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According to Amy Maguire at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, on Saturday, October 14, 2023 : “Australians were asked to vote on whether to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament … as a means of recognising … the First Peoples of Australia in the Constitution.”

When this proposition was first advanced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s new Labor government, opinion polls suggested that as much as two-thirds of the country was in favour. But opinion had changed by the October 14 referendum, after a tough campaign with the Liberal (read conservative) opposition aggressively opposing.

As of October 20, with 80% of the national vote counted, 61% had said NO and only 39% YES. And the progressive journalist Quentin Dempster moaned: “The 60-40 No majority on indigenous Recognition/Voice has branded Australia as a remnant racist British colony.”

The conservative businessman Robert Peake protested that Mr. Dempster’s reaction was “Wrong. On so many levels … Was just the wrong approach. Australians just don’t want a legislated advisory body representing a certain part of society enshrined in the constitution i.e. forever.”

Whatever else, the 61% NO vote on the Indigenous Voice does reflect a new conservative mood in Australia  — about a year and five months after Anthony Albanese’s progressive Labor party won the last Australian federal election on May 21, 2022.

Whatever else again, some similar conservative mood haunts the latest 338Canada “Federal Model” of Canadian polling opinion. If a vote had been held on October 15, 2023, 338Canada suggests, Conservatives would have won 194 seats in the elected parliament at Ottawa (albeit with a mere 39% of the cross-Canada popular vote!), Liberals 90 seats, Bloc Québécois 32, New Democrats 20, and Green Party 2!

There are as well a few thought-provoking comparisons between the current polling conservatism in Canadian politics and the Australian conservatism that forged the 61% NO in the Indigenous Voice referendum.

One part of the “remnant  racist British colony” critique of course involves racism. In a 2021 survey for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation “76 per cent of respondents agreed racial prejudice persists here.” And 46 per cent agreed that “white supremacy is ingrained in our society.”

In Canada we have never talked openly about anything quite like the White Australia Policy that governed immigration down under from 1901 to 1958. Canada nonetheless also had racially restrictive immigration policies in the first half of the 20th century.

Similarly, Canada may seem somewhat less racist than Australia on Indigenous issues, because the recognition of Canadian “aboriginal rights” in sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 did not have to be approved in a popular referendum.  (As do all amendments to the Australian Constitution.)

On a related channel, Australian writer Andrew Gardiner has complained that after October 14: “Unfairly or not, we’ve been lumped in with the UK (Brexit) and US (Trump) as countries prepared to shoot themselves in the reputational foot to hang on to what’s seen as a chequered past.”

And this raises the question: does the new conservatism in Canadian opinion polls reflect any parallel passion for “a chequered past” in Canada?

On another channel again, Australian psychiatrist Patrick McGorry —  a passionate YES advocate in the referendum —  has compared the winning conservative NO campaign in 2023 to a similar conservative campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment for an Australian republic in 1999.

As Mr. McGorry has urged: “Same architect and playbook as the Republic referendum. Betrays the original wishes of most Australians. In each case Australia’s growth as a nation has been delayed.”

It also seems possible that the strong NO vote against the Indigenous Voice may stall the Albanese Labor government’s parallel plans to revive the Australian republic issue and end the British monarchy down under in the 2020s.

If the new Australian conservative mood won’t buy an Indigenous Voice, it may once again reject a new Australian republic. Meanwhile, the Justin Trudeau Liberals have already been almost surprisingly conservative on the future of the monarchy in Canada.

Finally, in Manitoba on October 18, 2023 — four days after the “60-40 No majority” on an Indigenous Voice in Australia —  the progressive New Democrat Wab Kinew was sworn in as the first First Nations premier of a Canadian province.

