Ignatieff's GG endorsement raises eyebrows

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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is urging the prime minister to extend Michaelle Jean's term as Governor General when her five-year appointment expires in September.

In an unusual break with the non-partisan tradition of all things GG, Ignatieff issued a news release Sunday saying the Queen's Canadian secretary consulted him on a successor at Stephen Harper's request.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean

Ottawa -

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is urging the prime minister to extend Michaelle Jean's term as Governor General when her five-year appointment expires in September.

In an unusual break with the non-partisan tradition of all things GG, Ignatieff issued a news release Sunday saying the Queen's Canadian secretary consulted him on a successor at Stephen Harper's request.

Jean has served her country with "distinction and honour" and deserves Canada's thanks, Ignatieff said.

"We just think somebody ought to get up and say: 'Bravo, Michaelle Jean; you've done a great job for Canada and in our view it would be great if you continue,"' Ignatieff told reporters after a Sunday speech.

Within hours on Sunday, the topic of Ignatieff's comments was becoming political fodder - just the sort of thing critics of his public declaration warned would happen.

The Prime Minister's Office issued an official statement saying Jean has done "an exceptional job representing Canada" and that she and Harper "have an excellent working relationship."

The governor general is the Queen's representative in Canada, effectively - albeit largely ceremonially - the head of state.

Appointed by the prime minister - formally by the Queen - her roles include the power to name a new government, a particularly sensitive issue in the current minority Parliament.

"One of the governor general's most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place that has the confidence of Parliament," says the GG's website.

"In addition, the governor general holds certain reserve powers, which are exercised at his or her own discretion."

Her powers were put to the test in December 2008 when she tossed Harper a lifeline and granted his request to prorogue Parliament while his Conservative minority was about to be toppled by an opposition coalition.

"The governor general is non-partisan and non-political," says the website.

Robert Finch, dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said Ignatieff's "peculiar" public endorsement risks politicizing the appointment process and compromising the GG's independence.

"I'm a little bit blown away," Finch said in an interview.

"It's certainly unusual for a leader of an Opposition - or anybody, actually - to go public with their suggestions as to who should be governor general.

"It kind of opens the realm to politics and you don't want politics entering into the nomination process of the governor general."

Finch suggested such a move can start a slippery slope, whereby political parties ultimately line up behind one candidate or another.

Jean was appointed by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin in 2005. The subject of her replacement has been widely discussed since Harper recently confirmed her term would not be extended.

Several names have been floated as potential successors, including disabled-rights campaigner Rick Hansen; former defence chief John de Chastelain; Inuit leader Mary Simon and Reform party founder Preston Manning.

A Facebook page has even sprung up where tens of thousands are advocating Montreal-born actor William Shatner - Star Trek's Captain Kirk - for the job.

"It's time for Canada to boldly go where no country has gone before," it says.

The traditional five-year terms of Canadian governors general have been extended on several occasions - by as much as two years. Among those who've been kept on were Roland Michener, Jeanne Sauve and Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson.

Said Ignatieff's release: "Ms. Jean has done a superb job. I am calling on Stephen Harper to reconsider his decision to replace her."

He said Canadians were "deeply moved by her strong and passionate performance" after the devastating earthquake in her Haitian homeland, which reportedly killed more than 200,000 people.

Her role in bringing attention to Haiti and its people's plight has been "significant, profound and needs to be sustained," Ignatieff said.

Jean has also been a powerful advocate for aboriginal and Arctic peoples, and a proud commander-in-chief who has stood alongside Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he added.

"As a francophone woman who overcame great obstacles to get where she is today, and as the first black Canadian appointed as governor general, I can't imagine a better role model for young Canadians, particularly young girls," said Ignatieff.

Organizations: Queen's, Monarchist League of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, Montreal Haiti Arctic Afghanistan

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    The Governor General has done an excellent job. However, her appointment by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, our former Prime Minister has lost its sense of importance and goodness by Stephen Harper. he has someone better from Western Canada already picked.

    Good Luck, Madame Jean.

  • Frank M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    The position of ceremonial Head of State should not be foremost in the mind of Dr. Ignatieff.

    There are far more important issues which need addressing facing this Nation.

    This does not make Dr. Ignatieff look like a replacement to Stephen harper.

    Leadership and inventive policies will.

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Pathetic! A dishonest attempt to manufacture an artificial wedge issue: Harper is appointing someone new, therefore he must be against the GG; Ignatieff wants the GG to remain, therefore he must be for the GG.

    Quentin Jurgens, (former) M.P., would be a good choice.

  • Maurice E.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    While she has shown more leadership and has been more a symbol of what we think Canadian values should be (more than our Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders combined), and while I would not be dis-pleased to see her term extended ---- how about a Canadian position where she could do even more good ---- like Prime Minister?

