The bastardization of the Governor Generals office.

While many if not most Canadians were celebrating Thanksgiving with their families yesterday, distracted by tummies full of turkey, the news that Governor General David Johnston was headed to China came out.

Governor-General David Johnston will serve as the sharp end of a political stick that the Harper government is pointing at China this coming week, amid renewed concern that Chinese investment in Canada is drying up.

Within hours of delivering Wednesday’s throne speech in Ottawa, Johnston will be on a plane bound for the People’s Republic for his first official visit as Governor-General.


Johnston will address the powerful Canada China Business Council’s annual general meeting in Beijing a few days after his arrival. And he said he knows energy and investment will be top of mind.

China is hungry for natural resources and Canada is eager to oblige, but there are serious obstacles, including a stalled pipeline process to carry Alberta crude to Pacific Ocean ports, as well as mixed messages about whether Canada is really open to foreign investment from so-called state-owned enterprises.

Correct me if I am wrong, but when was the title “Lobbyist” added to the Governor General’s duties?

From the Governor Generals website: ” The governor general is non-partisan and apolitical.”

Since when has it become acceptable and proper for the office that is expected to be non-partisan in function, a safeguard against abuse of power whose role is largely constitutional and ceremonial, to head on over to China to drum up business for Harper? This trip is anything but non-partisan and apolitical!! He is specifically going to reassure Chinese investors, and Chinese state-owned investors, that Canada is open for business and please give us some as soon as possible.

It is not only a severe blow to the respect inherent to the office, it is a complete bastardization of the title bestowed upon David Johnston.

Johnston is speaking to some of the most powerful business leaders in the world, at the AGM of the Canada China Business Council, whom I have written about previously.

 ” The Canada China Business Council (CCBC) is the country’s Canada-China bilateral trade and investment facilitator, catalyst and advocate. Founded in 1978 as a private, not-for-profit business association, CCBC provides unparalleled insight into Sino-Canadian trade and investment issues and develops connections that ensure its members’ business success. In addition to its focused and practical services, the Council is also the voice of the Canadian business community on issues affecting Sino-Canadian trade and investment. “

Their website states : “Our business events offer CCBC members privileged opportunities to engage Canadian and Chinese officials..”

No kidding. The Board of Directors and members of the Council are a Who’s Who of the business world and political players. SNC Lavalin, Power Corporation, including representatives from Chinese State owned Investment companies :

Indeed…. Governor General David Johnston has become just another political tool in Stephen Harper’s playbook. When non-partisan offices use government resources to lobby big business overseas, and no one bats an eyelash, there’s something wrong in Canada.

I leave you with this excerpt from my prior post on the Canada China Business Council and Harper:

“When large corporations straddle the line between policy influence and creation, between business and government, at this level, we have a problem.

When a Chinese state owned investment company is involved in policy creation and influence,in any way, shape or form and a member of a Canadian business association, we have a problem.

When we have highly influential former government officials working in the middle of this, again straddling the line between business and policy making, how can Canadians even begin to have faith our government is putting our interests first ?

In my opinion, the answer is, we cannot. We cannot have faith our government is putting the interests of Canadians, our security and our defense, above foreign interest, or foreign influence.

And when some of the most powerful rainmakers have managed to hold court over at least two major federal political parties, as it would seem, the only option left had better work three times as hard to show Canadians how they intend to change the course of history in this country, before we lose it all.”

51 thoughts on “The bastardization of the Governor Generals office.

  1. This development is frightening. If anyone has any doubts about where this country is headed this should get them thinking. The back benchers are gagged, Cabinet ministers are limited to talking points, the PM doesn’t take questions, Ottawa is run by the PMO of 250 unelected staffers, the senators become campaign cheerleaders so I guess that when the GG becomes a lobbyist it is a natural extension of what is happening. Democracy is dead. We have the best government that corporations can buy. When will enough people wake up to what is really happening here?…ross


  2. Good catch, Laila. Worthy of critical discussion.

    I’m sure if Canada had a resident King or Queen, they would be encouraged to visit internationally — and trade missions would be built around those visits. Our Governor General is the Queen’s surrogate… and it looks like foreign visits are part of a comprehensive list of duties:

    However: in Canada or in foreign lands, the GG should not appear to be acceding to Stephen Harper’s bidding.


