Ten prominent Canadians each nominate one individual they think would make a great viceroy.
Canada is getting a new governor general this fall and we want to know who you think should get the job.
Will the next governor general, like the previous two, be a CBC broadcaster? The offspring of a Canadian political legend? The greatest hockey player ever?
The Mark asked 10 prominent Canadians to nominate one individual each who they think would make a great viceroy.
Check out the nominees and tell us who you think most deserves the keys to Rideau Hall.
Nominated by Ezra Levant
“Preston Manning is an ex-politician, but he’s non-partisan. It could be argued that he was even non-partisan while he led a party — he often put reforming the democratic system above his own immediate political interests.
Since leaving Parliament, he has built an even more impressive legacy: a non-partisan think tank dedicated to improving the political system in a practical way, with everything from political campaign training schools to workshops on journalism. He’s a true nation-builder.”
Accomplishments: Preston Manning created the Reform Party in 1987 and became official Leader of the Opposition in 1997. He is the principal architect of the amalgamation of the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties into the Canadian Alliance. Manning advocates a shift to green conservatism and stands as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Since retiring in 2002, Manning has worked in policy advocacy through the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.
Viceregal qualities: Manning is a tireless pursuer of political and democratic reform in Canada, and he’s proven that he’s capable of making it happen.
Potential obstacles:Mr. Manning doesn’t speak French, and might encounter criticism for being too politically active and too partisan in his politics.
Memorable quote: “My personal political convictions are rooted in the populist political traditions of western Canada.”
Nominated by Eddie Schwartz
“Leonard Cohen is the man. Not the Canadian man. Not the Montreal man. Just the man. I have shed tears of joy that his words and music are part of my life.”
Home Province: Quebec
Accomplishments: A Companion of the Order of Canada, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, and a Juno and Grammy winner, Leonard Cohen has written some of the most recognizable songs in the canon of contemporary music. Though he refused the Governor General’s Award for literature in 1968, his novels and poetry are hallmarks of Canadian letters.
Viceregal qualities: Mr. Cohen is fluent in French and embraced by both English- and French-speaking Canada. He understands this country and its feats and foibles because he embodies many of them himself. Equally as important, his literary and musical talents prove he has a deep understanding of the human heart.
Potential obstacles: The fact that he refused the Governor General’s Award in 1968 may prove something of a stumbling block. Mr. Cohen also has a terrible track record with finances and has famously hermetic tendencies.
Memorable quote: “I have nothing against the Queen of England. Even in my heart I never resented her for not being Jackie Kennedy. She is, to my mind, a very gallant lady, victimized by whoever it is who designs the tops of her uniforms.”
Nominated by Brian Cooper
“Like Mohammad Ali’s, Wayne Gretzky’s name resonates across the globe. He’s an ambassador and a consummate diplomat.”
Home Province: Ontario
Accomplishments: With statues erected in his image around the world, Wayne Gretzky is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player – ever. He scored the most points, placed the most assists, and scored the most goals of any hockey player to have ever stepped foot on the ice. When he retired in 1999, Mr. Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame immediately – the usual waiting period was waived. Since retirement, he has mainly focused on giving back to the sport through philanthropy, coaching, and running the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, which helps underprivileged youth play hockey.
Viceregal qualities: Sports heroes are heroes because they make good decisions under pressure – a great asset in statesmanship. His international renown, like former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s charisma, could spice up Canada’s image abroad.
Potential obstacles: Mr. Gretzky doesn’t speak French, he has no track record in politics, and his coaching record is nothing to flaunt. Then again, maybe Canada would accept Franglais from the Great One.
Memorable quote: “The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.”
Nominated by Pat Tanzola
“Although William Shatner has begged off gubernatorial consideration – citing prime ministerial ambitions – there is still much promise in replacing our award-winning journalist, Michaëlle Jean, with this Emmy-winning superstar as GG. Mr. Shatner may be unfamiliar with Canadian laws, but he starred in Boston Legal. Having portrayed Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Hooker, statesmanship is in his name. As an ambassador for All Bran, he would encourage a more regular international discourse. He has written more books than Michael Ignatieff, and outsold him too. He would easily seduce opposing heads of state. He would save taxpayers millions; he already has his own starship and armed away team. He would lobby RCMP to replace Tasers with phasers. His environmental pledge? Save the whales. With Harper still in office, he already has an evil twin. And if Harper asks to prorogue – dropkick! Jean’s severance package: she gets to play Uhura in the next movie. Also imagine Iggy as Spock, Gilles Duceppe as Chekhov, Sheila Fraser as Dr. McCoy, David Suzuki as Sulu, Jean Chretien as Scotty, John Baird as Khan, and Helena Guergis as the Borg Queen!”
