What is Elizabeth May’s Green Party anyway?

Apr 7th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Recent attempts by aspiring establishments to salvage the expiring Canadian role of the British monarchy are one measure of how our political system is falling more and more out of step with what our Constitution Act, 1982 calls the “free and democratic society” in Canada today.

In some ways, the amazing thing about the latest Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) poll on the monarchy / head of state issue is that, in the rest of Canada outside Quebec, as much as some 40% of Canadians still do want to “continue to have a member of the British Royal family as Canada’s head of state.”

Yet even in this poll it remains a fact of life — as it has for some time now — that at least a simple majority of the cross-Canada electorate does not want the British monarchy to continue, even as a strictly symbolic embodiment of Canadian sovereignty. (And even with the lovely Kate Middleton who was “designed by a committee and built by craftsmen.”)

Still more remarkably, what is ultimately most amazing about the latest YCYC poll is just how many Canadian federal politicians of the early 21st century are still so eager  to ignore the simple majority views of the cross-Canada electorate, and foolishly fawn over the continuing last colonial vestiges of the Queen Victoria who signed our Constitution Act, 1867.

The most obvious and nowadays unsurprising recent examples came this past Tuesday, April 2, with such headlines as  “Welcome to Canada: New guide for immigrants highlights the Queen,  the military and acceptable marriages,” and “New ‘Welcome to Canada’ guide emphasizes monarchy, undervalues restaurant tipping.”

The mature Harper government, that is to say, does not care that a simple majority of the cross-Canada electorate (with special emphasis on Quebec) does not support its revival of  the British monarchy as a defining symbol of Canadian life in the year 2013. Leaning on the strange political arithmetic of our present juxtaposed electoral and party systems, Mr. Harper’s crucial strategy is to focus on the less than 40% of the electorate (concentrated in Western Canada and Ontario outside Toronto) that can win a governing majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons.

Even more bizarrely, two further headlines from later this past week (Thursday, April 4 and Friday, April 5) suggest that foolishly fawning over the continuing last colonial vestiges of the British monarchy in Canada is not something confined to politicians still haunted by the old loyal Orange Tory Party of John A. Macdonald. See here, eg, such headlines as: “Elizabeth to Elizabeth: Queen rejects call from Green Party leader to probe robocalls scandal,” and “Queen Elizabeth appropriately rejects Elizabeth May’s call for a robocall inquiry.”

You can, in trying to explain these things, point out (albeit somewhat invidiously) that Elizabeth May was in fact born in 1954 in “Hartford, Connecticut to a British father and American mother.” She only moved with her family to “Margaree Harbour, Nova Scotia in 1972, following a summer vacation spent on Cape Breton Island”(when she was 18 years old). Because she did not spend her formative earliest years in Canada, some might argue, Ms May does not quite understand the extremely vague and almost entirely ephemeral position of the British monarchy in Canada today, etc, etc.

Andy Radia on the Yahoo Canada site (in the article noted above as “Queen Elizabeth appropriately rejects Elizabeth May’s call for a robocall inquiry”) has pointed to some still more depressing (and/or amusing) points of explanation. To start with: “Last summer, Green Party delegates voted in favour of an emergency resolution which tasked party leader Elizabeth May to ask the Queen for a Royal Inquiry into the robocall scandal.”

Mmmm. No wonder the Green Party in Canada doesn’t seem to be going places. Mr. Radia goes still further: “May, a learned attorney, should have known” that the Queen would simply “forward your letter to the Governor General of Canada” (who can’t really do anything about the robocalls issue either). Mr. Radia goes on : “Whether or not you believe an inquiry into the robocall scandal is warranted, contacting the Queen was an exercise in futility … Either the Green Party delegates were partaking in a cheap PR stunt or they all need a lesson in Canadian civics.”

Unfortunately, if the lesson in Canadian civics is going to come from the Harper government’s new “‘Welcome to Canada’ guide” that “emphasizes monarchy, undervalues restaurant tipping,” many other immigrants who first arrive in the country when they are 18 years old are going to share the confusion of both Elizabeth May and (some of?) her fellow Green Party delegates.

(Or, wait a minute, could Mr. Radia’s other speculation get to the real bottom of things? Were the Green Party delegates just “partaking in a cheap PR stunt,” to show the rest of us how foolish it is to keep pretending that the British monarch across the sea somehow still is and/or can possibly be some kind of meaningful Canadian head of state today? If I thought that were the case myself, I might also start to think about actually voting for the Green Party in the next federal election in 2015. But we know from other sources that Elizabeth May does quite seriously believe in the monarchy in Canada herself — even if she, like so many others among us, does not really understand what it is and isn’t all about in the second decade of the 21st century!)

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