Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill asks: Is it time for a referendum on Queen Elizabeth and the monarchy? – September 10, 2011

CFN – Is it time for a referendum on the monarchy? I ask that question as it has been interesting watching the Conservatives push stronger ties to the monarchy over the summer, although I don’t recall that being part of their election platform.

Inviting Will and Kate to visit with their rock star profile did insure a temporary jump in support for the monarchy, but no one should be fooled into thinking that Canadians want to step back into time.

I suspect most Canadians don’t mind the monarchy being in the background as it’s not something we deal with on a daily basis, nor do we pay the royal family’s bills except when they visit. However, if the Conservatives keep highlighting and trying to reinforce our ties to the monarchy the public will begin to take a closer look at the issue. The government may find that their efforts have the opposite effect to what they hope to accomplish. Sooner or later Canadians will begin to question and evaluate what remains of those ties.

Whether it is a royal visit, reattaching the “Royal” to our air force and navy or the latest government edict to order the Queen’s portrait hung in every embassy and mission abroad, the Conservatives are shoving Canada’s relationship with the monarchy back onto the front burner. Each of these examples brought forth a fair amount of comment for and against reinforcing our ties to the monarchy.

Canada’s relationship with the monarchy does surface from time to time. Back in 1997, then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley suggested abolishing our ties to the monarchy and in 1998 there were hints that the Chretien government might look at our relationship with the monarchy as a millennium project, but it was never pursued. Generally governments have not wanted to provoke discussion on this issue as it is relatively easy for any discussion to become polarized. One only has to look at the Australian experience to see how divisive this issue can become.

Reminding Canadians of our history is a good thing. I am all for teaching Canadians about their history, and there is nothing wrong in insisting that prospective new Canadians have a good understanding of how our past has helped to shape modern day Canada. In fact, all Canadians should have a solid understanding of our historical connections to Britain, France, our aboriginal history and events that led to the various waves of new immigrants choosing Canada as their destination of choice.

Yet, when all is said and done other than some polls with mixed results, we still don’t know if the majority of Canadians want the government to reinforce our ties to the monarchy, stay with the status quo or cut our ties altogether. The reason we don’t know is that no one has asked us. Rather than a couple of cabinet ministers deciding that they know best; wouldn’t it be better if the government actually asked Canadians what we want?

It is relatively simple to do. A panel can be appointed, or one of the Standing Committees of the House of Commons can hold hearings or perhaps a special joint committee of the House of Commons and Senate can be struck and asked to study, consult and report back.

At least then we would know what Canadians think about our ties to the monarchy. We would know if they should be reinforced, kept low key or even cut. Rather than the government of the day deciding in a vacuum what is best, they would have solid information to base any decisions upon.

It is interesting to note that as far back as 1988 the Reform Party had as a key part of its political platform the need for government’s to hold a referendum on issues of national importance. Is Canada’s relationship with the monarchy an issue of national importance that deserves a referendum? We don’t know the answer to that question because the government won’t ask Canadians for their opinion.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. “I suspect most Canadians don’t mind the monarchy being in the background as it’s not something we deal with on a daily basis”

    Says it all, Keith. So, why is Harper making a fuss about “Royal” and portraits of the Queen? What’s in it for him? That’s the question.

  2. No – it is NOT time for a referendum on the Queen and our monarchy! What is it with this infatuation with republicanism that seems to emerge to denigrate one of Canada’s great institutions, and then to slink away for few decades? Trudeau considered going republican too – and thought better of it. Face it, constitutional monarchies are well-represented amongst the highest-ranking countries on the UN’s Human Development Index: Australia, Denmark, Holland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, UK, etc.

  3. Its funny how Keith Beardsley can ask if its time for a referendum on the monarchy when the conservatives have restored a few royal names to the armed forces and have the portrait of the Queen placed in our embassies, I don’t recall anyone asking this question when Pearson, Trudeau and Chretien removed these names and symbols in the first place , If Mr. Beardsley would like to check history he will find that Canada exists because we were the Americans loyal to that monarchy otherwise we would just be part of the United States, Also even if the referendum proved we don’t want the monarchy anymore , just how would you convert us to a republic? Should we just join the States as 10 new States and Territories instead of Provinces? why bother to create a separate republic with a president? Will Quebec finally go it alone? We can’t even get Quebec to sign the constitution now so how do you propose to reopen all this; change our governing system and constitution to go republican? That would make Meech lake look like a childs game.
    Fooling with this is like poking your finger into a hornet nest! good luck with it, I vote to leave it alone we have no real problem with it , we have lots of other problems that we need to be concerned with not playing around with our heritage.

