Canada has been, relatively, blessed with mostly good and very occasionally, even great governors general: British and, since Vincent Massey, Canadian. Our current GG, David Johnston is an estimable man ~ we are lucky to have him.
I think that back around the 1980s and ’90s many Canadians began to feel that the office was being somewhat misused as a reward for old political hacks … but then, in 1999 then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Adrienne Clarkson to the post: a woman (although she was not the first) an “ethnic,” a refugee, in fact, when she arrived in Canada in 1941, and, for the first time since Viscount Alexander of Tunis (1946-52) someone who was from outside of the small world of politics or the diplomatic service.
Neither Mme Clarkson’s appointment nor her service was, to be sure, without controversy but, in my opinion, she was an excellent Governor General ~ not, perhaps the best, that would be Georges Vanier in my books, perhaps not even really “great,” but excellent, by any fair measure. Mme Clarkson bought one HUGE skill to the office: she was, still is, a wonderful communicator and that’s important in an office that is, in large measure, all about communicating the very idea of Canada and of service to it to Canadians.
Adrienne Clarkson was followed by another “ethnic,” another broadcast journalist and another woman whose appointment and service aroused a bit of controversy: Michaëlle Jean. She too is an exceptional communicator.
Interestingly, perhaps ~ it is to me, anyway, both Mme Clarkson and Mme Jean surprised many by forming immediate and close attachments to the Canadian Forces, one that Mme Clarkson continues, to this day, in her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the famous Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment.
Neither was your “typical” GG, neither was especially well schooled in politics nor in the Constitution but both have excellent role models in Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II …
… both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth worked, diligently, with prime ministers that they favoured and, equally well, with those that they actually disliked (Queen Victoria’s private views on Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli are now known to us) … offering advice and taking official counsel and, now and again, making important constitutional decisions. Both monarchs, like Canadian governors general, could/can always avail themselves of the very best legal and constitutional advice at, almost, a moment’s notice.
But, most of the time the duties of the Governor General are inspirational in nature: the GG tries to make us be the best we can be and to do the best we can for our communities and our country. What we need in a Governor General is an inspirational leader.
(Now, parenthetically, it may be that, if Prime Minister Trudeau does change the electoral system to one that produces a steady stream of minority governments or weak coalitions (think of Israel, for example) then we may need a string of GGs rather like David Johnson: constitutional scholars or judges, perhaps. But that’s a much different issue.)
In practical terms it is now, again, or will be in September 2017 when Governor General David Johnston is scheduled to retire, the “turn” of a Francophone to be our de facto, ceremonial head of state. So who, amongst the most honourable Canadians, might be a great communicator and an inspirational leader?
My choice is Chantal Petitclerc.
She has already been honoured for her achievements in athletics and in inspiring people by being made a Companion of the Order of Canada. She is in every way suited for the highest office in our country.
I am an old man, an Anglo, a retired soldier, etc, etc, and I am inspired by this remarkable woman. I thrilled to her accomplishments and I marvel, today, at her determination to be the best. She would be an exceptional role model for all Canadians: young and old, male and female, able and living with disabilities.
I urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appoint Chantal Petitclerc as our next Governor General, and I ask my friends to get behind this idea.