    1. First, sorry for the delay in replies to all – I celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner yesterday rather than Sunday, so was very busy cooking and enjoying my family.

      There is no doubt that foreign visits are a part of any GG’s duties – building bridges of communication between countries is very much an important part of the job. Each GG brings their own past and passions to the table.

      I have no issues with Johnston heading to China for a state visit simply to take part in non-partisan activities of cultural or social importance. However, he was very frank in this interview that he is eager to share the economic agenda of the government with the Chinese government and Chinese business community. ” In an interview with The Canadian Press, Johnston was upbeat about the prospect of promoting the government’s Asia-focused economic agenda / Johnston’s visit comes just two weeks after one of Harper’s most influential former cabinet ministers, Jim Prentice, warned that the government was chasing away needed foreign investment with its new regulations against state-owned enterprises buying into the oilpatch.

      Prentice, now a CIBC executive, said Chinese investment has all but dried up.

      Prentice said investment in the oil and gas sector so far in 2013 had plummeted to $2 billion from $27 billion during the same period last year, while mergers and acquisitions dropped to $8 billion from $66 billion.

      Johnston said he would be delivering a simple message to Canadian and Chinese business leaders: “We are a trading country. We encourage foreign investment.”

      If the article is in any manner inaccurate, the GG’s people can have a correction or clarification done quickly enough.

      Promoting trade and business is one thing. However, not all parties agree with Harpers economic agenda or the direction his government is promoting in terms of trade or economic activitiy with Asia.

      That clearly makes this a partisan venture, and a very political one at that. Let us not forget that as much as many think China is a modern, progressive society now, that it is still ruled by the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party. Harpers turnabout on Chinese human rights is appallingly convenient… and glaringly hypocritical.—but-whos-listening/article545221/


      1. Johnston’s role in crafting the very restricted terms of reference for the Oliphant Inquiry (into Mulroney’s admitted acceptance of $300,000.00 from Karlheinz Schrieber), seriously calls into question his impartiality. He very deliberately left out of the inquiry’s terms of reference anything to do with the Airbus scandal. This could be seen as a partisan act in favour of the Conservatives, and makes his appointment as GG appear to be a reward for his role in the whole sordid affair. At the time of his appointment as GG, there was speculation in the media that Harper had picked a man who would serve as his lap dog.


  3. Before anyone sets their hair totally on fire, the GG hasn’t even attended this event or much less said anything we don’t all already know. If shouting down everything “you think might be bad” is the best way forward, I would suggest you are only talking to half the room at any one time.
    Don’t get me wrong, this dance with the devil is unnerving, but do you really think the PM or the President of the US would ultimately put their respective countries at deliberate risk. Before you stop reading me think back to President Nixon’s China visit. That event opened up a China which to that point could best be described as a “a great black hole”. Had that event not occurred, we might well be two very well armed adversary’s waiting for the moment to plunge us all into conflict. I suspect that Laila is well aware of the need for dialogue and inclusion because the alternative is isolation, misunderstanding and conflict.
    So try talking to everyone in the room and more importantly, listen to all points of view that include those contrary to your own.
    If don’t, you will end up talking to a very small number of people with no tools to address the challenges facing all Canadians.
    At the end of the day, I still believe we all want pretty much the same things.


      1. You are right Bob, more would be nice (impartiality).
        For most Canadians (not all) their darkest days are light grey when compared to many other parts of the world today.
        I’m not going to say a agree with everything the Government does or how, but you really need to mantain some perspective. There countless citizens all over the globe that would trade places with you or me in a heart beat.