As Premier Kinew himself has urged, this reflects progress Canada has made in his and his father’s lifetime. It suggests as well that there remain at least some real differences between Indigenous issues in Canada and Australia in the 21st century.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Two reports were released by the PLACE Centre at the Smart Prosperity Institute about the state of housing, both nationally and in Ontario specifically. It’s also the subject of some actual policy ideas within the Ontario Liberal leadership race, which seems to have its participants largely stepping up on a file that has been largely marginalized by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, at least in a substantive way—he has certainly used the rhetoric about the housing crisis as cover for the corrupt dealings that happened as part of the Greenbelt scandal that the province’s Auditor General outlined in no uncertain terms last week. While both reports—one on the rental housing situation in the country, the other about needing a plan to build 1.5 million homes in Ontario over the next decade—do contain a certain level of overlap between them, the key recommendation between both is coordination, not only between all levels of government, but also with industry and labour. And that’s the part that I worry the most about.

“No one actor in the system can ensure that housing completions keep pace with population growth,” the Ontario report recommends about coordination. “All orders of government, the higher education sector, builders, developers, and the non-profit sector all play a vital role.”

“Create a coordinated plan with all three orders of government and create an Industrial Strategy led by a roundtable of public and private builders, the non- profit housing sector, investors and labour,” the rental report states in its coordination recommendation. “The federal plan should include targets and accountability measures. The plan should include enhanced data collection, more robust and frequent population forecasts and better research to understand Canada’s housing system. The plan should also include a blueprint to fund deeply affordable housing, co-operative housing and supportive housing, along with seniors housing and student residences and double the relative share of non-market community housing.”

The housing crisis is one of the most pressing domestic issues the country faces, the notion of a national round-table discussion that involves the federal government, provinces, major municipalities, and representatives of labour, higher-education and developers seems unwieldly. I have no doubt that these conversations need to happen, and that it would probably help if most, if not all, of the players were in the same room together, but we have had a pretty terrible run lately in this country when it comes to calling big meetings to coordinate things. If you add in the Indigenous component that the rental report recommends, that may be an impossible task—not because they shouldn’t be included, but because their housing needs are so much vaster and more specialized in many cases (such as dealing with the challenges associated with remote communities who are only accessible by ice road for a few weeks out of the year) that it may strain the ability to come to any kind of joint resolution for action to its very breaking point.

Trying to salvage our failing public healthcare systems, particularly after the height of the COVID pandemic, has given us a taste of just how able our federal and provincial governments are when it comes to even trying to work together in order to solve what is a particularly existential crisis for one of Canada’s defining intuitions (well, according to public opinion surveys in any case). In that particular instance, you had provincial premiers who were willing to let the system collapse because they thought that it would give them additional leverage with the prime minister, whom they insisted on sitting down with in order to personally demand more money from, with no strings attached. It didn’t help that these same premiers were also in the thrall of a normalcy bias that had them believing that a healthcare collapse wouldn’t be that bad, because after all, the system didn’t collapse at the height of COVID, so why would it now? Suddenly emergency rooms were being force to close in some hospitals, and the premiers found out just what their unwillingness to do anything about the system was costing the public.

In the end, prime minister Justin Trudeau simply dictated terms to the provinces because they had caught themselves out, and he gave them some money—not nearly as much as they were demanding—with some of the tightest strings that have ever been attached to healthcare dollars, because the federal government had been particularly burned at the height of the pandemic when emergency dollars sent to the provinces didn’t go toward testing, tracing, nurses salaries, or shoring up the healthcare system in anyway. Rather, most provinces simply put the money directly onto their bottom lines in order to eliminate their deficits as their healthcare systems continued to deteriorate past the point of collapse.

I worry that the housing crisis will be little different—particularly as premiers are already demanding a face-to-face thirteen-on-one meeting with the prime minister on infrastructure and housing, which is transparently an attempt to try to bully him into simply turning over more money to them with no strings attached—the way they like it. Not to mention, the provinces already have a history of taking federal transfers intended for social housing, and much as they have done with healthcare dollars for decades, spent them on other things. And while the PLACE report recommendations do talk about targets and accountability measures, that is unlikely to happen without some pretty powerful incentives from the federal government, which is likely to mean money—a lot of it at a time when the federal government is trying to at least look like they’re interested in fiscal restraint.

