Is the race for governor general over before it’s begun?
Canada has never had a member of our First Nations as governor general. That’s quite an oversight and the word from the prime minister’s neighbourhood is that he has been thinking of this and feels it’s time the problem was rectified.
The aboriginal candidate who is attracting attention is Inuit leader Mary Simon. If the prime minister can be satisfied she can do the job with rudimentary French, sources say she’s got it in the bag.
Forget all those celebrity names being bandied about like William Shatner. The post, as has been amply demonstrated in recent times, requires experience in politics and public affairs.
Among other positions in her distinguished career, Simon has been ambassador to Denmark, ambassador for circumpolar affairs, chancellor of Trent University and a negotiator for native peoples during the repatriation of the constitution.
She hails from a town in Nunavik in northern Quebec with the world’s most unpronounceable name: Kangiqsualujjuag. Harper has become fond of the North since becoming prime minister. Northern development and Arctic sovereignty are among his top priorities. He has also taken a keener interest than expected in the native peoples.
Put it all together and Simon, first revealed as a candidate for governor general by Macleans last fall, appears an ideal choice. It would give the PM a first in history, it would be a great boost for the pride of the native peoples, and it would put a strong stamp on the Northern identity.
Simon has been taking French lessons for the past several months, apparently since her name began being bandied about as a governor general candidate. Though her French is weak, it is stronger than that of Raymond Hnatyshyn, who served as governor general in the Mulroney years. Her appointment would mean two successive governors general from Quebec, but Simon would be seen less as a Quebec governor general than as a native peoples one.
The Paul Martin Liberals seriously considered an aboriginal Canadian for the post in 2005 before settling on Michaëlle Jean, who leaves after a high-profile tenure that showed how important the governor general’s post can be. In 2008, Jean granted a prorogation to Harper, one that may have saved his government. Earlier that year she granted him a dissolution to call an election even though he was breaking his new fixed-date election law to do so.
From that point of view, Harper should be sorry to see her go. But if he is thinking of Simon as a replacement, he may very well have found a splendid successor.