And this is why we need the Monarchist League of Canada.

They may not have all the – or, actually, any – answers as far as what the Governor General should do, but at least they’re not hurling accusations of treason – not even at the Bloc!

From the ITQ inbox:

Subject: Statement To Members About Current Situation in Ottawa


There is much speculation, a good deal of it ill-informed, about the possible involvement of the Crown should the Harper government be defeated in the House of Commons.

There are several points worth making, which you may feel free to pass on to your family, friends and colleagues as they discuss what is certainly a time of both economic difficulty and high political drama:

a) While we may be in difficult economic circumstances, Canada is not enmeshed in any “constitutional crisis.” The Governor General is, prudently, curtailing her foreign trip in order to be present should her involvement be necessitated. As might be expected, the Prime Minister and his colleagues are considering how they might retain office. Equally as is to be expected, the Opposition leaders are considering how the situation might work to their advantage; and they have made a declaration of their intention to work together in some form of coalition government should the situation arise where they might be called to do so. That is their right, although their agreement has no legal force or standing.

b) As Monarchists, we have no opinion as to which party or grouping of parties might best handle Canada’s economic affairs. As citizens, of course each of us does have such an opinion. But in commenting on or recommending a course of action to the Governor General, we have to be careful to divorce our partisan and economic views from our analysis of what role, if any, the Crown should play in the current and fast-evolving circumstances.

c) All the political players should bend over backwards to avoid putting the Crown in a position where it has to use its independent authority.

d) However, if this cannot be avoided, we should remember that the Crown is not a china doll, but a robust Canadian institution whose reserve powers are seldom used but which can be efficacious in unusual circumstances. The Canadian Monarchy will not be imperiled if indeed Her Excellency needs to act independently, although reasonable people (and probably, some unreasonable ones, too!) will inevitably disagree over those actions, just as economists and politicians disagree over the degree of seriousness of the economic conditions Canada faces and the measures that should be taken to address them.

e) The Crown’s role remains, as always, first, to ensure that the will of the electorate is carried out when its voice is clear, as it was, for instance after the last election when it was obvious Mr Harper would continue in office; second, to enable the national will to be expressed by means of an election whenever that seems the best course – as Her Excellency would not wish under most circumstances to substitute her judgement for that of the electorate; and third, to enable The Queen’s government, that is the day-to-day governance of Canada – especially in any time of crisis – to continue in the most uninterrupted way, the acid test for governance in Canada being the ability of a government to command the confidence of the House of Commons.

f) Should Mr Harper’s government be defeated, he has several options in his role as Prime Minister and therefore as Her Excellency’s sole Constitutional “Advisor” (though of course the Governor General has access to any Constitutional and legal scholars she may choose to consult). He might i) advise her to dissolve Parliament and cause an immediate election to be held; ii) advise her to summon one of his colleagues to form a government (eg, a Conservative more acceptable to the House) which course seems unlikely as the differences are apparently centred on policy issues or iii) he could choose to resign. If iii) eventuated (which could also happen if Her Excellency refused his request for a dissolution), he could give such advice as he pleased to the Governor General, but no longer would such advice have the same standing.

g) The GG has discretion to consider Mr Harper’s advice in light of both the current economic situation and the recently-held election. Amongst a plethora of possible scenarios, she could agree to an immediate dissolution; she could ask Mr Harper (or another member of the current government) to form another administration which might command the confidence of the House; or she could accept his resignation and then consider the offer which is on the table from a possible alternative government. In respect of the latter, Her Excellency could invite the putative coaltition to form a government, but – as Malcolm Fraser was told by the Governor General of Australia after the dismissal of the Whitlam government (1975) – in doing so she could say to Mr Dion that she would only give him a Commission on the basis that he would quickly pass a budget and other urgent financial measures through the House by a date certain and then immediately ask her for a dissolution so that the people
choose their government.

h) The League sees the above-described course as appealing, should these circumstances arise, as it would enable governance to continue amidst financial and political upheaval and to deal with it urgently, but would make clear that the ultimate and fairly immediate decision would be that of the electorate – so insulating the Governor General from the criticism that she had effectively installed a Liberal/NDP coalition for 2.5 yrs (reported to be the length of the agreement between the Liberal and NDP leaders) which might be problematic.

i) The judgment which Mme Jean would make in this instance would be between the supposed urgency of financial measures making their way through the House now with an election to be called in a few weeks or so, or the effect on the economy of a dissolution now which would leave Canada without a Parliament to act for another six weeks, although Mr Harper or whoever was Prime Minister would continue to govern in that time as would happen in any other election period.. It would be a difficult decision.

I hope this is helpful to you as you sort through the many complex issues which are before us, and which the above statement can only address in a brief and necessarily-incomplete way. We may all hope that the matter be resolved without the necessity of independent action being taken by the Crown – and that, as has often happened in the past, the mere existence of the Crown’s Reserve Powers will encourage our political leaders to arrange matters in the best interest of the country without regard to personal ambition and partisan consideration.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.