Thursday, October 7, 2010

Michaëlle Jean = Useless trinket

A trinket is a small showy ornament or something that is a mere trifle.

Siddiqui: How Michaëlle Jean was bullied by Harper

By Haroon Siddiqui
Toronto Star

On Michaëlle Jean’s legacy as governor general, we are being spun, mostly by her.

She will be remembered not for her telegenic talents but for the one defining moment of her tenure — her Dec. 4, 2008, decision to grant Stephen Harper’s wish to prorogue Parliament. His sole purpose was to dodge Stéphane Dion’s agreement with the NDP, supported by the Bloc Québécois, to replace the Conservative government.

While public reaction to her decision ran mostly along partisan lines, constitutional scholars have been divided over her ruling.

A majority said she should have asked the Prime Minister to go to Parliament and prove that he still had the confidence of the House. Others said that Christmas parliamentary breaks being routine, she did the right thing by granting a timeout. Moreover, she had acted on the advice of experts gathered at Rideau Hall while keeping Harper waiting 2 1/2 hours.

That’s where matters stood until last week when she looked back on the issue. And Peter Russell, constitutional expert at the University of Toronto who was among the advisers present that fateful day, spoke to Susan Delacourt of the Star and revealed some of the thinking behind Jean’s decision.

In a farewell letter to Canadians, Jean said this about the prorogation crisis: “A moment in our political history that very likely made the population question our system and how our institutions function.” But more than questioning the institutions, Canadians had doubted her role in them.

In an interview with Canadian Press, she suggested that she had taken long in deciding Harper’s fate because “the idea was to send a message, and for people to understand that this warranted reflection.” That sounds as though he was made to wait not to weigh the constitutional pros and cons of what was at stake but rather to draw public attention to the drama.

This dilutes the importance of what transpired and also demeans the office. That would suit the Harperites just fine.

They have downplayed the GG, arguing, for example, that he/she is not the head of state.

Ever since the 1947 Letters Patent transferred the powers of the Crown to Canada and made the GG commander-in-chief, every GG has made the office more Canadian. The Queen, while our monarch, has never interfered in our affairs.

Outside Canada, the GG is received as head of state, entitled to the full 21-gun salute and 100-person guard of honour, just as the American and French presidents, the only two G8 leaders so entitled because they are both the head of government and head of state. But in Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, the two jobs are separate. Our GG, therefore, is as much a head of state as, say, the president of Germany.

Russell revealed that Jean’s deliberations included worries over how the crisis could get out of hand, given demonstrators outside Rideau Hall echoing Harper’s outrageous denunciations of the Liberal-NDP coalition as a “coup d’état” to overturn the results of the fall election.

In other words, the GG, who’s supposed to be above politics, fell for Harper’s politics of bullying. She blinked — and set a bad precedent.

We have since learned that should Jean have denied Harper’s request, he would have gone over her head to the Queen or attacked Jean and the legitimacy of her office.

If so, that would have been just fine, exposing him as too power hungry to respect parliamentary traditions, and he would’ve had to face the music from Canadians.

What transpired on Dec. 4, 2008, was bad enough. In trying to whitewash her role in it, Jean belittles the highest office in the land.

The job of the GG is far more than cutting ribbons and eating seal heart. It is to encourage, advise and warn the prime minister that the constitutional buck stops at Rideau Hall, not 24 Sussex Dr.


Dr Mike said...

All any of us ask is that the Governor General do the job that he or she has been appointed to do, no more no less.

Making a mean-spirited PM like Harper wait for 2 1/2 hours to make a point just does not cut it.

If she knew another prorogation was wrong & that Harper should go back & face the majority in parliament , then make him hit the door & go FACE THE MUSIC.

What a waste of resources if they don`t do their job.

Maybe we should get rid of this office & any other useless arm of the gov`t , like the senate , that is wasting our money.

Dr Mike Popovich

Bruce Benson said...

I have always had little respect for the office of the Governor General. Jean was a patsy for Harper and forcing Harper to wait 2.5 hours for her decision was juvenile. Jean should have given Harper a good swift kick to the groin but she showed us exactly what kind of wuss she really was. Dr. Mike speaks of dignitaries dining on 4 dollar shrimp, well, Jean was at the head of the table. I bet she enjoyed her junkets around the world at our expense. She had a chance to prove her worth but alas she was a total disappointment.

Anonymous said...

I imagine her advisors told her that if she didnt allow Harper to push the reset button Western Canada would make Quebec seperation look like a mild tantrum, they probably also told her that Canada needs a strong Liberal party and, that this would certainly end any opposition the Conservatives might have for the next decade. Just my opinion, but, she helped save this country and she saved the LPC from destroying itself. Not a bad days work.

Brent Fullard said...

To prove herself worthy of the moniker “useless trinket”, "Michaëlle Jean fled a brutal regime in Haiti and came to Canada to seek refuge in a real democracy, only to find herself installed (through a completely fluke set of circumstances, not to be confused with meritocracy) in a position (ie appointed GG) where she was asked to decide between doing what was right by democracy (on two occasions) and kow towing to the whimsical wishes of Stephen Harper on both instances.

Thereby making her a useless trinket.

If not a useless trinket, then surely a joke.

Anonymous said...

I lost respect for her the day she caved in to Harper in allowing him to call the election without having Parliament make that decision. Our elected representatives should have made the decision to call an election.
She became Harpers puppet at that point.

Anonymous said...

Letter to Macleans regarding Michaëlle Jean`s decision not to report on the particulars of her private conversation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
October 25, 2010

Michaëlle Jean`s decision not to report on the particulars of her private conversation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding her decision to prorogue Canada`s 40th Parliament is consistent with well-established principles of "constitutional convention" (Interview, Oct.11). But, by her own words, in order for the former governor general's "labour of raising awareness and raising also the responsibility of being well informed" to actually mean something more than just empty, evasive rhetoric, she ought to have then, and must certainly now, outline the constitutional arguments that led to her historic decision. At a time when government transparency is the holy grail of 21st-century democracy, she owes her viceregal successors and those whom she applauds for "making the effort to learn about our political system" an explanation more cogent than just a charmingly coy smile.

Mark Rash, Winnipeg