None of this is to say that the different levels of government shouldn’t be meeting to try and hammer out some kind of coordinated effort on the housing crisis, because they absolutely should. My biggest worry, however, is that too much expectation is going to be placed on the federal government to do the lion’s share of the heavy lifting, the work, and the financing to do what needs to be done, while premiers can feel content to not hold up their end of the bargain and put all of the blame on the federal government while legacy media says things like “nobody cares about jurisdiction.” We are in a housing crisis. We do need all hands on deck. But we also need to ensure that premiers or mayors can’t shirk their duties without consequences from the public, because that is where the pressure needs to come from.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

According to an Abacus Data poll taken April 28–May 3, 2023, “2 in 3 Canadians would vote to eliminate the monarchy in Canada.”

This tracks nicely with an Angus Reid poll taken a year before on April 5-7, 2022. It suggested that 67% of Canadians would oppose “Prince Charles as King and Canada’s official head of state.”

Canadians are nonetheless still in the early stages of talking about just what it would mean to leave the monarchy that resides in the United Kingdom.

And now that King Charles III has been properly crowned, we at least ought to start talking about alternatives to the monarchy that make sense for Canadian institutions.

To take one glaring case in point, some recent polls ask about “cutting ties with the monarchy and having the prime minister become both the head of the government and the head of state, replacing the Governor General who is the representative of the Canadian monarch.”

Yet in the Preamble to what we now call the Constitution Act, 1867 Canada has “a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.” And one distinguishing feature of this kind of “Westminster” constitution is a ceremonial head of state above the ordinary partisan political struggle, separate from the head of government.

Having the prime minister become both the head of government and the head of state is to effectively try to Americanize Canada’s Westminster constitution, in a way that raises too many questions about just how government would work under the new order.

The only fellow former self-governing British dominion to try to leave the monarchy in this way is South Africa. And it seems fair to suggest that the consensus is this has not worked well.

More durable transitions to Westminster parliamentary democratic republics have taken place in Ireland and India.

The strategy here has been not to replace the Governor General, but to turn the office into an independent ceremonial head of state, that plays effectively the same role “above politics” as the monarch in Canada’s “Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom.”

Ireland and India offer two different options for selecting the new democratized governor general or ceremonial head of state — paralleled, for example, by Iceland and Germany as similar parliamentary democracies formally outside the Westminster tradition. And these options have worked well since 1938 (Ireland), 1944 (Iceland), 1949 (Germany), and 1950 (India).

In Ireland the democratized ceremonial head of state is directly elected by the people of Ireland for a seven-year term.

Any Irish citizen over the age of 35 can seek nomination as a candidate. But a candidate must be nominated by at least 20 members of the Irish parliament or no less than four county councils. And this takes any extreme populist edge off the popular election principle.

In India the democratized ceremonial head of state is indirectly elected for a five-year term by an electoral college composed of the elected members of the federal parliament and the elected members of the state (and territorial) legislative assemblies.

Iceland is a parliamentary democracy outside the Westminster tradition, with a ceremonial head of state selected by direct election as in Ireland. Germany is a similar parliamentary democracy with a ceremonial head of state selected indirectly by federal and state legislatures, as in India.

In all of  Ireland, Iceland, Germany, and  India the new democratized ceremonial head of state is called a president.

There are reasons, however, for wondering whether this would ultimately make sense  in Canada. And most of them involve the prospect of confusion with the quite different kind of president in the United States next door, who is both head of government and head of state.

Similarly, one attraction of leaving the monarchy by following the Westminster parliamentary democratic rather than the Washington presidential model, is that very little in Canada’s current federal and provincial governments has to change.

The Governor General (as even a democratized version of the ceremonial office might continue to be called) just takes over the role of the monarch. (Or more exactly the reformed Governor General would be Canada’s head of state in theory, as well as the head of state in practice the Governor General already is now.)

