Prince Charles, Quebec and Separatist Monarchists
As the Who’s Who of Québec separatistati is getting ready for what promises to be the gala event of this year’s season: the November 10th demonstrations against the Montréal visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, I have a confession to make:
I am not a republican.
Now, no citizen of the Commonwealth should deny him or herself the delightfully anachronistic privilege of demanding the head of their king (in waiting) from the safety of a carefully cordoned off perimeter protected by the police, and hereditary monarchy certainly is one of the most retarded institutions of 21st century politics, no argument here.
But I believe an independent Québec should keep the Queen (or Chuck or that other kid) as head of state, at least for a while. Not for their own sake, but for the sake of political stability and the British parliamentary system.
Québec has been governed according to the rules of the Westminster system since 1791, way before Australia, New Zealand, or modern Scotland or Ulster ever got their own parliaments. The British parliamentary system is the only one people in Québec have ever known and I see no reason why Québec should be in any rush to get rid of it.
It might not be the best system out there, what with the confusion between the legislative and executive branches of government and the uselessness of MPs (We call ’em Members of the National Assembly in Québec) who are told what to vote by the whip. But that said, it also has the sturdy robustness of a 1973 Buick Regal and there is that very healthy tradition of letting opposition parties yell at the government for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoons.
The thing is, the British parliamentary system need a head of State who is not the Prime minister and if Québec became a Republic, who would get that job?
Now, the Head of State does not absolutely have to be a King or Queen. India is a republic that kept a version of the British system. Québec could elect some sort of honorific president as Head of State like Israël or, say, Russia, but electing someone might give that person the impression that they have the legitimacy to use the powers technically theirs under the constitution and those powers are pretty awesome.
Alternatively we could nominate a king or president like we nominate the governor-general, but then he or she would be so weak that governments would feel entitled to push them around.
Only the Windsors have both a centuries old tradition of protecting the stability of the governments under their dominion and a well established irrelevance that makes it impossible for them to actually use any of their powers.
I know there’s few people on my team who feel the same way I do. Most of my peeps are really into massive reforms of the Québec democratic system and things like public initiative referenda, proportional representation, fixed-date, state-funded, two-round elections.
That’s all good, but you and I know it would be a disaster. People are still confused about the three ballots—one to elect a Mayor, one for the borough mayor and one for a city councilor—in last Monday’s municipal election in Montréal. Try to explaining to them the subtleties of a German-style hybrid system and party lists. No fun at all.
I also think that in the context of change and confusion—I believe the dear leader called it turbulence—that would inevitably follow Québec’s accession to the concert of free and independent nations, it wouldn’t hurt, if only from a public relations point of view, to maintain it’s ties to the Commonwealth and the monarchy who would then be obligated to stand up and protect their brother State.
That and we would also be able to reassure nervous investors by showing them the face of Queen Elisabeth (or King Charles) on the 20 piastre note.
May the oecumenical spiritual being save the symbolic head of State!