Thursday, August 04, 2005

An' the front bit, is what's called a façade

The Globe & Mail's John Ibbitson, not surprisingly, is very much up on our Governor-General-to-be. Although equipped with a potent résumé -- arriving from Haiti as a child, she has mastered five languages, taught Italian literature and earned high praise for her talents as a television host -- Ms. Jean is far from nationally prominent. Some will question whether a person with such a relatively modest profile should be asked to serve as head of state in Canada. Others will howl at what they see as the incestuous nature of the appointment. After all, Adrienne Clarkson was a female, visible-minority CBC broadcaster from Toronto. Ms. Jean is a female, visible-minority CBC broadcaster from Montreal. The only crucial difference between the two is that Ms. Clarkson was far better known outside Quebec than is Ms. Jean. Ms. Clarkson had to withstand her share of brickbats from pundits, politicians and writers of letters to the editor who complained that she personified the Central Canadian cultural elite: too left leaning and too high brow to speak on behalf of the vast majority of Canadians who live outside Toronto or Montreal's better postal codes. Since Ms. Jean is the second consecutive choice from that pool, the criticism this time around will be even more intense. It's not as if such criticisms aren't justified. Substituting a new aristocracy of vapid lefty pundit-types for the old one of inbred and indolent gentry is no improvement. To clarify my position, because I think I've been taken to task for too-quick negativity: I have absolutely no problem with Michaelle Jean as GG on her merits, inasmuch as viceregal duties aren't that terribly complex, or even important, as the summer's events have shown; the country managed to sleepwalk through a constitutional crisis without so much as a peep from the representative of the head of state supposedly meant to exercise reserve powers in such events. I'm sure Ms. Jean would just as meekly defer to the PMO and associated cronies as Adrienne Clarkson. The office is currently largely a sinecure for the right kind of walking billboard of Liberal-defined "Canadian Values," and she'll no doubt perform as adequately in that role as Clarkson has, but ultimately, it's not that important. (And outright bigotry from some, on the grounds that a black female immigrant isn't a "real Canadian," is both inexcusable and inexplicable.) I will say, however, that it's still amusing to see how many Liberal constituencies are cynically represented in the person of Ms. Jean, (unwitting?) pawn that she seems to be in good old-fashioned party marketing strategies.

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