You don't know much about Kim Kardashian, but you've seen her on TV a few times. You don't understand why she has her followers. She doesn't really do anything, does she? But in any case, she has her fans. Come to think of it, you don't especially like Kim Kardashian. But guess what? Kim Kardashian is on a publicity tour for her latest TV show, and she wants to make a stop in a city some 200 kilometres away from yours. She's going to be there for the day. You're going to have to foot some of the bill. Seems rather silly, doesn't it?
We often mock our American neighbors for their fascination with the Kardashians and Hiltons. People like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton are famous for, well, being famous ("She knows people," Ricky Gervais says in Extras about Sadie Frost); products of the sometimes incomprehensible but highly profitable celebrity machine. We act like it's something new for us in the 21st century. But it's been in existence a lot longer, though its products are often better groomed, dressed, and don't have such big (if any) mouths. I'm speaking, of course, of the monarchy.
Now, while they may not have their own reality TV show, the monarchy is a perfect example of fame for fame's sake; one needn't achieve anything to become a monarch other than be born at the right place and at the right time. Either that, or have a royal fall in love with you.
Now, before someone calls out treason, the monarchy may be slightly less vapid than a Hollywood celebrity; careful attention must be paid to the philanthropic endeavors of the Royal Family. The Queen alone is patron to some 600 charities, with the family in its entirety pledging allegiance to over 6,000 causes -- ranging from the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Croquet Club to the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, to the Canadian branch of Save the Children. This is nothing to scoff at. And while some may say the Royal Family has further rooted itself in charitable causes in order to maintain legitimacy in an otherwise democratic 21st-century world, they are nonetheless doing good work, and tirelessly at that.
But does this charity work warrant a Canadian to "swear that [he] will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors?" Absolutely not. It may very well warrant respect, but only in the sense that any charitable person (be it Prince William or William Shatner) should. Because when it comes down to it, beyond this, what else does the Royal Family do? They're benign figureheads, symbolic of a once-great empire and colonialism's chains.
Yet the Harper government has decided to engage in a sort of rapprochement with our once-masters, forgoing a true Canadian identity for one that is irrevocably linked with that of England. And the Liberals (in a rare showing of courage) are protesting this, going so far as to say Canada should sever its ties with the monarchy.
Good. The monarchy has no business having any business in a democratic country such as Canada. And it's not so much a Liberal, Conservative, or even political issue as much as it is a Canadian one. We are an independent nation of Canadians first and foremost, and should not be subjugated to professing our love, let alone allegiance to some woman (for that is what she is, some woman) across the Atlantic, living in a palace.
If the British want to be reigned over by an unelected person, then so be it; but the same must not be applied to Canada if we wish to call ourselves an independent country. A woman with no executive, legislative, or judicial power should not occupy our currency in the same way that Canadian figureheads such as William Mackenzie King and Robert Borden do. For all their foibles, at least they did something for the country.
Furthermore, it's wrong that the country's head of state is a position that no one can aspire to unless they have the same blood. Again, if the Brits want it to be that way, then let them have it. But to have a country that calls itself a) democratic; and b) independent such as Canada, consent to the fact that the highest position in the land is unattainable by any resident, and on top of that, anyone who is not Anglican, is not only contrary to all notions of democracy, but it is downright nepotistic in the most honest sense of the word (for it is truly and only based on family) and religiously discriminatory.
Maybe for the time being, and the way the monarchy is with the mute Queen Elizabeth II, things don't seem so bad, let alone embarrassing for Canadians. But as Daniel Defoe asked in 1713 in An Answer to a Question that Nobody Thinks of and Christopher Hitchens in 2010 in "Charles, Prince of Piffle," what's going to happen if the Queen dies? The answers are incredibly different, and more important, show why that family has no business reigning over anyone. Should Elizabeth die, Canada's head of state will be Prince Charles, a man who believes "plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way." People everywhere mocked Spencer Pratt of MTV's hit reality show The Hills for his fascination with the cleansing properties of healing crystals, yet Charles proves it's not an "eccentricity" reserved for Californian celebrities alone. Some head of state, huh?