If we’re going to keep talking about leaving the monarchy (and no doubt we are : look at the polls), we ought to be talking about alternatives that follow Canada’s traditions of parliamentary democracy since the middle of the 19th century.

Trying to “Americanize” our current Westminster-style democracy that has served us well for more than 150 years is not a realistic option for the Canadian future.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Late last September 2022 the Vancouver pundit J.J. McCullough, who writes a sometimes controversial “Global Opinions” column for the Washington Post, published a perceptive  piece headlined “In Canada, interest in the monarchy remains mostly an elite thing.”

All by itself this headline might be one answer to the headline on a late February 2023 Globe and Mail column by the ardent proponent of the Canadian Crown John Fraser: “Canada should show more enthusiasm for King Charles’s coronation.”

In fact most recent polling on the monarchy does suggest that a bare but growing majority of Canadians wants to politely wave goodbye to the institution.

In an Ipsos poll from last September, just after Queen Elizabeth II’s sudden death, 54% agreed “that now that Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has ended, Canada should end its formal ties to the British monarchy.”

A Pollara poll also from last September found only 35% “want Canada to remain a constitutional monarchy with the King as its head of state.” An Angus Reid poll from last April 2022 found only 26% answering Yes to “Do you think Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations to come?”

A Leger poll from last September found “only about a quarter of all respondents said they had been even moderately personally impacted by the Queen’s death.” Nearly 75% “said they felt little to no impact at all.”

Christian Bourque at Leger noted:“It got me thinking over the past four days, there’s nothing else on the news media than Elizabeth … Yet the majority of viewers don’t really care.”

There are some subtleties between the lines of these recent polls — especially in a real world where constitutionally waving goodbye to the British monarch requires the approval of Canada’s federal parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures.

To start with, there is understandably more support in Quebec than in the rest of Canada for ending the country’s now very vague ties to Buckingham Palace.

The Angus Reid poll from last April 2022 found that, Canada-wide, 51% answered a bold No to “Do you think Canada should continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations to come?” But this varied provincially from a low of 40% in Manitoba to a high of 71% in Quebec.

Even outside Quebec, however, the share saying No to the British monarchy was larger everywhere than the share saying Yes. And the share saying Yes was broadly comparable to the share saying Not Sure. In Alberta 45% said No, 30% said Not Sure, and only 25% said Yes.

It is true enough that there is as yet no overwhelming popular consensus (only a bare majority) saying No in Canada at large. Pro-monarchy elites seem to be taking comfort from the lack of “Freedom-Convoy” protests against King Charles III on Parliament Hill.

In the recent past both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have published editorials broadly urging that the monarchy under the Constitution Act, 1867 isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing.

John Fraser’s Globe and Mail plea  that “Canada should show more enthusiasm for King Charles’s coronation” is coming from the same line of traditional tribal wisdom.

Yet the key problem with this  plea is not just that a bare Canada-wide majority of voters already wants to wave goodbye to the monarchy. It is that only a quarter to at best one-third of the democratic electorate now seriously believes in the future of the institution.

In the end any dispassionate reading of recent polling evidence would arguably advise any Canadian government to restrain its enthusiasm for the coronation of Charles III. That just shows respect for what the Constitution Act, 1982 calls Canada’s “free and democratic society” today.

John Fraser also suspects that the Liberal government in Ottawa right now quietly agrees with the current bare majority that wants to politely wave goodbye to the British monarchy in Canada.

And, he suggests, if that is the reason for the “seeming inactivity surrounding our responses to the coronation, then the government should have the courage of its convictions and start a dialogue to turn Canada into a republic.”

Yet recent polling evidence might also arguably advise that the time for government to start such a dialogue in Canada is not quite here yet.

And this does seem the current policy of the Justin Trudeau Liberals. (Unlike Anthony Albanese’s Labor government in Australia, already in the words of the Sydney Morning Herald “undertaking a national consultation tour to shape a future campaign to cut ties with the monarchy.”)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

The Queen’s funeral is just behind us. It is still too early for any deep debate on the long journey ahead to a Canadian republic.

