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
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
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.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Posted by Brent Fullard at 8:36 AM