        1. I understand your point Mike, but China is not just any other foreign country, nor are the issues regarding investment – specifically I have great concerns with Chinese State connected investment in Canada.

          From the GG’s site :

          OTTAWA—At the request of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston will conduct State visits to the People’s Republic of China, from October 16 to 24; and to Mongolia, from October 24 to 26, 2013.

          “The State visits to China and Mongolia will highlight Canada’s strong bilateral relations with both countries, and I am confident greater common understanding, opportunity and prosperity will follow,” said the Governor General. “My visit to China also coincides with several other high-profile Canadian events, including the 35th Annual General Meeting and Policy Conference of the Canada Chinese Business Council; a performance and education tour by the National Arts Centre Orchestra; and a trade and investment mission led by Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa.”

          ~ State Visit to China – October 16 to 24

          Upon his arrival in Beijing, the Governor General will meet with His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, and Premier Li Keqiang. The Governor General will also deliver the keynote address at the Canada Chinese Business Council’s 35th Annual General Meeting and Policy Conference, which brings together business leaders from across Canada and China, and focuses on the progress made in our bilateral economic relationship.

          ~Their Excellencies will then travel to Chengdu to attend the 14th Western China International Fair, an important platform for the development of western China in the sectors of investment and trade co-operation with other Chinese provinces and foreign countries.

          So, he was requested to go by Stephen Harper, and is speaking to the AGM of the Canada China Business Council… yes, he is doing other things as well… but my opinion is that this still crosses a line to partisan activities.

          But I am told I shouldn’t criticize what he is doing over there, since when or if Mulcair is in power, he might want to do the same thing and why should we give ammunition to the right to criticize him then ? Follow my twitter feed to the upper right hand side of my site to see what I mean.


    1. Let’s not compare apples to oranges. This is China. Promoting Harpers economic agenda at his request is anything but apolitical or non partisan.


  4. If Harper is for Canada and it’s people why are we not given cheap gas at the pumps? All the other oil producing Nations do. That’s how most countries portion out their windfalls!! Why is Canada? I mean Harper different? Are the Canadian people not Worthy to our Prime Minister?
    What a dolt! – Viva Viva Viva Le Revolution


  5. According to the Letters Patent 1947, which define the governor general’s job, the governor general is placed in and over Canada and may remove any officeholder in the country if he/her feels it is necessary. This governor general is in a conflict of interest position, and has been since he was appointed.He has been an errand boy for Harper, traveling the world at Harper’s command.

    The GG admitted in an interview with Peter Mansbridge a while ago that he was and “instrument” of government policy.

    As a constitutional lawyer the GG should know what his job is. He should have read The Letters Patent 1947 before he accepted the position. Now, nothing will do but to have him removed from office by the Queen and someone who will fulfill the job description faithfully appointed to the position.

    We live in a de facto Dictatorship.


  6. I find this frightening too. I guess this ‘could’ come under the heading ‘State Visit’ – however the timing etc is is suspect. I really have difficulty trusting a lot of what I am reading in MSM – again – timing of articles leading up to & after political announcements. Sorry I am not good at collecting these, but I think you all know what I mean. Happy Thanksgiving!


    1. Yes – just another visit requested by Stephen Harper that is.. lol.. that coincides with visits by two top Conservative cabinet ministers: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. And it comes just a week after Trade Minister Ed Fast wraps up his fourth visit to China


  7. It is not so much a bastardization as it is a prostitution. And – because of that – it is somewhat akin to ‘turning out’ the Queen as the GG is the Queen’s rep. And that makes Harper a royal ……………..(rhymes with chimp). So, he has come to a new low. But, hey! It is all about ‘makin’a buck’ (for pimps and PMs) and this is what comes from that mindset.


  8. Ranks right up ther with spending $25 Million on advertising to sell the merits of the tar sands. Yes, broke as we are we can afford to tell the world how good the oil sands are. With several of the operations owned by state owned “companies”. In Canada of late state owned oil and gas producers have been eliminated by the same governments that embrace these foreign ones. Very confusing to be sure.


