Thursday, October 07, 2010

Signals from the new GG

While bloggers are poring over the new Governor General's statements from his round of introductory interviews that have predictably turned to his likely reactions in the event of a December 2008 repeat, buried at the end of this report was perhaps one of his most significant from the week:
He told Mr. Mansbridge he deeply appreciates the “rule of law” in Canada, calling it an important bequest from the Westminster style of government. “I am a lawyer. I love the law. The rule of law to me is very important. I suppose I am passionate about a number of things but I am passionate about the rule of law. I think it’s one of the great gifts of the British system of government and of British civilization: the rule of law.”
It may sound arcane and legalistic but it means a lot to hear that from this new Governor General. Particularly given the December 2008 crisis and the tenets of our parliamentary system that were distorted during (and arguably since) that time. Look how Johnston's starting to lay down some markers:
Russell said he has organized a meeting of international experts to try to achieve a consensus about how a Governor General's powers should be used in future cases similar to the 2008 crisis.

He said the meeting, planned for February, will include government participation and will be supported by David Johnston, the new Governor General.
That seems to be notable, an early nod by Johnston to legal discussion, to fostering education about the role. If you read any of Russell's constitutional compilation, Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, you'll probably get a sense that this upcoming conference will build on the one out of which that book came. There were a number of provocative contributions to that book. For Johnston to support such an effort seems to be a bit of a statement.

People are understandably parsing each and every word the man says given our recent history. The fact that he's a Harper appointee raises the scrutiny factor even higher. The encouraging signals in the early going look good from here though.