The next governor general will have to be respectable, experienced, discreet and inspiring at the same time to assume this unloved and yet essential function for the proper functioning of our institutions.
• Read also: Taxpayers will continue to pay a fortune for Julie Payette
• Read also: Governor General Julie Payette resigns after scathing report
“The question is not to find a golden CV, but someone who has the experience of serving Canadians and who wants to continue serving”, summarizes Philippe Lagassé, professor at Carleton University and expert in the system. Westminster.
For him, it was obvious that the resigning Governor General, Julie Payette, did not have the required qualities, despite having had a brilliant scientific career.
The astronaut ejected Wednesday evening after an alarming investigation into the toxic work climate that it would have imposed on its staff.
Appointed in 2017, Mme Payette from the start showed a disinterest in her ceremonial and public functions. She even refused to settle in Rideau Hall, the palace being too intimate for her taste, unheard of since 1867.
Along the way, Mme Payette has never ceased to attract attention. However, this is precisely what a Governor General must not do, emphasizes Mr. Lagassé. For him, being “boring” is on the contrary a characteristic to be sought.
The governor general must be someone who accepts to be “absolutely insignificant”, adds the constitutionalist of Laval University, Patrick Taillon.
“It’s like a notary. He operates the transaction, which without him cannot be done, but he has no power, he does not choose the house, he is not asked for his opinion, ”illustrates Mr. Taillon.
This does not prevent the representative of the Queen in Canada from having “an exceptional forum,” he underlines.
This is why, since Jean Chrétien, the government has traditionally recommended a personality who has symbolic value and can give a voice to under-represented groups.
Paul Martin thus appointed the first black woman Governor General: Michaëlle Jean.
According to Mr. Taillon, the Trudeau government could this time set its sights on an indigenous person, who would symbolize its desire for reconciliation with the First Nations.
“In the Aboriginal context, the Crown is both the symbol of the colonial problem but also the true head of state with whom we must negotiate treaties,” he explains.
As such, Senator Murray Sinclair’s name was on many lips on Friday.
Appointed to the Senate in 2016, after chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mr. Sinclair was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba and second in Canada. He is due to retire from the Senate on January 31.
Prime Minister Trudeau declined to detail on Friday the process followed to appoint Mr.me Payette and what parameters would dictate the appointment of a successor.
“We are reviewing our selection process,” he said.
Is Canada ripe to do without this function?
Most of the former British colonies and members of the Commonwealth no longer recognize the Queen of England as head of state. So Canada could very well do the same without causing a great revolution.
The escapades of Julie Payette, like those of Lise Thibault, the former lieutenant-governor of Quebec convicted of fraud and breach of trust, inevitably bring back the idea of reform.
But unlike Australia where the idea of founding a republic appeals to more than 60% of the population, “Canada is more loyalist, more attached to its British past”, believes the constitutionalist Patrick Taillon, professor of law at the Laval University.
He recalls that Pierre Trudeau paid the price in the 1970s, when he tried to reform the office of Governor General and the Senate.
The attachment to the monarchy, however, seems to be crumbling in the country.
Just a year ago, Jean Chrétien’s ex-director of communications, Peter Donolo, called “Rexit” in the Globe and Mail.
He pointed out that the institutions inherited from the monarchy no longer corresponded to 21st century Canadian values.
At the same time, six in ten Canadians felt the Queen of England should no longer have a formal role in the country, according to an Ipsos poll conducted for Global News among 1,000 people between January 24 and 27, 2020. .
The idea did not seem to gain consensus from one region to another, however. 70% of respondents in Quebec and 63% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan called for cutting ties with the monarchy.
But 49% of respondents were of the same opinion in the Atlantic provinces, 46% in Ontario and British Columbia and 42% in Alberta.
In the event of a break with the monarchy, it would also be necessary to agree on a replacement model.
In Australia, many are proposing a republic in which the governor general would be replaced by a president who would have no more powers than the current vice-regal.
This model, which would have the advantage of clearly marking the country’s independence, has proved its worth in Germany, a federal country like ours.
It could work very well with us, says Taillon.
But the question remains: who would appoint or elect this head of state?
For the constitutional expert, this debate is “a pandora’s box which inevitably leads to failure”, because it would necessarily require a plan which would be unanimous among all the provinces.