How about the Pontiac or Louis Riel Block? : global-village Canadiana (and North Americana) in the winter of 2017Posted: February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA ETC, Mid-to-late February 2017.
RE : Steinmeier in Germany, Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and a footnote on changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac (or Louis Riel) Block.
I first started pondering this quartet of obscure but deep political thoughts on the day that the snows came down. It was a winter wonderland in the old streetcar suburbs.
We went for coffee on the local main street, under rejuvenation through contextual condo development — the unsettling new urban mainstream in affordable housing. And somehow the flow began, in between other things with more immediate priority :
(1) We had just heard that the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier had been elected President of Germany. I think this should be more interesting to Canadians than it is in the winter of 2017. I could not convince my coffee-drinking partner, but that’s just the point …
The President of Germany is nothing like the President of the United States. As the Associated Press explains, the office “has little executive power, but is considered an important moral authority and symbol of the country as its host for visiting dignitaries.” It is in fact very much like the present office of Governor General in Canada.
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany — or as we say in Canada, following the UK and France, prime minister (or premier ministre) — remains the practical chief executive of the German federation : or “head of government” as opposed to “head of state.” And her next electoral test is not until September 24, 2017.
Meanwhile, Ms Merkel relates to the new President Frank-Walter Steinmeier more or less as Justin Trudeau relates to Governor General David Johnston.
And what should be interesting to we Canadians in this 150th anniversary year of our 1867 confederation is that the office of President of Germany is one model for what the office of Governor General of Canada could evolve into, after the sad passing of Good Queen Bess II — offshore in the United Kingdom.
The crux of the issue is how do you select what some branches of Canadian officialdom still call the Queen’s representative when there is no hereditary monarch to make the choice? (Strictly in theory of course : even in Canada today the real choice is made not by the monarch but by the democratically “elected” Canadian prime minister — which is probably even worse!.)
As the Associated Press explains again, in 2017 the new German President “Steinmeier was elected in Berlin by the assembly made up of the 630 members of parliament’s lower house and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 states.”
In Canada this would imply an independent Canadian Governor General (or President even) “indirectly elected” by the current 338 members of the Canadian House of Commons, and an equal number of representatives from the 10 provinces and three territories.
This is the more conservative option for choosing ceremonial heads of state in independent parliamentary democracies. A variation on the theme also appears in the modern constitution of Canada’s fellow Commonwealth of Nations member, the Republic of India.
Personally, I lean towards the more progressive and democratic option of direct election by the sovereign people — as now long (and successfully) practised in Ireland and Iceland. But I think involving Canadian provinces in some nominating process makes sense as well.
In any case this is no doubt already a more elaborate discussion of the issue than many Canadian citizens seem ready for at the moment … .
Some among us may nonetheless have to start pondering such things sooner than we think. In the early 21st century all of us who live in the country and take an interest in its future are stumbling towards our collective liberation, at last.
[For Rosenbaum on Trump, Carlos Fraenkel on a mosque in Quebec City, and changing the name of the Langevin Block in Ottawa to the Pontiac Block click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.]