March 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 87  

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Adrienne Clarkson, a new standard for waste

From the Far Lane
Emmett Macfarlane


It doesn’t take long for someone watching Canada’s Gov. Gen., Adrienne Clarkson, to practically smell the arrogance she exudes. Nor does it take much thought for one to realize how useless and wasteful her position is to the country.

“Her Excellency” has recently been under fire for exorbitant spending practices. Last year, Clarkson spent $41 million, including $5 million on a pointless trip to Russia, Finland and Iceland. She defended her budget on Monday, saying “We have all sorts of reasons to believe that having a Governor General is relevant to Canadians if it continues to relate to Canadians and that’s what spending our budget means.”

Come again?

The Governor General is a figurehead — the Queen’s representative (insert eye-rolling here) — who literally rubberstamps everything the prime minister “recommends” because her position is archaic and antithetical to democracy. Put simply, the Governor General is a relic and it’s laughable that we still honour the position in the 21st Century.

The fact that Clarkson and her husband John Ralston Saul have astronomically raised spending is indicative not only of the Liberal party’s rule, but of general ignorance among the population. There are people who believe she actually makes decisions as Canada’s Commander-in-Chief, which she doesn’t (unless you include what colour the new carpeting will be in Rideau Hall, the mansion she inhabits while spending taxpayer dollars).

Those who would defend Clarkson are incapable of providing a single reason for keeping her, or the institution she represents, in place.

The Governor General’s “authority” is in name only. She acts on the advice of the prime minister, and no one holding her office has contradicted the PM in over 50 years — and nor should they, which is precisely my point.

Clarkson and her predecessors are an old stain on Canada’s political fabric, serving only as a reminder of our colonial ancestry. The institution is no more effective than just that: an old stain like those created by the spills of the socialite, upper-class products of incest Clarkson and her husband mimic as they hop from banquet to ball on government money.

On a Citytv news piece last Friday, a reporter was asking pedestrians if they thought we should get rid of the Governor General. When the first person, a middle-aged woman, immediately and confidently replied no, I figured she might be able to make a decent argument to support her position. “Why not?” the reporter asked.

Long pause.

“I don’t know,” the woman said. “I guess I’m just a traditionalist.”

Well, if not evolving and bettering ourselves was ever a reason to keep a troglodytic institution in place, then I’m convinced.



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