadians lack knowledge about the role of the Crown and the constitutional processes required for amendments. Familiarity with the history of constitutional conferences leading to 1982 and their implications for interprovincial relations is essential. Educating Canadians about the Constitution, the Crown, and the significance of the King and his deputies is crucial for informed decision-making.
Some suggest a nationwide referendum to gauge support for opening the constitutional debate. However, each province would need its own referendum to guide its legislature, as each province must decide whether to support constitutional changes. While adjustments can be made without overhauling the Constitution entirely, the increased costs associated with a republic, additional elections, and constitutional conferences must be considered, particularly during times of economic challenges and healthcare crises.
Ultimately, the cries of “Charles is not my king!” and the declining support for King Charles III do not provide substantial evidence to abolish the monarchy. This ancient institution, adapted to the demands of the 21st century, has proven to be remarkably successful. Monarchies consistently rank among the best countries to live in, boasting prosperity, equality, and democracy. The secret lies in their ability to preserve tradition while embracing change, offering a beautiful solution to governance challenges.
Starting from scratch, one may not choose a monarchy for Canada. Yet, centuries of history, practice, and experience have shaped a prosperous nation. Rather than breaking the system that has led to remarkable success, it is wiser to build upon it. So, as we celebrate Victoria Day, let’s reflect on the irony of questioning the monarchy’s place in Canada and appreciate the heritage that has brought us this far. (AI)