The Globe and Mail editorial board has nonetheless already opined that “Canada is stuck with the monarchy. We should thank our lucky stars for that.”

Some who for excellent patriotic, democratic, multicultural, and even economic reasons altogether disagree with this sentiment may already have their own thoughts.

Those who share the Globe and Mail’s opinion, for instance, often profess scepticism about related opinion polls. Canadian politicians themselves have so far largely ignored the growing evidence of Canadian “republicanism” or “anti-monarchism” in the polls of the past few decades.

Yet very soon after the Queen’s unhappy death our federal and provincial leaders were proclaiming Charles III the new King of Canada. And as this happened some voters may have remembered two recent surveys by the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute.

Both polls suggested that a two-thirds majority of Canadians (66%-67%) “oppose recognizing … Prince Charles as King and Canada’s official head of state.”

Polls on the monarchy in Canada can depend a lot on the exact questions asked. A very recent Leger poll taken just after the Queen’s death asked whether respondents “thought the accession of King Charles to the throne was good or bad news.” In this case 15% said good, 16% said bad,  and 61% were “indifferent.”

The Leger and two Angus Reid polls do point in similar broad directions for Canada. Leger found that a three-quarters majority (77%) “felt no attachment to the British monarchy.”

Another very recent poll from Pollara Strategic Insights reported that: “Only one third of Canadians believe the country should remain a constitutional monarchy.”

The second Angus Reid poll, published April 21, 2022, was headlined “The Queen at 96: Canadians support growing monarchy abolition movement, would pursue after Elizabeth II dies.”

The Leger poll points this way as well. But its questions also elicit a parallel note of apathy on the issue, which has its own history and logic.

Early reactions to Queen Elizabeth II’s unhappy passing were similarly nuanced. The online blogTO in Toronto reported that “People think Canada should … become a republic.”

The left-wing rabble.ca concluded: “Fully abolishing the monarchy would be a tall order and would require amending Canada’s Constitution, getting the provinces on board, and likely settling other Constitution issues, such as the status of Quebec.”

Whatever else, none of this means that the Canadian people are “stuck with the monarchy.”

Getting the legislatures of all 10 provinces on board will be challenging, especially when it almost certainly means settling a few other nagging constitutional issues at the same time.

In the end, however, such things must finally depend on what the great majority of  the Canadian people want. That is a key part of  the “free and democratic society” noted at the start of the Constitution Act, 1982, which finally “patriated” Canada’s Constitution from the United Kingdom.

Growing popular support for an end to the monarchy in Canada in the new age of King Charles III could ultimately be the driving force behind an at last successful cut at the still haunting  constitutional issues that eluded the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords 30 years ago.

And this could help build a stronger Canada for the global storms ahead.

On closer examination, abolishing the monarchy in a parliamentary democracy like we have in Canada today, while politically awkward in several respects, is not  difficult in principle or unprecedented in practice. It has already been pioneered by our fellow former British dominions in Ireland and India.

Very quickly, there is an important enough practical role for a head of state (monarch) separate from the head of government (prime minister) in our kind of parliamentary democracy.

But in Canada this role  is now played by the governor general — in theory a representative of the British monarch, but in practice  a Canadian appointed by the Canadian prime minister since the early 1950s.

All we have to do to politely wave goodbye to the monarchy is change our official head of state from the British monarch to the Canadian governor general (under whatever new name and selection method … or not??).

It will take a long journey to politically dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s in even such a common-sense process. But if this is what the great majority of the Canadian people who vote in elections finally want (in our less indifferent moments), it is not a difficult thing to do.

And if we are even half as democratic as we like to imagine, our free and democratic society in the Constitution Act, 1982 is almost certainly bound to finally arrive at a Canadian republic, even at some point not too much further down the road.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

For decades, we have heard the same refrain—that when the Queens’ reign ends that Canada should have a discussion on the future of the monarchy, and whether or not Charles should become king. On the one hand, this was always seen as a bit crass because the only way that her reign would end would be upon her death, and nobody wanted to mention that aspect. As well, these republicans knew full well that the Queen herself was too beloved to have this kind of a conversation around, and Charles is far more unpopular, so therefore they could try and frame their plans around him instead. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores how monarchy works.

