Queen Elizabeth, the only monarch who has ruled over the colonial domains I’ve lived in during my lifetime, finally passed away last month. Her Majesty had a good run, the longest, and has now left an aging successor whose tenure on the throne is suspect, as is the stability of the Commonwealth of Nations, that rebranded name for the old British Empire.
It is at times like this that nagging questions about the old order emerge. The head is gone, a vacuum exists – therefore, is this a time for change? The anti-colonialists will be out in force: “demolish the Commonwealth, abolish the monarchy, dismantle the United Kingdom, unite Ireland, free Scotland, make Canada and Australia republics” etc., etc. The loyalists, on the other hand, will agitate for the opposite: “strengthen the Royal Family that has a strong line of successors now that the rebels have been expelled (i.e., Princess Di, her son Harry, and Randy Andy), invest in the Firm (it’s good for tourism!), a Royal head of state is far more stable than a republican president (look at Trump!), King Charles of the three-sticks is good for 20 years at least, if you look at his parental longevity” etc., etc.
When I consider our own reality in Canada, we seem to have muddled along quite well with an expatriate head of state. Or was it in spite of one? The case could well be made for cutting that last sentimental tie to a former ruler, given that the tenor of the land is now on reparation and reconciliation for past colonial misdeeds. But what would we replace the royal office with? A president? US Style or Finnish style? One with executive power or only ceremonial power? Should it be a dull bureaucrat or one with showbiz appeal? If we take little Finland again, does anyone know President Sauli Niinistö compared to prime minister Sanna Marin (she of the private party videos fame)? Who pays for the cost of another election on top of the Federal, Provincial and Municipal ones we currently have? How much will all this cost? What new businesses will it spawn? And of course, the other question: do we need a King at all when we can barely put up with our Prime Ministers?
Any change would raise that old spectre again: The Constitution. Remember the ’90s when all we heard and saw on the news was the dreaded Constitution and realized how hard it was to change? One province has still to endorse the original document from 1982, that’s how slow these changes grind. How the heck can we hope to change this document again, one that seems to be all mixed up and fixed like concrete? How do we get 10 provinces and three territories to agree unanimously? Whoever drafted this document intended no change to ever take place other than through revolution, invasion, or cataclysm— events that would render the present irrelevant.
It seems to me that Canada will simply burrow its head in the sand and let the powers in Buckingham Palace and Whitehall argue over it. We have a rather hard time enough managing this huge country with half a million immigrants arriving annually, creating a diversity never seen anywhere else in the world. Just imagine another constitutional debate, a vacuum in leadership, a division of assets if some provinces want a divorce from the new solution, all laid on top of what we have now with galloping inflation, a weak minority government, the after-effects of a pandemic, and that global terror that no one wants to confront: climate change? And Britain—aka Head Office—is also going through an economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude following Brexit, Boris, and the other Elizabeth (aka Liz). There sure is a lot going on!
I’d vote for status quo for now, and hope that our Bonnie Prince Charlie will ascend the throne as the mighty King Charles III, but remain boring and ineffectual, and stay there until my generation has shuffled off its mortal coil. Let someone else deal with this existential threat, if indeed it is one.