Dear Dr. Boli: Can you explain the monarchy in Canada? As a citizen of the United States, I don’t understand this current political crisis. —Sincerely, Condoleezza Rice.
Dear Madam: Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The real power rests with the Queen of Canada, who at any moment could squash her government like a bug. We saw this power recently, when the Governor-General, the appointed representative of the Queen, prorogued Parliament, “prorogue” being the parliamentary term for “squash like a bug.” The “constitutional” part of “constitutional monarchy” merely means that, for the most part, the Queen chooses not to squash governments.
To understand why the Queen is so inactive in the daily affairs of her government, we need only recall that the Queen of Canada is also the Queen of fifteen other realms around the world. Canada does not have her undivided attention. While the Canadians are having their adorable little parliamentary crisis, Her Majesty’s other subjects have equally pressing demands on her time. Her British subjects expect her to review a number of local cheeses over the next few days. Her Australian subjects are once again threatening to pitch her over the rail and declare a republic. The Church of Scotland wants her, as head of the Kirk, to declare Anglicanism a satanic heresy. Her subjects in Tuvalu are opening their nation’s first strip mall and wonder whether she can spare a second cousin once removed for this auspicious occasion. Her subjects in Belize have sent her an electronic musical Christmas card and want to know how she liked it.
The Queen, in other words, leads a busy life, and she has little time for squashing governments. If she interfered in one government, soon enough the rest would be demanding the same attention. New Zealand would demand that she make some adjustments in Wellington’s zoning laws. The Solomon Islands would want her to supervise a few executions. Grenada would expect her to promulgate standards for the nutmeg industry. Soon she would be flying in to Kingston every weekend to write parking tickets. There would be no end to it.
Faced with the harsh reality that absolute power over sixteen realms is more than one person can handle, and unwilling to play favorites among her loyal subjects, the Queen appoints Governors-General, who do most of the work of opening shopping centers and smiling approvingly at pepper festivals.
It is, however, essential to remind her subjects at intervals that they still depend upon her for their very existence. Thus it became necessary for the Governor-General of Canada to prorogue Parliament, merely for the purpose of demonstrating that the Queen still rules, no matter how her subjects may choose to amuse themselves with their sweet little parliaments and ministries. Next week, Governor-General Dame Pearlette Louisy of Saint Lucia will personally behead the Minister of Transport to send a similar message.