Debating the Monarchy

By Kevin Rothbauer

Finally, a Liberal politician has said something progressive.

Deputy Prime Minister John Manley’s suggestion last week that Canada move to sever its ties to the British monarchy is about the most inspiring thing that a member of Chretien’s cabinet has done since the Liberal regime came into power. Manley has taken a lot of heat for his comments, particularly since they came just as Queen Elizabeth II began a 12-day tour of the country. In the face of all that criticism, Manley has refused to back down, offering up “I wished I’d been a little more skillful in answering that question,” as the closest thing to an apology.

According to the Monarchist League of Canada, all Canadians pay 74 cents a year toward keeping our ties with the monarchy. This may not sound like a lot, but it adds up to more than $23 million. The monarchy is a luxury we can’t afford, the Queen herself is rarely in Canada, and her representative, Adrienne Clarkson, does little more than award medals and cut ribbons.

The only argument for keeping the monarchy is that it’s a tradition. I’m all for recognizing our history, but in this case, it’s time to move on. Canadians can no longer relate to the monarchy. The percentage of Canadians who trace their origins back to the British Isles decreases with every census, and many of those who do aren’t particularly attached to the antiquated throne and its figurehead seat-warmer.

Manley is already in the running to be our next prime minister, and one of the first things he should do if elected is hold a referendum about the monarchy. Monarchists may point to Australia’s failed 1999 referendum of the same, but they fail to acknowledge the poorly worded question indicating that the republic’s president would be chosen by parliament, not by the people. Had the question been worded better, Aussie republicans are convinced the referendum would have passed.

One humorous argument toward keeping the monarchy is that Canada would have to quit the British Commonwealth–thus eliminating us from the Commonwealth Games, where we actually dominate the medal count. This is a misconception. Not only did Canada finish a mere third in this summer’s medal count, but ditching the monarchy would not force Canada out of the Commonwealth. Botswana, Fiji, India and South Africa have gone the republican route and are still allowed to compete. Several other Commonwealth nations, including Samoa and Lesotho recognize their own monarchs rather than the Queen.

Becoming a republic won’t damn Canada to Americanization. CBC host Rex Murphy, one of Canada’s reigning intellectuals, says “The Americans long ago gave up on a Queen and as a consequence they now have Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters.” At least Winfrey and Walters do something. And it’s not like being tied to the throne prevented us from spawning Celine Dion and Dini Petty. Besides, when the Windsor Abbey topsoil is finally shovelled over Elizabeth’s wooden box, it’ll be Charles who takes her place, and the international media has already turned him into a celebrity of Ricky Martin-esque proportions. Although, with Chas on the throne, at least our head of state will have a good pair of ears.

Leave a comment