The Queen is dead. Long live the King.

The moment that the Queen passed on Thursday, the crown immediately passed to Charles, who became King Charles III. The process is immediate and automatic, because that’s half the point of monarchy. The Crown operates as a corporation sole, meaning that it is a sort of fictitious legal personality with two capacities—the natural person who inhabits the role, who changes over time, and the legal personality, which endures regardless of who the natural person is. This allows for there to be a seamless transition, so that the office and its effects endure. Contracts, laws, the very constitution, all carry on because the Crown as the institution and legal personality remain unaffected by the current office-holder. Oaths of allegiance or citizenship are to the legal personality, so they remain in force even after the transition. (That’s why the oaths are not only to the monarch, but to their heirs and successors—heirs referring to the natural person, and successors to the legal personality).

If the logic was that there was some kind of decision to be made upon the time of the Queen’s death as to whether or not we continue with the institution, well, that’s not how it works. Even though there was pomp and ceremony around the Accession Council and affirmations from the Privy Council in each of the realms (which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others), it doesn’t change the fact that the transition is seamless and happens instantaneously. There is no debate—Charles is now King, because our entire constitutional order depends on there being a someone to occupy the Crown. It’s not an option—it’s the entire central organizing principle by which the country operates, and cannot be left vacant. And no, the Governor General could not operate in the vacuum, because she is merely operating on behalf of the occupant of the Crown. If there is no one to fill that role, the Governor General is but an empty vessel who cannot wield the powers of state on the advice of her prime minister. That’s the simple constitutional mechanics of how it all works, and we could not wait to decide if we want Charles or not.

The notion that we could somehow do away with the monarchy upon the death of the current monarch is also overlooking the fact that we would need to rewrite the entire constitution in order to make that happen. This is not a few neat edits—as I said, it’s the entire central organizing principle, and it’s not simply a matter of swapping out “Queen” (or now “King”) in the constitution an inserting “president,” because the fundamental underlying mechanisms by how those offices operate is different. Also, this is Canada, so if you want to try and open the constitution for one thing, you’re opening Pandora’s Box, and all kinds of things will start spilling out, as each province will have competing demands on what they want to see changed, and the Quebec question will once again dominate, and because it’s the 2020s, Alberta will also stamp its feet and hold its breath to try and outdo any of Quebec’s demands. That’s not going to happen on the afternoon of the Queen’s death, and even if the House of Commons, the Senate, and all ten provinces could miraculously come up with a republican option, well, with there being no monarch in place, nobody could sign the bill to change the constitution. The whole logical underpinning of this republican notion falls apart on its face.

But even before we get there, it would almost be impossible to determine what sort of president should replace the King of Canada, given the linguistic and cultural divides in Canada, and the influences of American politics that pervade our political discourse, nor is the election of one as feasible as a non-partisan figure in the style of an Irish president, as some will try to point to as a model. That’s one of the biggest reasons why republicanism failed in Australia—because they could not agree on what should replace the Crown. And while there is a lot of talk the relationship between the monarchy and colonialism in Canada, we also need to recognize that a lot of the rhetoric around this conversation is coming from different colonial contexts, whether from India, Africa, or the Caribbean, and that in Canada, the treaties with the First Nations are with the Crown. Eliminating the monarchy would actually mean completing the colonial project because those treaties would no longer be in existence, and that would not aid Reconciliation—it would fundamentally undermine it.

