Comparing Julie Payette to Sergio Mattarella in their roles

di Joe Volpe del January 27, 2021

TORONTO - Given the attention, collectively, the country’s media is giving to the office of the Governor General, one must suppose that we live in a surreal world, an Alice in Wonderland environment where everything is make-believe.

Or, as former Quebec Premier and ardent separatist, Lucien Bouchard preferred to say, “Canada is not a real country”. Obviously, here we disagree. However, in 1995, had it not been for the “ethnics” - 55,000 who provided the majority in a referendum, Canada might have been a forgotten dream.

Her Majesty the Queen of England and her dominions, including Canada, stood by as her children squabbled. Her vice regal employee, the Governor General, stood by watching helplessly, powerless to affect any outcome. Now, the latest of these has been summarily “retired” and must be replaced.

With all due respect to both the Queen and any who have occupied the Office of Gov Gen, WHY?

There are even “lists of notables” (celebrities) who, in the eyes of some, should be first on the list of potential replacements. As if any of them either need “the gig” or bring anything to it.

The Queen needs a representative to attend to certain functions – almost always ceremonial – in her capacity as the Head of State. Nice job, if you like forced retirement in luxury and under public scrutiny for the slightest of issues. Sorry, it is probably a sacrifice the majority of the population accustomed to boredom might want.

As the saying goes for those who follow a particular religion: it is purgatory with benefits; it is not Hell forever.

In fact, for a media colleague insistent on promoting my candidacy – which I dutifully discourage – the most attractive component of the assignment there exists an “extravagant wardrobe budget” dedicated to staff.

Former Prime Minister Harper might beg to differ. After the 2008 election, he survived because the then G-G twisted herself into knots to accommodate his effort to hold onto his position. It is a rare occurrence. Constitutionally, the head of State is peripheral to the Government.

A former Cabinet colleague argues for abolition of the office... goodbye wardrobe budget.

We live in a Constitutional Monarchy. The Governor General is there to ensure Her Majesty’s interests (those of her subjects) are appropriately curated by the Queen’s Privy Council.

In Italy, the Head of State – the President - always counts for something. He is the “guardian of the Constitution”, the Law of the land from which all authority devolves. Parliamentarians elect him. Yesterday, the Prime Minister handed him his resignation. Now President Mattarella will meet with all party leaders to determine a replacement, establish an institutional government or call an election.

It being Italy, I have probably unfairly reduced the options for his consideration. The point is that his decision may actually count for something in a Parliamentary environment where negotiation and compromise are the order of the day – every day!

Italians would laugh hysterically (if they were impolite – they are not) if a list like the one proposed to replace Governor General Payette were suggested for consideration when the time comes to replace President Mattarella.

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