  9. Governors General have traditionally worked to facilitate Canadian activity and policy, here and everywhere. They are expected to do what the government wants. This is nothing new. Even the Queen likes it this way. The notion that a Governor General is independent from the government is a fiction, The Letters Patent 1947 notwithstanding. Indeed, Governors General who have their own ideas (think Adrienne Clarkson or Michaelle Jean) get a rough ride from their government.


    1. I aree with robbear13, The GG is the Queen’s representive to/for the Government of Canada. As a few reponses note this is not new.
      I agree with Laila that IF, AND ONY IF it proved to be the case that the GG is being muzzeled or otherwise manipulated, then by all means critcize. To my understanding this has not happened.
      It is a little odd that some would deny freedom of speech on the one hand but demand it for themselves on the other…. really!


      1. Again, the issue is that this is China, which again, is not just any country as the United States has long ago figured out. China has an appalling human rights record that for all intents and purposes, Harper used to care about. He was one of the most stand-offish PM’s we’ve had when it comes to the Chinese government. That changed abruptly and one has to examine why.

        I look forward to hearing or seeing the transcript of the speech the GG gives to the AGM of the CCBC. Let’s see if that ever becomes public.


  10. Please understand that the Governor General’s office cannot be bastardized as it has already reached maximum bastardization a long time ago.

    May we forgive, and never be afraid of, the crazy ones.

    Don’t let my name fool you, it is only by chance that he and I are almost the antithesis of each other.


  11. Laila,

    I saw that and it struck me as curious. I know Adrian Clarkson promoted Canadian art during her tenure but this appears to be out of line. I wonder if the Queen whom Johnston represents would attend such a meeting?

    Eliza Olson


    1. I cant imagine the Queen ever speaking at an AGM of the Canada China Business Council…. Christy Clark, yes, Harper yes, Both partisans. The GG? No. It is inappropriate.


  12. I’ll not specify all the `traditional’ abuses yet outstanding in Canadian Society. The vulgarity of robbear13 is contemptible.


  13. Damn it – stop saying we’re blind or deaf or dumb in regard to what Harper is doing to this country. Short of highly illegal acts, there is nothing at all we can do about it NOW except prepare for 2015. And then VOTE the bastard OUT!


  14. Yes, well Maryposie… that hasn’t really worked for the last couple of elections now, has it? And it is partisan crap like this that is the reason why.


  15. Canada has become rotten to the core.
    Citizens of BC saw this coming way back during, Gordon Campbell’s reign. Fadden of CSIS warned of, Communist China’s huge inroads into our country. BC was specifically mentioned. Campbell and Harper signed more than a few shady deals, behind our backs.

    Christy Clark is just another Campbell wearing a skirt. Christy too works for Harper,as Campbell did before her.

    Harper said. “I am the law”. “I make the rules”. Harper has bastardized, every ministry and every service in this country? Including the GG’s office.


      1. Are they our resources? Or are they the Crown’s resources that have been granted the right of extraction? Does it matter to the Crown whether it gets the revenue through royalties or through dividends from the corporations it owns and grants resource extraction?
        It, the Crown, claims ownership of all of Canada and only grants right of use of the land by tenure to us serfs as long as we pay our taxes.
        However the succession right to Canada was repealed by Queen Victoria so why are we still a vassal state of the Crown?
        Statute of Westminster was enacted so this state of affairs could be corrected by the writing of our own Constitution. This has never occurred in Canada. Canada is still nothing more than an Act of the British Parliament. Correct this and we can move forward from our feudal tenure.


        1. Rick: Canada never had feudal tenure which relates essentially to military service in return for land holding. We’ve had military land expropriation, we’ve rewarded First Nation allies (against France, the USA, Fenians and other FNs) with land reserves, such tenures also making up essential treaty terms between the Crown and many FNs, we’ve granted Commonwealth military veterans with individual free-holds and we’ve refuged foreign sovereigns from foreign wars but we’ve never had feudal tenure.