  • Pat
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Rick Hillier for GG!

  • member of the 20%
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Prorogue the position and cut all ties with the royal welfare lot.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    What a turnaround it would be if William Shatner gets the gg job. Michaelle Jean advocate of the seal hunt to William Shatner who wants it stopped. Hopefully Harper won't do such a foolish thing and give him the job. It would be the same as giving us the shaft again.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The present GG has already shown her partiasinship by allowing Haper to prorogue Parliament twice - once to avoid defeat when he lost the confidence of the House and a second time to enable him to avoid a possible scandle over his refusal to handover documents to either prove or disprove accusations relating to the treatment of Afghan prisioners (POW's). She has to go.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Iggy appears infatuated and smitten with Ms. Jean, enough to appoint her to the position for life.

    This is a plum political appointment, complete with astoundingly unwarranted compensation. It is important for our democratic system that 'the juice' gets passed around a bit.

  • Margaret
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    G.G. Jean is an exceptional special lady and did Canada proud in her position.
    I certainly would love to see her stay on for another term.

    Is it necessary for her husband, or any spouse of a G.G., to be tagging along for every event? Obviously, taxpayers have to support the spouses because they are not working themselves.

  • Mary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    I agree Her Excellency has done an excellent job in representing Canada at home and at large globally.
    One would not expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to extend the good work of our former Prime Minister Paul Martin. He has seen the ghost of Mr. Martin everytime he had to stand next to our Governor General. He will pick a Westerner to sit on the throne for sure.

  • charles
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    It's too easy to give her an extension, no one wants to be responsible/accountable to find a high quality replacement for the GG. No one wants to be blamed for a poorly selected replacement. It's the easy way out for these politicians.

  • Ron
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Time for her to GO.

  • Suzanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I would love for Michaelle Jean to get an extension She showed grace & poise plus had a great love for Canada .

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    The Governor General has done an excellent job. However, her appointment by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, our former Prime Minister has lost its sense of importance and goodness by Stephen Harper. he has someone better from Western Canada already picked.

    Good Luck, Madame Jean.

  • Frank M
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    The position of ceremonial Head of State should not be foremost in the mind of Dr. Ignatieff.

    There are far more important issues which need addressing facing this Nation.

    This does not make Dr. Ignatieff look like a replacement to Stephen harper.

    Leadership and inventive policies will.

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    Pathetic! A dishonest attempt to manufacture an artificial wedge issue: Harper is appointing someone new, therefore he must be against the GG; Ignatieff wants the GG to remain, therefore he must be for the GG.

    Quentin Jurgens, (former) M.P., would be a good choice.

  • Maurice E.
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    While she has shown more leadership and has been more a symbol of what we think Canadian values should be (more than our Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders combined), and while I would not be dis-pleased to see her term extended ---- how about a Canadian position where she could do even more good ---- like Prime Minister?

  • Pat
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Rick Hillier for GG!

  • member of the 20%
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Prorogue the position and cut all ties with the royal welfare lot.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    What a turnaround it would be if William Shatner gets the gg job. Michaelle Jean advocate of the seal hunt to William Shatner who wants it stopped. Hopefully Harper won't do such a foolish thing and give him the job. It would be the same as giving us the shaft again.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    The present GG has already shown her partiasinship by allowing Haper to prorogue Parliament twice - once to avoid defeat when he lost the confidence of the House and a second time to enable him to avoid a possible scandle over his refusal to handover documents to either prove or disprove accusations relating to the treatment of Afghan prisioners (POW's). She has to go.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Iggy appears infatuated and smitten with Ms. Jean, enough to appoint her to the position for life.

    This is a plum political appointment, complete with astoundingly unwarranted compensation. It is important for our democratic system that 'the juice' gets passed around a bit.

  • Margaret
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    G.G. Jean is an exceptional special lady and did Canada proud in her position.
    I certainly would love to see her stay on for another term.

    Is it necessary for her husband, or any spouse of a G.G., to be tagging along for every event? Obviously, taxpayers have to support the spouses because they are not working themselves.

  • Mary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    I agree Her Excellency has done an excellent job in representing Canada at home and at large globally.
    One would not expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to extend the good work of our former Prime Minister Paul Martin. He has seen the ghost of Mr. Martin everytime he had to stand next to our Governor General. He will pick a Westerner to sit on the throne for sure.

  • charles
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    It's too easy to give her an extension, no one wants to be responsible/accountable to find a high quality replacement for the GG. No one wants to be blamed for a poorly selected replacement. It's the easy way out for these politicians.

  • Ron
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Time for her to GO.

  • Suzanne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    I would love for Michaelle Jean to get an extension She showed grace & poise plus had a great love for Canada .