History lesson for media on Governor General appointments

Memo to the mainstream Canadian media: stop the innuendo that there is somehow something wrong or nasty with the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be considering a replacement for the current Governor General (GG) Michaelle Jean. That is standard practice, because as history has show us, there has never been a moment when there is not a GG.  

For example, when former GG Adrienne Clarkson had heart surgery in July 2005, she was replaced by Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin. Then, when Ms. Clarkson moved out of Rideau Hall early on the morning of September 27th, she was replaced by Supreme Court Justice John C. Major until Ms. Jean was sworn in later that day.

Her Excellency Ms. Jean has done an excellent job. But, she has been on the job for nearly five years — a term that is “convention” since there are no  hard and fast rules on that issue.

However, this is not an appointment based on a person’s own status. Meaning that popularity cannot be a reason someone continues to be GG beyond the five years. Why? Because this position is after-all, only to fill in for Queen Elizabeth II, so said representative cannot be more important than the Queen herself.

In any event, my point is simply that all Canadian prime ministers have the right to recommend to the Queen, who the next viceregal should be. In other words, what PM Harper is doing is business as usual. 

Personally, however, I have a strong suspicion that with a child that is now a teenager, her Excellency Michaelle Jean and her family are probably more than ready to get back into civilian life.

Endnotes: Here are some very interesting historical facts.

  • On July 1st, 1867 — Confederation — Viscount Charles Stanley Monck became the first GG of Canada and served for a little over a year until sometime in 1868. However, his appointment was actually a transitionary appointment,  as he had already served in a similar capacity for Queen Victoria in what was called the “Province of Canada” from 1861.  Meaning, that in total, Monck served from 1861 to 1868, some seven years. As an aside, he was noted at the time as an astute diplomat and was the first to live in Rideau Hall.
  • Viscount Monck was replaced by Lord Lisgar (John Young), on February 2nd, 1869 who served for only a little over 3 years. From then on, however, terms varied from five to eight years.
  • In modern times, for instance, Vincent Massey served from 1952 until 1959 (7 years), George Vanier from 1959 until 1967 (8 years) and Roland Michener from 1967 until 1974 (7 years). However, had Mr. Vanier not died while in office, he likely would have served much longer.
  • And, as most of us know, former GG Adrienne Clarkson served for 6 years, a year longer than the more conventional five years, at the request of former PM Paul Martin, likely due to the political uncertainties at that time.

History lesson re GG appointments

Memo to the mainstream Canadian media: stop the innuendo that there is somehow something wrong or nasty with the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be considering a replacement for the current Governor General (GG) Michaelle Jean. That is standard practice, because as history has show us, there has never been a moment when there is not a GG.  

For example, when former GG Adrienne Clarkson had heart surgery in July 2005, she was replaced by Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin. Then, when Ms. Clarkson moved out of Rideau Hall early on the morning of September 27th, she was replaced by Supreme Court Justice John C. Major until Ms. Jean was sworn in later that day.

Her Excellency Ms. Jean has done an excellent job. But, she has been on the job for nearly five years — a term that is “convention” since there are no  hard and fast rules on that issue.

However, this is not an appointment based on a person’s own status. Meaning that popularity cannot be a reason someone continues to be GG beyond the five years. Why? Because this position is after-all, only to fill in for Queen Elizabeth II, so said representative cannot be more important than the Queen herself.

In any event, my point is simply that all Canadian prime ministers have the right to recommend to the Queen, who the next viceregal should be. In other words, what PM Harper is doing is business as usual. 

Personally, however, I have a strong suspicion that with a child that is now a teenager, her Excellency Michaelle Jean and her family are probably more than ready to get back into civilian life.

Endnotes: Here are some very interesting historical facts.

  • On July 1st, 1867 — Confederation — Viscount Charles Stanley Monck became the first GG of Canada and served for a little over a year until sometime in 1868. However, his appointment was actually a transitionary appointment,  as he had already served in a similar capacity for Queen Victoria in what was called the “Province of Canada” from 1861.  Meaning, that in total, Monck served from 1861 to 1868, some seven years. As an aside, he was noted at the time as an astute diplomat and was the first to live in Rideau Hall.
  • Viscount Monck was replaced by Lord Lisgar (John Young), on February 2nd, 1869 who served for only a little over 3 years. From then on, however, terms varied from five to eight years.
  • In modern times, for instance, Vincent Massey served from 1952 until 1959 (7 years), George Vanier from 1959 until 1967 (8 years) and Roland Michener from 1967 until 1974 (7 years). However, had Mr. Vanier not died while in office, he likely would have served much longer.
  • And, as most of us know, former GG Adrienne Clarkson served for 6 years, a year longer than the more conventional five years, at the request of former PM Paul Martin, likely due to the political uncertainties at that time.