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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.

Close watchers of Canadian domestic political debate might have been surprised when an expert on US cable TV recently proposed Canada as manager of some mid-term, UN-backed resolution of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

At first this flies in the face of current rhetoric about Canada as a broken country or worse. Yet changing population data suggest other recent numbers that defy the rhetoric as well.

Canada has a land area slightly larger than the adjacent United States. For some time, however, the total Canadian population has been slightly smaller than the population of the most populous US State of California.

Now in the waning days of 2023 it has become clear enough that the (currently declining) total population of California is somewhat less than 39 million. And the still rising population of Canada is somewhat more than 40 million.

It is no longer true, in other words, that Canada’s total population is smaller than the population of the most populous state of the Union next door.

The history of this statistic since 1870/1871 — after the end of the US Civil War in 1865 and the start of Canadian confederation in 1867 — is also an intriguing short story in its own right.

The first decennial census mandated in the constitution of the 1867 confederation was held in 1871. The total population was reported as some 3.7 million.

The first decennial census in the United States after the Civil War had been held in 1870. The most populous state of the Union at this point was New York. And its total population was some 4.4 million.

Right at the start of the 1867 confederation the population of the vast Canadian geographic territory was smaller than the population of the most populous state of the Union next door.

The “Empire State” of New York similarly remained the most populous state of the Union until 1970, when the title passed to the “Golden State” of California. And as traced by decennial census data, New York continued to enjoy a greater population than all Canada until 1961.

Then for the first time since 1867 the total population of Canada was greater than the population of any American state — including the most populous — in the bubbling decennial census years of 1960/61, 1970/71, and 1980/81.

During this same 1960s–1980s period Canada’s population as a percentage of the total population of the United States broke 10% for the first time (up from an all-time low of just over 7% at the start of the 20th century). From here it continued to rise, to 11.3% in 1990/91.

Then in the early 21st century Canada’s population as a percentage of the total population of the United States  fell somewhat  again, ultimately below 11.0%. Meanwhile, by 1990 California already had almost 30 million people, while Canada languished with just somewhat more than 28 million in 1991!

For a second time since 1867, in other words, Canada’s total population was smaller than the population of the most populous state of the Union next door. And this reassertion of the old trend carried on in 2001, 2011, and even 2021!

At the same time, by the decennial census years of 2020 and 2021 Canada’s total population as a percentage of total US population had once again started to rise — to some 11.2% in round numbers (up from 10.9% in 2010/11).

And this, so to speak, helped set the stage for the latest 2023 discovery of a total Canadian population that is once again greater than the population of any state of the Union, including the current most populous Golden State of California.

Finally, all this could at least be said to raise the prospect that what lies ahead of Canada right now may have something in common with the demographically dynamic 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s — a time that brought the world both the Canadian flag of 1965 and the Constitution Act, 1982 (with its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

In no conceivable future of course could a Canada with even both somewhat more than 11% of the US population and more people than the most populous US state compete directly with the friendly giant next door.

But it can at least improve its relative position somewhat. And any seriously broken or worse country wouldn’t be doing any such thing, as Canada is right now.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.