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.

11 thoughts on “History lesson re GG appointments

  1. It is plausible that Michaelle Jean may rather be the new envoy to Haiti than Governor General, and she may even have expressed that to the Prime Minister in private.


  2. I suspect that Iceman may be on to something. The Haiti crisis has opened up a tragically visible wound on her face and it is blatantly obvious that she plans to be very present and very hands on.

    To do that, as a rightfully so pet project, could present some optic difficulties as her first role and priority must be to Canada.

    The PM’s family and her family are obviously close. There appears to me to be nothing other than appropriate timing and personal choice to me.


  3. Iceman — I bet you are right. Stephen Taylor saw the GG and her husband furniture shopping a week ago and it wasn’t a store where you would buy for Rideau Hall. So, I suspect she is looking forward to a new challenge and may want to be moved by the end of August so that her daughter can start high school — because she looks about that age. You sure don’t want your teen to start Grade 9 a month after the start of the year that is for sure.


  4. Leftists are angry that a conservative will select a GG and they don’t get to decide themselves who this person will be. Notice the articles suggesting what the GG needs to be next time around… according to leftist demands. Too bad, its the rules of the game.


  5. Sorry John, but I don’t like your language. If you would care to re-word things slightly in a new comment or two, I would be glad to post them. It’s just not my style to use or allow over-the-top discriminatory language — no matter what side of the political divide.


  6. So, as we were saying, the innuendo in the media is just plain silly. I heard Evan Solomon tonight on this topic and they finally agreed that it was the PM’s perogative to appoint someone around the five year mark. But, as Iceman and others have suggested, it is more likely that Mme Jean has already told the PM privately that she is ready to move on. As I said in another comment, I think her daughter is just going into high school so my bet is that the family will want to be settled before that happens.


  7. Your welcome NB Tory Gal. I thought I would look into the five year term business and was surprised to find such a variation in GG periods, particularly in the 1970’s and 80’s. So, the five years is just a convention and depends on which political party is in power and how healthy the GG is and whether they want to go on to something else. In the earlier days, for instance, John Young, Lord Lisgar (Yonge Street in Toronto and Lisgar in Ottawa — as well as Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa) left after just three years, went home to Ireland and died shortly after. And, it is only in recent decades that the GG’s have actually been Canadians.


  8. I think all the pundits assume she wants to serve a second term. Has anyone (other than me a few hours ago) asked if she even wants to do another 5 years?


  9. This is just more of the same from the Liberal media.
    They try to stir up contraversy between PMSH and anyone that is seen as popular.
    They did it with Rick Hillier and Obama, the GG and every time PMSH is overseas, they make up things trying to portrait PMSH as unliked, an embarrassment.

    Look at the national media (and Charest/McGuinty) at Copenhagen,
    and in the end,
    PMSH got EVERYTHING he presented. Far from the villian, he was the facilitator.
    And the media know it.

    I am disgusted with the media and their Liberals, the way they are going after Helena.
    I don’t care if you like her, hate her or what ever. They have gone too far with this mortgage thing, just too far.

    Maybe this is while no decent Liberals would run for the Lib leadership, the B Team are vicious, irresponsible clowns.


  10. Wilson, this Helena thing is an obsession. My hope is that the Bank of Nova Scotia will simply say they are not aloud to release personal information due to the privacy legislation. I mean, what business is it of the Liberals? They have definitely crossed the line into her personal life.

    You notice they get other women to do the dirty stuff. Sick.


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