If we want to have the republican conversation, then we should have it honestly and clear-eyed, about what it means for constitutional change, about what it means for the treaty relationship with the First Nations, about what kind of presidency should replace it—and be achievable rather than a fairy tale ideal that cannot exist in the real world—and using more than just public sentiment about Charles as the hook for this conversation, or the false notion that the Canadian Crown is still the British Crown when in fact ours has been separate and distinct for over 90 years now. But thus far I have seen few signs that there is an honest conversation to be had, which is one more reason why the Canadian monarchy will endure. Long live the King.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

During the last full week of August 2022 Jason Kenney, the about-to-retire United Conservative Premier of Alberta, announced that an eight-foot bronze statue of Winston Churchill will be erected this coming spring 2023, on the lawn of the McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary.

Premier Kenney urged that the defiant prime minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War “loved Canada, and Canadians love him. Indeed, Calgary is one of the only cities in Canada not to have a Sir Winston Churchill statue.”

It has subsequently been noted that Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Victoria still have no Winston Churchill statues. And while Churchill visited Canada with some enthusiasm several times between 1900 and 1954 there were qualifications to his love of Canadians.

The UK Labour Party historian Henry Pelling, in a generally admiring biography first published in the 1970s, criticized Churchill’s refusal to place “the Asian and the African on a par with the Anglo-Saxon.” Pelling also noted that there “seemed to be in his way of thinking a tacit subordinating of the Scots and the Welsh, as well as of the self-governing peoples of the Dominions.”

Whatever else,  the achievements of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, born in 1874 to an English aristocrat father and a wealthy American mother, are vast and awe-inspiring.

To start with, there is his somewhat checkered but lengthy career as a UK politician who served as prime minister twice — in 1940–45 (when, as Wikipedia puts it, he “played an important role in defending Europe’s liberal democracy against the spread of fascism”), and in 1951–55.

And then he was also a writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He wrote a two-volume biography of his father (who died at 45), a six-volume history of the First World War, a four volume biography of his Churchill ancestor the first Duke of Marlborough, a six-volume history of the Second World War, and a four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

Winston Churchill died in 1965, at the age of 90. In the 21st century it is an indefensible gap in his political thinking that his conception of the English-speaking peoples created by the  imperialism he so admired did not include the many millions of human beings in Asia and Africa (and the Caribbean) who now speak English as a first language.

(And according to an August 2022 Statista report, some 1.5 billion people globally  are  currently classed as English-speaking. The “Anglosphere” of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has 470 million — not quite a third of the real-world English-Speaking Peoples today!)

In both 21st century Canada and the United States (and beyond) it is especially those inclined to conservative and Conservative (and Republican) political philosophies who continue to seriously revere Winston Churchill.

Yet in some ways it is odd that present-day conservatives should be so attracted to his memory. His father Randolph was an early Red Tory. At first Winston called himself  “a Conservative and a Tory Democrat.” Elected under this banner in 1900, he soon crossed the floor in the House of Commons, and was a member of the old UK Liberals from 1904 to 1924.

Back in the late 1950s the historian of socialism George Lichtheim published a sparkling essay called “Winston Churchill : Sketch for a Portrait.”

It presented even the post-1924 Conservative politician as “that oddest and most distinctively English of political creatures, a Whig”  — an acolyte of the old aristocratic liberalism that held “a certain contempt for the unlettered country squires who made up the backbone of Toryism.”

Winston Churchill was also what Lichtheim called a “liberal imperialist” — on whom President John F. Kennedy conferred honorary citizenship of the United States in 1963.

In Canada today, Churchill’s refusal to place “the Asian and the African on a par with the Anglo-Saxon” (along with his “ tacit subordinating” of “the self-governing peoples of the Dominions” — and flat dismissal of Indigenous rights) confirms him as a leader of the past and not the future.

At the same time, Winston Churchill did have some rare grasp of what history might mean for the future, even when it contradicted his Anglo-Saxon aristocrat’s bygone vision.

Somewhere close to the new Churchill statue in downtown Calgary someone should place the concluding sentences of his Farewell Address on CBC Radio, during his last visit to Canada in 1954 : “Au revoir, mes amis, Canadiens. C’est toujours plaisir pour moi de faire séjour dans votre pays … C’est un avenir splendide que vous attend demain.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.