Off with our head (of state): Reconsidering the monarchy in Canada

By in Opinions

In late December, Canada’s head of state Queen Elizabeth II, fell ill with a heavy cold — a serious affliction for a 90-year-old. While I’m not against the monarchy, I feel it is necessary to think critically of its role in Canadian society as the Queen’s eventual passing creeps closer.

In recent decades, the monarchy — especially in North America — has increasingly shifted from having a truly royal status to that of celebrities. Twelve million of the 2 billion people who tuned in to watch the 2011 marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton were Canadians.

Surprisingly, Queen Elizabeth II will not live forever.

This perspective on the monarchy has even allowed for the emergence of the niche tabloid Royalty Monthly. Between the celebrity status of our monarchy and the Queen’s current age and health problems, although improved since initially falling ill, a serious dialogue about their role in Canada’s future is a necessary one to start.

Some Canadians view the monarchy as a cute and fun institution due to its symbolic nature and feel that it should be kept the way it is due to its historical and cultural significance, but I would suggest a more critical perspective.

Through a purely financial perspective, a perfectly reasonable argument may be formulated, which would suggest that the monarchy brings a financial burden that outweighs its traditional value. In 2016, the royal family made an eight-day visit to Canada which resulted in a $2 million cost for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for pay, overtime and travel expenses.

The royal family — even when not in our country — costs Canada a considerable chunk of change. A 2009 Maclean’s article claims that Canadians per capita are spending more on the Queen and her representatives than the British per capita by a margin of $1.53 to $1.32.

A dollar and a half per person may not sound like a lot but when it adds up to $40 to $50 million a year it becomes harder to justify, especially considering the fact that the monarchy serves a symbolic role. On the other hand, it is said that anything cute and fun costs money — which justifies the expenditure.

Polls have shown that despite the fame that the royal family has, public opinion of the monarchy as a part of Canadian political society is low. A 2009 Canada Day poll by Strategic Council found that a mere 30 per cent of Canadians related to the Head of State and 65 per cent suggested that we make a transition away from the monarchy after the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

To bring in a more contemporary stat, over 60 per cent of Canadians last year claimed to be in favor of keeping Queen Elizabeth but only 46 per cent support a more boring Prince Charles, who is next in line for the throne.

A 2015 Victoria Day poll shows that 54 per cent of those polled do not want to see Charles take the throne and almost 40 per cent feel the monarchy in Canada should be abolished in its entirety. By contrast, 45 per cent do not want to be distanced from the monarchy and 16 per cent are apathetic to the relationship.

The demographic breakdown of support — or lack thereof — may not come as too much of a surprise, but is interesting nonetheless. Francophones and Quebecers are among the most supportive demographics for separating from the English monarch at 72 and 71 respectively, which I would assume stems from the long historical tensions between French Canada and the rest of Canada’s loyalty to the British crown.

With the underwhelming support for the monarchy in Canada — and her majesty’s failing health and advancing age — it seems increasingly relevant that we consider reforms to our current system and take a second look at the monarchy in our country.

Logan Huard

Photo: governmentofalberta / Flickr