Government august 14, 2014 – the globe and mail

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Canada was founded on principles recognizing the supremacy of God and the rule of law (Appeal Court Upholds Oath To Queen In Citizenship Case – online, Aug. 13).

The law requires citizenship applicants to swear allegiance to the Queen. Until the monarchy is constitutionally abolished in Canada – something that I hope will take place when Queen Elizabeth II steps down – this requirement cannot and should not be waived.


Much has been said about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's decision to expel Liberal members of the Senate from the Liberal caucus. This step, whatever its merits, masks more fundamental problems with our system of government. Simply put, we are prevented from achieving certain important reforms because of the constitutional straitjacket in which we find ourselves.

The first desirable reform would be to establish a "made in Canada" process for selecting our own head of state, based on merit, not an accident of birth.
The second would be to limit the power of  our head of government. Under our parliamentary system, a prime minister  can appoint the Governor General, the Cabinet, members of the Supreme Court, heads of Crown corporations and Senators. Canadian prime ministers with a Parliamentary majority can also pass just about any legislation they want, subject only to constitutional limitations.  US presidents can only dream about having such powers.  They must obtain Senate approval for their nominees to Cabinet and agency head positions. They certainly cannot appoint their Senators, nor can they dictate the passage of legislation by Congress.  
For a variety of reasons, Senate reform has become increasingly necessary. Whether it's term limits, outright abolition, elections or whatever,  a constitutional amendment may be required. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will clarify this issue.
At any rate, the bottom line is that, while constitutional amendment should never be easy, neither should it be impossible. The requirement for unanimity on certain constitutional changes, for example,  is a recipe for paralysis. We need to find a formula that addresses this issue alone, before tackling other issues.   Until we achieve this objective, important issues will be neglected simply because they might require changes to the Constitution and, in view of past failures,  nobody wants to go there. 


There is a more meaningful way to mark Canada's 150th anniversary than through logos.

Why not retain the Queen and her successors as head of the Commonwealth, while proclaiming Canada's Governor General to be our official head of state?

He or she could continue to be nominated by the prime minister of the day, but with a two thirds majority confirmation required by Parliament to ensure broad multi-party support. Such an arrangement would strike a proper balance between the preservation of our national heritage and our evolution from a British colony to a fully sovereign country.

Surely, a 150 year old nation is mature enough to choose its own head of state.


Andrew Coyne has hit the nail on the head. Senate reform, important though it may be, is not the key issue.  The major challenge is to have clarity on how  Canada's Constitution can be legally amended. I am optimistic that the Supreme Court, through its decision on the current reference regarding the Senate, will help us get out of the constitutional straightjacket in which we find ourselves.   They did it once before, on the issue of provincial secession,  a masterful example of the Court's ability to navigate in uncharted waters. 


Kudos to professor Andrew Cohen for his thoughtful article about the monarchy. He provides an excellent overview of Canada's evolution from a British colony towards  a sovereign country. Full sovereignty, however,    will only be achieved when Canada's head of state is a Canadian citizen who lives permanently and pays taxes in Canada. He or she should be appointed or elected through a "made in Canada" process based on merit, not an accident of birth. A simple way to achieve  this  transition is for our Governor General to be named as Queen Elizabeth's successor. 


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