  4. One day, God willing, we will wake up and throw off the chains to the in-bred house of a foreign power and establish Canada as a truly independent nation. The very idea of monarchy is antithetical to the ideals and values of a society which views every man and woman born as free and equal; it should be abolished with all due haste.

  5. It is time for a referendum to get away from the monarchy. The monarchy do not have a say in canadian politics. The monarchy is only a symbol of colonialism. Is ok. for me if UK wants to keep the monarchy and I don’t really care. Therefore, the monarchy has to be abolished, because for canana the monarchy is good for nothing.

  6. It is all just a slap in the face of Quebec, the only province that overwhelmingly voted against the Conservative party. No doubt to assure a healthy future of the Tories in Canada, Harper is toying with the idea of cutting Quebec free, or rather of insulting Quebec until it cuts itself free.

    This is a cynical approach that will harm one-quarter of the citizens of this nation.

  7. I can’t help but think the we have much more serious issues to deal with before opening this can of worms. God knows what Harper intends do do over the next four years besides building and filling mega-prisons and stacking the Supreme Court with like-minded conservative ideologues. I’m no monarchist, but who knows, maybe they may help us maintain a little civility over the next several years.

  8. Having lived in both the US & my home country, of course, Canada; I am convinced we have the better system, with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state. More importantly, perhaps; is the fact that the first job I had post high school was for the government of Manitoba. I’m not a religious person, but I took seriously the oath of allegiance, with hand on a Bible; to “Her Majesty, her heirs & successors.” Again Winston Churchill put it best when he said that the power of the monarchy lies not in that which they hold for themselves, but in that which they prevent others from assuming.
    And, by the way; when the queen is in Canada, she is not considered to be a guest; but rather; to be in residence.

  9. Let’s get rid of the Monarchy and Harper, too, while we’re at it!

  10. Canada is defined by values such as freedom, equality, peace, law and order. These values are the foundations of our country. Even though I admire the Queen, how could the monarchy embody the Canadian values that have been forged by the Canadian people over centuries? The monarchy should be abolished NOT because we want to be like our US neighbour, we dislike the royals or we want to cut ties with our past. The monarchy should be abolished because we have the right to have a Canadian head of state who looks like us, lives in Canada full time, represents us directly full time and most of all understands what it means to be Canadian and vows to defend our values.

  11. The monarchy separates glory and even an excess of power away from politicians, leaving ultimate power in the hands of a referee of sorts (the monarch.) The monarch gets all the pomp and ceremony, the politicians do not. It is the product of an EVOLVED system rather than a REVOLVED one. The monarch, like a referee, is impotent to have a major effect on anything unless the rules are being toyed with. But, having the referee is as necessary for government as for hockey. And, someone who worked hard to get the job could be a power hungry ambitious schemer. A person born into the royal family and bred for it can carry out the role in an unbiased way. Of course, if the monarch turns political, there is precedent in our parliamentary tradition to boot him or her out. Parliament most definitely does rule even though the monarch reigns. Lets keep the ceremony and our system evolved from Magna Carta. Let’s not set up something new and unfamiliar. Our system works just fine as it is.

  12. We’ve been influenced by too many instant celebrities and too much reality TV without a grounding in history. We won’t change our history or how it has shaped Canada by letting the populace (that understands very little of the actual role the monarch) vote the Queen off the island. How ironic that Quebec, due to the influence of Enlightenment-influenced Scots, was protected by the same Crown that irks it so much today. Benjamin Franklin–who makes Harper look positively pink–and his ilk had a view of one great nation covering North America that was white, English-speaking and Protestant.

  13. A nation such as Canada filled with French, Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, Black and Eastern European people, having a British monarchy of white Protestant elites is wrong. It contradicts the multiculturalism that is so integral to our identity.

  14. A little island nation like the British isles less than half the size of France with historical ties to the Nazis portraying their aloof attitude and warped views in other countries is bizzare to say the least.

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