          The idea of a “feudal system” is misconceived. Early medieval Europeans never recognized such a system; rather the term is a modern one used for historical perspective with regard to the evolution of West European realpolitik. The characteristics we recognize, surfs, peasants, villeins, subinfeudation, immunity, inheritability, aristocratic and papal legitimacy and chivalry, would read, from the medieval POV, more like a litany of things that eventually killed what they called “vassalage”. The “feudal system”, such as it was, died out, for all practical purposes, by the thirteenth century, predating the colonization of North America by centuries.

          What did survive were the stylized, ritualistic vestiges of chivalry of which the aristocratic class was the chief caricature of a supposed heroic mythos. In Canada it’s manifest in the federal Senate, an ancient institution designed to protect noble-, and, for a while, feudal property. But the Canadian trappings are completely symbolic: we don’t have a landed aristocracy nor a shortage of land.

          “Vassal state”? We are bound to send neither tribute, tax nor soldiers to Britain. The vassalage of feudal terms refers to an often complex hierarchy of duties and entitlements held to or from various ranks of tenure and social class. One was often both lord over some vassals and vassal to one or more other lords, a morass that grew into such abuse and inefficiency it eventually destroyed “feudalism”—in its true sense. We don’t have anything like that in Canada: private tenure is held in fee simple directly from the Sovereign who, for Constitutional purposes, is Canadian.

          And it is Britain, not Canada, which has no written constitution. Ours is 1982.


        2. “…..One was often both lord over some vassals and vassal to one or more other lords, a morass that grew into such abuse and inefficiency it eventually destroyed “feudalism”—in its true sense. We don’t have anything like that in Canada: ……..”

          Apparently you havent heard of the Canadian Senate.


        3. LOL…. so timely with the soap opera like drama of Mike Duffy going on medical leave and Wallin threatening to sue if shes suspended without pay…


  16. Oct. 16 list of delegates accompanying Johnston to China including Canadian Council of Chief Executives CEO John Manley

    From Manley’s Sept 16 letter to Harper re the Throne Speech :
    “Canada-China relations. During your trip to China in February 2012 you spoke of the need “to take the Canada-China strategic economic partnership to the next level.” Here again, it is important to keep up the momentum. Under the new leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is pursuing structural reforms aimed at stimulating domestic demand and promoting long-term economic development. Such policies have the potential to open new opportunities for foreign investors and new markets for Canadian exporters across a range of sectors. We urge you to return to Beijing at the earliest opportunity to initiate a meaningful and effective dialogue with the new Chinese leadership that will advance Canada’s interests with the world’s second-largest economy.”


      1. To their credit, this seems to be an all party delegation. Lib MP Scott Simms going also.

        Davies has been very critical of the deal. From Jun 2013
        “This “biased” deal in favour of the foreign investor will be in place for 31 years. By that time, Canada’s rich resources will have been extracted for another country’s profit while disregarding the rights of Canadians and First Nations in their own country. With the passing of Bills C38 and C45 where environmental laws were gutted or deleted altogether, it brings the serious consequences of FIPPA closer to reality if it’s finally ratified as is without debate.

        It’s important that Canadians be well informed. Check out the FIPPA Facts page that gives a comprehensive look at what’s wrong with this agreement for Canada, especially since a debate is not forthcoming which would enable transparency and allow opposition parties to challenge key points in the agreement”

        Delegates bios


        1. Hmmm, a free trip to China and all you can eat Dim Sum! What politician wouldnt sign up? I’m quite sure he’s probably taking Mike Duffy’s seat on the plane……..


  17. Hang in there, Pam Wallins’ getting the boot from the senate maybe she can take over the G.G. office when this guy has to be replaced….sounds about right to me


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