I Was Wrong

Canada has a new Governor General, although she hasn’t actually started the job yet. From what I know of her, Mary Simon seems as qualified as anyone for a difficult and thankless job.

Back in January I made a prediction as to who the next Governor General was going to be. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I stand by my reasoning.

The mistake I made was that I looked at the job and considered the qualifications a Governor General should have to do the job well. I forgot that this is 21st century Canada.

The Governor General serves an important function in our constitutional democracy. He or she signs Bills into law and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. (You probably didn’t know that the Prime Minister has no authority to tell a soldier to take out the trash, let alone fire a gun in anger.)

I point that out becasue earlier this week in conversation with the hygenist who was assisting my dentist as he worked on my teeth, it was obvious that despite being born in Ottawa, the young woman had no clue who the Governor General was or what was involved in the job. I must admit I found that disturbing.

I can understand those who aren’t overly interested in politics not paying attention to the day-to-day minutae, but for someone born and raised here to not understand the basic structure was saddening. Such ignorance helps me understand why we have the govenment we do. It really is all about nice hair and funny socks.

But I digress. We were speaking of being Governor General, which involves a lot of ceremonial duties and mind-numboing protocol. It certainly isn’t the job for everyone.

As an indigenous person, Mary Simon’s appointment is perfect for the times. There has been a focus in recent weeks on indigenous relations, and choosing an indigenous Governor General suggests the government is serious about improving the relationship.

Which in an election year is important. Not actually improving relations, but looking like you care about them. Perception matter more than policy.

Which I am sure was a major consideration. Why else would the Prime Minister recommend someone for the job who deosn’t speak French? In bilingual Canada, command of both official languages is considered essential for high office, or it was as recently as last year when Leslyn Lewis failed to become Conservative Party partly because her French was weak.

It will be interesting to see how this appointment is received by Francophones. I suspect some will feel insulted. After all, we live in an era where everyone has a grievance – sometimes even real ones.

To her credit, Simon says she will learn French. I wish her well with that. I have found learning German much tougher than I expected, partly I am sure becasue I am older. Simon is 74 – it isn’t going to be easy, no matter how proficient she is at picking up a new language.

The fact she doesn’t speak French is why she wasn’t on my radar back when I was making my prediction. How was I to know that the “rules” had changed? So even though I was wrong, I stand by my original position.

And I wish Mary Simon well in her new job. I hope she understands what she has let herself in for. Her predecessor didn’t – which is why you have to wonder about the Prime Minister’s ability to choose personnel wisely.


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