And take a peek into the life of Prince Andrew. I say the monarchy does nothing save for charity work. Well, that's wrong. Prince Andrew has very little chance of ever sitting in that throne, but the fact that he is in line to and that he may one day reign over Canada is something that this nation should be ashamed of. We mocked Berlusconi for his sexcapades; well, at least he wasn't guaranteed his place as head of state by the rules of archaism and nepotism and the holy man in the sky.
The Liberals have put forth the argument that Canadians are paying more for the monarchy than the British are, with visits for the Queen last year costing taxpayers $2.5 million (not including policing costs). But hand it to the young liberals to dance around the real debate: it's not how much Canadians are paying, it's what they're paying for, which, according to Robert Finch, COO of the Monarchist League of Canada, is "the stability of the Crown [...] for the price of a cup of coffee"; i.e. $1.53 per capita each year.
Amounting to $40 to $50 million a year (according to Tom Freda, of Citizens for a Canadian Republic), the sum is not necessarily a large one by any means. But paying for the Crown, and for those visits from William and Kate and Elizabeth, comes at the cost of Canadian dignity and independence, regardless if the fee is $50 million or $50.
If they want to come say hello to their fans, let them, but on their own dime, or at that of their ardent fans (à la Lady Gaga). Me, I'll happily forgo the stability of archaism for an extra coffee every year. At least I know I'll be drinking it as a free man, and not a serf.
It's was extreme makeover time for the Liberal Party of Canada at its biennial policy convention in Ottawa. Here's a half-dozen hot topics the 2,600 delegates debatedor decided. Photo: CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld With files from CBC.
UPDATE: Leadership speculation swirled at the Liberal convention. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty ruled out a run and his brother David said he was considering a campaign. Former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon also attracted attention by hosting a hospitality suite, encouraging some to argue he must be considering a bid for the party's top job. Former astronaut and MP Marc Garneau is also said to be considering a bid. Of course, current interim leader Bob Rae continued to be the primary focus of leadership rumours. He's the interim leader for now, but after Wednesday's barnburner of a speech to his Parliamentary caucus, those inclined to think he also wants to be the permanent leader had fresh fuel for their burning suspicions. Will more signs emerge over the convention weekend? Will other potential candidates for the permanent leadership stand up and say something about their own ambitions? Photo: CP
UPDATE: Mike Crawley was elected President of the Liberal Party of Canada at the biennial convention in Ottawa. Will it be Mister President (Mike Crawley) or Madame President (Sheila Copps)? Or do the media pundits have it wrong and delegates are prepared to elect one of the other two contenders? Will the party elect someone with radical ideas for reform or someone more comfortable with the party's established path? The presidency vote could become a proxy for the bigger tug of war touching nearly every aspect of the convention -- how ready is the party to embrace change? Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Frank Gunn
UPDATE: Maryanne Kampouris was elected National Policy Chair at the Liberal convention in Ottawa. Five party activists are in the running to helm the party's quest to redefine its policy platform before the next election, including one (20-year old Zach Paikin, above) who can't personally remember not just Liberal glory days in the seventies, but any of the party's history prior to Jean Chrétien's leadership. What coherent vision will emerge from the race for the chair and from policy resolutions delegates will debate on the floor.
UPDATE: The Liberal party voted for the resolution to legalize marijuana and against the resolution to cut ties with the monarchy. Speaking of youth and policy debates ... a range of ideas are up for discussion at this convention, including some more radical ideas originating with the youth wing of the party, such as dropping the Queen as Canada's head of state in favour of a Canadian-born figurehead and the legalization and regulation of marijuana. If the delegates go for some of the more exotic policy ideas, will that capture some excitement in the eyes of the voting public? Photo: PA
Was the defection of Quebec MP Lise St-Denis from the NDP a one-off, or the start of a trend? If Quebec is up-for-grabs as pollsters suggest, what strategy do the Liberals have to capitalize on that opportunity and try for a return to the party's glory days of dominating the province's politics? Can their brand be saved in Quebec? Photo: Alamy
If it starts with "re-" it was probably a theme at this convention ... which might explain the giant letters displayed at the entrance to the convention centre. If the party wants a rebirth, it has to reform in order to rebuild. To do that, it may need to recycle some past hits, but the party's regeneration will require fresh ideas, too. To avoid re-igniting past tensions, Liberals will need to avoid repeating their past mistakes. Job one is restoring the party in the minds of voters as the best alternative to the governing Conservatives. And that means renewal. Photo: Getty
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