Next week, King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey in England. He will officially be recognized as King of Great Britain, Canada, and a number of other Commonwealth countries. Many Canadians aren’t too happy about that, and others are dead set against it.
Recent polling shows that most Canadians do not want King Charles as Head of State here. An Angus Reid poll taken on April 12, 2023, indicates that 52 per cent of Canadians would do away with the Monarchy in Canada. 27 per cent support it, and 21 per cent are unsure.
Anyone put in the position of filling the shoes of Queen Elizabeth II after her long and successful reign has very big shoes to fill. Charles himself has been somewhat of an enigma most of his adult life, living in the shadow of his parents, and when he was in the spotlight, quite often it was due to controversy. As well, there are many Canadians today who see the Monarchy as a vestige of colonialism whose time is well past.
I find myself siding with those Canadians who want to hang in with the Monarchy. Not just because of the man, although I think he has been under-estimated, but also because of the significant and historical differences between a monarchy and a republic both in terms of politics and governance. One of the major distinctions between Canada and our behemoth-sized neighbour to our immediate south is that one is a monarchy and the other, a republic. Some will believe that this doesn’t matter. I beg to differ.
But first, let’s talk about the man himself.
This weekend, the Toronto Star ran a two-page article in their Insight section, titled “The King in Green.” Under that, it said: “New monarch has been an ecology advocate for his entire public life. Now he’s definitely going to push things.” The article goes on to say that “On the eve of his May 6th coronation, Charles finds himself at the leading edge of the global movement to tackle climate change and [he is]carrying the expectation that he will continue driving for change from his throne.”
There is likely no single person more qualified, by example, or influential by position, who can more effectively draw global attention and action related to the realities of climate change. King Charles is among the few who can rise above politics and dedicate himself solely to the cause.
When it comes to the environment, for over 50 years, Charles has walked the talk. After he purchased his Highgrove country home he turned it into a fully organic working farm, using no herbicides or pesticides. He was well ahead of his time on that and other climate-related issues. His personal sports car, which he has had since his 21st birthday, was converted to operate on wine and whey instead of gasoline.
Charles has spoken worldwide about the importance of addressing climate change. In 2020 he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, laying out a 10-point plan to shift the world toward a more sustainable economy, and in 2022 he spoke at a United Nations climate conference in Glasgow where he called for movement at “a revolutionary action and pace.”
The Toronto Star article goes on to say that close observers don’t expect Charles to be a docile King, happy to wave, shake hands, and cut ribbons. In an interview last year, he told Canadian author Margaret Atwood, “My great ambition is to rewrite the balance between humans and nature.” Canadians should be proud to have a King like that.
But enough about King Charles. At the age of 74, he will be there for a decade or so and then, like his predecessors, he will be gone. What hopefully will not be gone is the Institution he represents.
There is a distinct difference between the governance models in Canada and in the United States. We have a Parliament that calls the shots, an unelected Senate, mostly powerless, that is supposed to act as a “sober second thought” when it comes to proposed government legislation, and a Governor General who represents a constitutional monarch with no governance or political power. Real power in Canada lies with the government of the day, supported by Parliament.
In the United States there are three branches of government, all with real and often competing power: the Presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. The tug of war between them is often uncomfortable to watch, the vitriol sometimes over the top, and as has been pretty obvious lately, tends toward a largely dysfunctional legislative process where little actually gets accomplished.
If Canada were to end its monarchist form of governance, we would become a republic like the United States, and yet one more distinction between the two countries done away with. Our Head of State, a president by any other name, would have more power, and by that dilution, Parliament would have less.
We would also, in my view, be more vulnerable to the avaricious tendencies of some of those to the south of us who covet control of our destiny here, not to mention our plentiful natural resources, as our governance structures would be essentially the same.
This is not a pie-in-the-sky theory that can never happen, although many will think it is. Tucker Carlson, a former commentator on Fox News, and one of the most prominent extreme right-wing advocates in the United States, believes his country should “liberate” Canada. That was not just a passing shot in the dark. He has now produced a documentary advocating just that.
Carlson has millions upon millions of followers and could, in the not-too-distant future, use that base to seek political power, possibly as President of the United States. He and his ilk, like Ted Cruz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, and Tom Cotton—all powerful and off-the-wall politicians—only care about Canada in the context of how it can be an asset for them.
Canadians, in my view, should be concerned by that. It would not be the first time large countries coveted their smaller less powerful neighbours. It happened during the Second World War, and it is happening again today as Russia continues to invade Ukraine. It is folly to think it cannot happen again. In this topsy-turvy world we live in today anything is possible.
I think it is imperative for Canada to maintain a distinct form of governance from the United States with worldwide alliances that would support our sovereignty. We need to protect our culture and our identity. While it is important to remain friends, we need to be seen as different from the United States of America.
That is why I support a monarchist form of governance in Canada and that is why I say, as imperfect as the system may be, as imperfect as the individual may be, God Save the King!
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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