Home Province: Quebec
Accomplishments: Mr. Shatner is a trained Shakespearean actor and a spoken-word artist, and, in a past life, he was intrepid space explorer Captain James T. Kirk.
Viceregal qualities: He has all the necessary poise, diction, and gravitas required for public speaking. He’s well versed in interplanetary diplomacy, so international relations should be a cinch. He speaks French and he’s fluent in Esperanto.
Potential obstacles: While his on-screen antics will undoubtedly make him a favourite of many, they might also keep some – maybe even the Prime Minister – from taking him seriously.
Memorable quote: “How do I stay so healthy and boyishly handsome? It’s simple. I drink the blood of young runaways.”
Nominated by John Baglow
“Throughout her many years of public service, Mary Simon has been a powerful voice for Aboriginal rights in Canada and elsewhere … It was not that long ago that Inuit, when not neglected by the Canadian government to the point of being left to starve as late as the 1950s, were treated as handy political pawns. To establish Canadian sovereignty, the government uprooted communities and relocated them to the high Arctic to act as ‘human flagpoles.’… There is something heart-warming – and not a little ironic – in the possibility of an Inuk woman of the 21st century standing in such a different way for Canada, and for Arctic sovereignty.”
Home Province: Quebec
Accomplishments: Ms. Simon moved seamlessly from her former post as CBC North announcer and producer into public policy. She served as the Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs for nearly a decade, ending in 2003, and she concurrently served as Canada’s Ambassador to Denmark for two years. She had a hand in creating Canada’s newest territory as a member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, and she stood as a senior Inuit negotiator during the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. She is currently the National Inuit Leader and President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the voice of northern First Nations people across Canada. Ms. Simon is also a recipient of the Order of Canada.
Viceregal qualities: For decades, Ms. Simon has been among the foremost advocates of First Nations rights. Her diplomatic skills, both national and international, would be a considerable asset.
Potential obstacles: Ms. Simon could be criticized for focusing too narrowly on one issue: though she has forayed into constitutional and environmental matters in her political career, her work has been overwhelmingly about First Nations people. She may also find it tough to suspend all of her many and important current duties. Tougher still, she’s not fluent in French.
Memorable quote: “As Inuit, we pride ourselves in being a practical people – it is our very ability to adapt and take advantage of opportunities that has allowed us to survive in a very difficult environment for thousands of years.”
Nominated by Henry Storgaard
“Rick Hansen and his family represent an extraordinary cross-section of Canada; the experience and wisdom that gives, in addition to being a former paralympian and one of our most outstanding representatives of the disability community, means he would bring tremendous assets to the position of Governor General.”
Home Province: BC
Accomplishments: Inspired by Terry Fox, Rick Hansen wheeled through 34 countries, across 40,000 km, to raise $26 million for spinal cord injury (SCI) research on his 1985 Man In Motion World Tour. Since then, The Rick Hansen Foundation has generated $200 million for research into SCI. Hansen is the former chair of the Commission for the Inclusion of Athletes with a Disability and the founder of wildlife conservation and sustainable fisheries groups.
Viceregal qualities: Mr. Hansen’s tireless endurance and ample generosity make him an inspiring leader. His inclusive approach to human potential and sensitivity to environmental concerns would be welcome additions to the Governor General’s office.
Potential obstacles: Mr. Hansen doesn’t speak French and he lacks experience dealing with political bickering. In the aftermath of the Vancouver Olympics, his nomination might be seen as more about the current popularity of Canadian amateur athletes than about his likely merits as a statesman.
Memorable quote: “The goal you set must be challenging. At the same time, it should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. It should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.”
Nominated by Errol Mendes
“Phil Fontaine would be an excellent governor general for the following reasons. First, he would be the only First Nations governor general since the birth of the country. Second, he has distinguished himself in the role of National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In that role, he promoted the much neglected social and economic rights and standing of Canada’s First Nations, for example by being a key architect of the landmark Kelowna Accord agreed to by all the premiers and then prime minister Paul Martin. Third, he was instrumental in getting the Harper government to finally apologize for the abuse of First Nations children in the residential schools throughout Canada’s history. Finally, he represents the bridging of the Aboriginal foundations of Canada with the ethnic, cultural, and regional diversity of Canada.”
Home Province: Manitoba
Accomplishments: As a tireless Aboriginal activist and former three-term National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine brings a great deal of political skill to the table. That includes impressive negotiating chops: in 2005, he was the chief negotiator of the Indian Residential Schools Agreement, which awarded more than $5 billion to survivors of First Nations residential schools. He also got the notoriously reticent Pope Benedict XVI to apologize for the abuses suffered by the students of those institutions. Mr. Fontaine has received six honorary degrees and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and is a member of the Order of Manitoba.
