Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, sent a missive over the weekend explaining how David Johnston was chosen as our new governor general. There will certainly be critics of the plan, and not everyone is going to like Johnston in the role, or think he is non-partisan. But the way he was selected is certainly better than using one’s need to open up a seat for a star candidate.
I was not surprised by the apolitical nature of the appointment. Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have no qualms about loading up the senate or the judiciary with Conservatives but he has not done so when it comes to appointing provincial lieutenant governors.
In Manitoba, although a senior Conservative operator reportedly wanted the job, he was turned down in favour of Chinese community leader Philip Lee. I’ve heard some grumblings that he has Conservative leanings but his was nowhere near as partisan an appointment as his predecessor. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin gave the job to John Harvard in 2004 in one of the most overtly political maneuverings one can imagine. Harvard got the job only so he would vacate his Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia seat so then Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray could run for the Liberals there.
It is still rather odd that the governor general is selected by the prime minister. It is like the vice-president hiring the company’s CEO or the CEO appointing the chair of the board. But at least this is a step in the right direction.
Below is Soudas’s e-mail outlining the process.
There has never been a robust consultation process on the appointment of a Governor General. Past consultations have been ad hoc and perfunctory.
Recognizing the significant role the Governor General fills as the Crown’s representative in Canada, Prime Minister Harper appointed an expert advisory committee to lead an unprecedented national consultation effort.
The advisory committee engaged in extensive consultations across the country, meeting with leading constitutional experts, past and current political leaders, and other distinguished Canadians before providing the Prime Minister with its confidential recommendations.
The Members of the Committee consulted Canada-wide with individuals who were not only aware of what the role of a Governor General involves but who were able to provide suggestions based on a first-hand knowledge of their region and the persons they proposed. The process was viewed and welcomed by all as a Canada-wide consultation on an appointment of great importance to the country and to all Canadians.
The Members were guided by one key question in assessing their recommendations to the Prime Minister: "Will the next Governor General be able to serve without partisanship and according to the Constitutional role he/she will be given?"
Sheila-Marie Cook, (Committee Chair)
Secretary and Deputy to the Governor General
Mme Cook was appointed Secretary and Deputy to the Governor General in September 2006. She has extensive experience in strategic planning and management of Royal Commissions. Early in her career, Mme Cook served as legislative assistant to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Mayor Ralph Klein appointed her as the City of Calgary’s chief of protocol for the XV Olympic Winter Games. Cook holds degrees in Music and History and is a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. She was awarded the CVO (Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2010.
Rainer Knopff, Professor of Political Science, University of Calgary
Knopff’s teaching and writing involves various aspects of public law, public policy, and political thought, with an emphasis on comparative approaches to Canadian issues. He is well-known for his views about the influence of judicial decisions on Canadian public policy. Knopff earned his B.A. from McMaster University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.
Kevin S. MacLeod, Usher of the Black Rod, Senate of Canada
Educated at Boston University, Carleton University, and l'Université de Dijon, MacLeod worked for Members of Parliament for 10 years before joining the Department of Canadian Heritage. Over 22 years, he rose to the position of Chief of Protocol and was promoted by the Queen to the rank of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. MacLeod was appointed Usher of the Black Rod in 2008 and Canadian Secretary to the Queen in April 2009.
Christopher Manfredi, Dean of Arts, McGill University
Manfredi is a professor of political science and Dean of Arts at McGill University. He has studied at the University of Calgary and received his PhD from Claremont Graduate School. Manfredi is an authority on the role of the judiciary in democratic societies, principally Canada and the United States. He has published extensively in academic and professional journals and is a highly-regarded political and legal commentator.
Christopher McCreery, Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia McCreery is an author and historian, best known for his five books on Canada’s honours system. A native of Kingston, Ontario, he holds a doctorate in Canadian history from Queen’s University. Since February 2009, McCreery has been Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. He previously served as a Senior Advisor to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and to the Speaker of the Senate.
Jacques Monet, Director, Canadian Institute of Jesuit Studies
Monet is one of Canada’s leading historians. He earned a doctorate in history at the University of Toronto in 1964 and has since taught at Saint Mary’s University, Loyola College, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa. He has also served as rector of the University of Sudbury (an affiliate of Laurentian University.) Monet is a contributor to the Canadian Dictionary of Biography and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.