Jeff Rose-Martland Headshot

Why the Governor General Should Remove Harper

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Over the past week or so, people have become quite fond of name calling and deriding the intelligence of a certain individual: me. Perhaps they caught it from the Commons.

Collectively, the message is this: petitioning the Governor General to remove the Prime Minister won't work. One camp insists that the GG removing the PM would clearly be anti-democratic and I must be an idiot for suggesting it. A more polite, if condescending, group suggest I don't understand how responsible government works, with some going so far as to recommend further reading. More detractors maintain that, even if the Governor General has the authority on paper to remove a sitting Prime Minister, such action would result in a massive constitutional crisis. Then they start spouting legal references like Trekkies arguing which captain is better, Kirk or Picard.

Get over yourselves, please. You have been gazing into the fuzzy navel of Parliamentary law for so long you have missed the obvious. Of course the Governor General has the authority; the GG uses it all the time.

When an election is called, what happens? The Governor General dissolves Parliament. In other words, he removes all Ministers and MPs from office. What about resignations? When a Minister - or Prime Minister - steps down, they don't shout 'I Quit!' at the Speaker and leave. No, they submit in writing or in person to the Governor General, requesting to be released, and the GG removes them. In the case of no-confidence votes, the Commons sends a letter to the Governor General asking either the Prime Minster be struck and replaced (with the Opposition Leader, generally) or that Parliament be dissolved (see above).

Bottom line: only the Governor General removes Prime Ministers. The fact that it is done by request of the PM or the Commons is irrelevant for our discussion. The GG has the power and uses it regularly - end of debate.

More of my recent lambasting follows this line: Petitions don't work you fool! What we need is protests!

Sorry to burst your bubble my friends, but protests are petition. So are letters, legislation awaiting assent, national strikes, Senate requests to remove Senators, the request to dissolve parliament for an election, all of it... perhaps even tweetstorms. Any time one asks the Governor General to act, one is petitioning the GG. Petitioning, as in 'Your Excellency, we would be most pleased if you might see your way clear to...' Any statement, endorsed by 1 or more individuals, requesting that the Governor General perform an action is, in fact, a petition.

The formal request-endorsed-by-citizens type of petition is more likely to be considered legal than the informal crowd-of-people-chanting-slogans type of petition. Civil unrest indicates only that people are upset. Without an attendance tally connected to, and endorsing, an official statement, all one has is spectacle. In order for a massed rally to affect change, it needs to a) clearly indicate what it wants done and b) be able to demonstrate that those rallying are entitled to make such a request.

In other words, a petition.

The final group of personal assailants chime in along these lines: the Governor General is Harper' puppet, in his pocket, is his crony, owes Harper for appointing him, or something about David Johnston's daughter connected to some company that Harper is connected with (or something, I wasn't able to follow the dots.) Basically, large bunches of Citizens believe Harper controls the GG, as he does the Senate, and that Governor General Johnston won't remove Harper, no matter what happens.

If those people are correct, then we are in very serious trouble.

If the Governor General won't concede to the wishes of Citizens who signed a formal petition, then he is not likely to pay much attention to Save Canada Day. Or Idle No More's Sovereignty Summer. Or the scientists, doctors, civil servants, veterans, or, indeed, anyone else who has been rallying on Parliament Hill. If, as they say, the GG is in cahoots with Harper and will not act, where does it leave us?

The Governor General is the only one who can remove Harper. If the Conservative caucus were to revolt and kick Harper out of caucus, we could be faced with Stevie-the-Indie-PM. Even if Harper resigns - which isn't likely - it is still the GG who choses to accept. And, according to them, His Excellency wouldn't accept. Which leaves us stuck with PMSH for 2 more years - at least.

As I discussed elsewhere, The Prime Minister has already forced the civil service into supporting him. He's already attacked those who dissent. What will 2 more years bring? Will it be made illegal to support a non-Conservative Party? Like the civil service, will you risk losing your income from EI or Canada Pension if you are not loyal to "the government of the day"? The Conservatives have already violated the Elections Act and there was fraud in the 2011 election (not yet linked to the party except by their voter contact list). Perhaps Prime Minister Stephen Harper will simply decide to dispense with elections altogether. Why not? Who's to stop him? He already controls the Commons and the Senate, and some say, the Governor General. So what is preventing him from doing whatever he wants?

I have faith in Governor General Johnston. As a lawyer, he respects the rule of law and the prime tenet that no one is above the law. As a Governor General, he must respect the right of citizens - individually and collectively - to petition for his assistance. If there are enough Citizens who are angry, fed up, and disgusted with the Harper Government; if enough of us want Parliament paused and answers provided; if enough of us who want our rights back; then I believe the Governor General will act.

Failure to heed the will of the population usually leads to violent insurrection and none of us want that, most especially me. Me, who decided to stand and declare his position; to risk retribution from a Government known to strikes out at dissidents; to put my reputation - and perhaps even freedom - on the line to do the right thing and try to head-off violence.

So go ahead, mock me, insult me, list all the reasons this won't work, but ask yourself this:
If this does't work, then what happens?

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