Viceregal qualities: Nominating such a vocal and successful activist to be Canada’s national mediator would send a strong message to this nation’s minorities. Bonus: it nicely complements Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to redress historical injustices to First Nations.
Potential obstacles: Fontaine’s political life is even more focused on First Nations advocacy, to the exclusion of other issues, than Mary Simon’s.
Memorable quote: “We believe in the importance of public education, public information as a vehicle for change. Speaking to a class of 30 may seem to be of little consequence compared to the issues we’re dealing with, but it has a sphere of influence beyond that.”
Nominated by Charles Pachter
“Born in Victoria and now living in Toronto, Marcia McClung is the granddaughter of famous Canadian women’s rights activist Nellie McClung. She is independent, motivated, and energetic, has lots of stamina and grace, and is a great cook, gala meal planner, and organizer. Furthermore, she is not a former CBC broadcaster. She would make an ideal hostess at Rideau Hall.”
Home Province: B.C.
Accomplishments: In a spirit of community activism undoubtedly inspired by her heritage, Nellie McClung’s granddaughter has worked as an advocate, publicist, and board member for numerous women’s rights groups and charities, including the YWCA, Women’s College Hospital, and Women of Distinction. Ms. McClung speaks both English and French and has travelled extensively throughout Canada and the world. She is also an experienced marketing and communications consultant and has worked for several arts organizations in government and the private sector, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Ballet of Canada, Harbourfront, and the National Arts Centre.
Viceregal qualities: Ms. McClung is a bilingual cultural ambassador and communicator with experience in building bridges between different people and different sectors; that should come in handy when she’s called upon to mediate conflicts and guide public policy.
Potential obstacles: Marketing and communications can be a dogfight, but federal politics is a bullring, and it’s unclear whether Ms. McClung’s experience to date has prepared her for that.
Memorable quote: “[Nellie McClung]‘s remembered now of course for her contributions to the women’s movement, but she was interested in a wide range of social issues . . . [including] immigrants getting a fair shake in Canadian society. It was a broad spectrum of empowerment – fairness and people being treated equally, that was a real theme for her.”
Nominated by Margaret Somerville
“Jean Vanier embodies the characteristics we look for, need, and most value in our leaders: hope, optimism, kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity, hospitality, a sense of humour (balance), authenticity and courage. He reminds us that we set the ethical tone of our society by how we treat its weakest and most vulnerable members, not the strong and powerful. He shows us how to celebrate what we can do, not despair over what we can’t; how to embrace and live life passionately, not endure it; how to look poverty and suffering in the face and do something about it, rather than flee. Jean Vanier’s remarkable, uncommon ‘common humanity’ shines through in everything he does. As a nation, we could benefit greatly from that.”
Home Province: Quebec (born in Geneva)
Accomplishments: Mr. Vanier is a Catholic activist who founded L’Arche, an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities live in homes as opposed to hospitals. It started as a three-person project in a rural town in France and today boasts 130 branches in 30 countries on all continents. Mr. Vanier is also a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Viceregal qualities: Mr. Vanier speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves, he’s fluent in French, and he knows a thing or two about uniting communities to work for a common human good.
Potential obstacles: Since his father, Georges Vanier, was the 19th governor general, critics may cry nepotism. It could also be said that his tendency to focus on Catholic issues might alienate those of other faiths.
Memorable quote: “Community begins in mystery and ends in administration. Leaders move away from people and into paper.”
Nominated by Ratna Omidvar
“Mike has an incredible capacity for drawing people together and bridging differences and disagreements and building consensus.”
Home Province: B.C.
Accomplishments: Thanks in large part to his focus on conservation and sustainable urban development as mayor of Vancouver and then premier of B.C., Mr. Harcourt became then-prime minister Paul Martin’s special advisor on cities in 2003. Mr. Harcourt’s fight to preserve the ecosystem bordering B.C. and Alaska has been applauded by Al Gore; his speedy recovery from a spinal injury in 2002 and subsequent work with the Rick Hansen Foundation are further testaments to his resilience and character.
Viceregal qualities: Mr. Harcourt’s support of and involvement in urban and ecological sustainability position him as a future-minded candidate; plus, he’d be the first Governor General from B.C.
Potential obstacles: Controversy surrounding B.C.’s 1996 Bingogate scandal could come back to haunt Mr. Harcourt, who resigned from office in its wake. Further damaging his chances are potential accusations of partisanship and his lack of French.
Memorable quote: “My experience as a city councillor, mayor, leader of the opposition, and premier of British Columbia … is that the majority of politicians simply want to make a difference, improving their city, province, and country.”