Monday, September 12, 2022

Time for Canada to unlink from the Royal Family

Queen Elizabeth II, the only queen most of us have ever known, has died (in case you managed to miss that little news item). Millions of regular folks are apparently in paroxysms of grief, for whatever personal reasons of their own. Me, I don't really understand it, but then I've never been particularly sentimental, nor particularly royalist. It has, though, raised renewed discussion of whether independent Canada really needs to recognize another country's Queen as their own

Even before the emotive event of a royal death and the accession of a less-than-beloved new monarch, support for the monarchy in Canada was approaching crisis levels. After Barbados took the bold step of de-linking from the British monarchy last year, polls found that over half of Canadians would happily ditch the royals, and only a quarter see sufficient worth to retain them. Another poll earlier last year concluded that two-thirds of Canadians believe that the royal family are "simply celebrities and nothing more", and should not actually play any role in Canadian society. And these beliefs are gradually increasing over time.

The institution of the British monarchy costs Canada an estimated $60 million a year (Governor Generals and Lieutenant Governors, etc), not to mention millions more in security and other costs every time a member of the Royal Family comes to visit. Maybe this is not so much in the scheme of things, but it is $60 million that could be much better spent elsewhere.

My wife thinks that I am churlish to even consider ditching the royals. She even maintains that they are "good value". But, while I can see that they may offer some value to the UK itself, in tourism if nothing else, I don't see any value at all for Canada. Sentimentality should not play a role in politics and macroeconomics, and a simple cost-benefit analysis can only yield one conclusion.

We missed an opportunity to move on from colonial rule back in 1982, when the Canadian constitution was repatriated. With Liz's death, we are now at another logical unlinking point. Other ex-colonies like Australia and Antigua and Barbuda are also going through similar heart-searching right now.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Any change to the role of the Queen or her representatives in Canadian law would require the unanimous consent of the House of Commons, the Senate and each and every provincial legislature. The chances of such disparate bodies achieving that kind of unanimity on anything is slim to none, particularly on something that it is hard to consider a priority (at least compared to other issues like inflation, housing, climate change, reconciliation, etc)

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