From liberal paradise of N California to Ontario under the Ford Nation (and the Governor General of Canada)

Sep 23rd, 2018 | By | Category: In Brief

Sign in shop window, Mill Valley, CA : advertising local fund-raising campaign for Beto O’Rourke, Democratic opponent of Ted Cruz for US Senate seat in Texas.

The managing editor has suggested I apologize for taking so long to report back on our Toronto editorial group’s latest round of consultations with the technical staff, now in Mill Valley, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But as the sophisticated lady asks, who really cares? In any case we had a terrific and as usual helpfully informative time testing the Resistance in the liberal heartland of the Golden State.

The extracurricular activities featured a visit at last to the Bay Model. [“Housed in an unassuming low-slung building on Sausalito’s waterfront, the Bay Model was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1956-57 to demonstrate what would happen if the South Bay were dammed and infilled (as had been proposed).”]

Our casual wanderings also included a tour of downtown Mill Valley. We were especially struck by a sign in a shop window : “MILL VALLEY FOR BETO FOR TEXAS SENATE … RSVP/Donate”

(Beto O’Rourke, in case you’ve forgotten, is the Democratic opponent of Ted Cruz in the Lone Star State, far away from San Francisco Bay. And this is just another sign of the passionate progressive spirit in this part of the USA today.)

My own big problem reporting on all this promptly was that virtually all of us in the Toronto editorial group were consumed by the great Doug Ford notwithstanding clause crisis in Ontario politics, as soon as we landed back in town.

Grounds of California office, Social Metrics Canada.

In the end the courts determined that Premier Ford did not need the notwithstanding clause at the end of the Charter of Rights in the Constitution Act, 1982, to slash the “number of Toronto voting districts mid-campaign … from 47 to 25.”

Like others, I remain appalled by this especially foolhardy episode in the contemporary history of Canada’s most populous province. But there is no point in giving Doug Ford more further attention than absolutely necessary.

Another still unresolved issue on the fringes of Canadian politics has recurrently raised its head on our return from beautiful Mill Valley, CA.

See, eg : “Governor-General at odds with RCMP over security issues” (Daniel Leblanc) ; “Failure to launch: Inside Julie Payette’s turbulent first year as Governor General” (Marie-Danielle Smith and Brian Platt) ; and “Governor-General Julie Payette needs to make a choice about her role” (John Ibbitson).

Is some old Ottawa elite actually at war ?

Counterweights Chief Technical Officer, at lunch in Tiburon, CA.

My own not entirely serious view here is that John Ibbitson offers an almost sensible reaction to some old Ottawa elite’s war on Governor General Julie Payette’s unwillingness to take its claims to define her job with the respect they feel it deserves.

For my taste, Mr. Ibbitson nonetheless still accepts far too much of the all too quaintly old-style monarchist rhetoric about what does seem to me (and many others in Canada today) as just the de facto ceremonial head of state in what the Constitution Act, 1982 alludes to as our “free and democratic society.”

For me the key issue in the development of the office now filled by former astronaut Julie Payette was suggested just this past July 1 by one of our esteemed colleagues on this website. (See Randall White on “Happy Canada Day 2018 : Electing the Governor General could make a lot of sense in the 21st century.”)

In the shop window of a souvenir store in beautiful downtown Mill Valley.

Meanwhile, John Ibbitson does seem to be saying that as matters stand the job of de facto ceremonial head of state in all its vast vagueness (beyond just signing the laws into legal effect, and possibly resolving unclear election results once in a while, etc) is Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette’s to define as she sees fit, not her staff’s and/or her office’s various sometimes self-appointed clients’ and so forth.

The Governor General today does have responsibilities to the larger Canadian people, of course. And what Mr.Ibbitson seems to finally urge is that a new holder of the office must at least make clear to the public how she or he is choosing to define her role, or his role, and so forth.

Wild & crazy ideas in even wilder & crazier times …

Young engineers in training, preparing to visit the Bay Model.

This does seem reasonable to me. At the same time, I think it’s still a little early to demand too much clarity of this sort too soon. As a mere citizen and voter who lives far away from Ottawa, my view would be let’s just wait for another year. Leave the issue  until this time next year. We’ll re-evaluate then.

If there is still not enough clarity for all the various publics then … well maybe we should just turn the office of  Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada into an elected one. As has worked very well in such places as Iceland and Ireland since the middle of the 20th century!

And as started to sound especially compelling when you returned from the techno-meteorological  progressive paradise of Northern California, to “Doug Ford slashes number of Toronto voting districts mid-campaign … Premier puts October election in disarray by invoking rarely used ‘notwithstanding’ clause to cut the number of wards from 47 to 25.”

Recent events around the world can’t help but make you think. What if some deadly serious authoritarian politician became prime minister of Canada? Wouldn’t a democratically elected Governor General as ceremonial head of state look pretty good then? If some emergency arose that the Governor General’s residual powers could help resolve, as some last resort?

At the Bay Model, Sausalito.

In any case, to return to the techno future that seems even closer in Northern California, just before we left on our latest trip there an Associated Press story appeared in the National Post in Toronto : “Robot boat paves way into history as it becomes the first to sail across the North Atlantic … It’s a milestone that shows the technology is robust enough to carry out extended missions that can cut costs for ocean research, border security, and surveillance in waters.”

So … now a robot has made it across the Atlantic … where will they be going next?

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