The Morning Brief – 08.05.21
By Bruce Carson
In Beauty and the Beast, there is a scene where the Beast is looking for advice as to how he can win the love of Belle. Lumiere, the talking candlestick, helpfully suggests that the Beast make Belle “promises you don’t intend to keep.”
As we seem to be on the verge of entering the season where election promises are made, some with no intention of being kept, or no idea how to keep them, it seemed appropriate to reflect back a week or so to July 26, 2021, the installation of Canada’s 30th Governor General.
During that ceremony and in her speech following installation, one just knew that we were dealing with someone who made promises she did intend to keep and set goals she attended to accomplish.
The installation of Her Excellency The Right Honourable Mary Simon has come at an unprecedented time in the history of our country as we still are suffering the effects of COVID-19. We have been living with uncertainty and this ceremony and the person now occupying the office of Governor General seem to offer some measure of certainty, a sense of purpose.
She is the first Inuk to be appointed to that position.
Simon’s background along with her experience is extensive-one could argue more in depth, with more experience than any of those who she will be advising or are advising her.
Her presence and her contribution to the 1982 Constitutional Conference and Indigenous rights is a crucial jumping off spot for her new role. As she said “that moment made this one possible.”
It has been said that she brings a new sense of purpose to the Office of Governor General. How could she not, given her experience dealing with most of the issues troubling our society today. Canada’s issues are her issues; Indigenous Rights, dealing with the TRC Calls to Action and the MMIWG’s Calls to Justice, climate change, youth, reconciliation and wellness are the issues raised are her lived experiences.
She brings a new welcoming approach with humility as shown by her reference that Rideau Hall is the People’s Hall open to all Canadians from all backgrounds, needing to represent all Canadians. Selflessness was referred as one of our greatest strengths.
One of her priorities is promoting mental health and wellness, particularly destigmatising mental health.
Canada is an Arctic Nation-homeland to Inuit, First Nations and Metis. Climate change and the destruction of nature is the challenge of our time. She understands the link between it and the economy “our climate allows society to be possible and within our society is our economy.
On reconciliation she believes Canadians need to hear the real history of Canada saying she was “horrified” by the discovery of unmarked graves. She sees reconciliation “as a way of life” to be worked at every day, “replacing hurt with hope.”
Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami dealt with the language issue that Simon’s appointment has presented. He noted that Indigenous languages are the founding languages of this country and we should celebrate the rich diversity of languages in Canada. He added Canadians need to rethink the way they view bilingualism. “Inuktitut belongs in Rideau Hall just as much as French and English.”
Quebec political journalist Michel C. Auger referred to Simon as a “great Quebecer, who was made an Officer of l’Ordre national du Quebec. He added “if he was good enough for Rene Levesque to speak in Quebec’s name, she is certainly good enough for me-and for many others.”
It is truly unfortunate that Mary Simon wasn’t around in the last few years to provide the Trudeau administration with a measure of strength of purpose.
A weekly discussion between her and the prime minister might have replaced the “deliverology” nonsense with a suggestion to get down to work.
While the weekly or bimonthly chat between the Governor General and the Prime Minister are confidential, the time spent would not be wasted given the difference in experience between Simon and Trudeau.
In her speech after being sworn in, the new Governor General focussed on four priorities; reconciliation, mental health, Canada’s youth and climate change. Climate change could be approached from two vantage points, one dealing with it generally and the second focussed on Canada’s Arctic.
These are not new priorities for the Governor General as she has spent a good portion of her adult life on these matters.
In 2008, the Harper Government held a Priorities and Planning cabinet committee meeting in Inuvik, NWT, the first time such a meeting had been held in the North.
As Harper used that committee with additions from time to time as a substitute for a full cabinet meeting, this meeting was to send an important signal to those living and working in the North.
Two important matters come to mind about this meeting; the fact that many workers in the North were “fly in” workers from the South bringing their expertise to bear on issues, but then leaving when their term or job was over. It was pointed out that it is hard to build an economy without a stable trained workforce committed to the North.
The other issue that stood out in the discussions was the lack of mental health treatment and support facilities in the North. Those needing professional help had to be flown south to Vancouver or other major urban centers. Lack of the availability of immediate access to treatment led to further stigmatization of mental health.
No doubt these are matters which our new Governor General will focus on.
Her advice to the prime minister over the coming months as we near COP 26 and on reconciliation will be invaluable as it will be coming from someone who has the knowledge and lived experience to give that advice.
Yes, the downside of an experienced, yet humble Governor General will be that there will be those who will argue that she should “stay in her lane” as she was not elected to anything. If she followed that advice, it would be such a waste of time and experience.
There is much to be done.
- Government Analytics webinar with former Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz
- Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Legault to meet to finalize Early Learning and Childcare funding agreement
- International trade stats for June to be released
- Job numbers for July to be released
- Possible date for a federal election call
- CPI numbers for July to be released
The Morning Brief will appear next Thursday, August 12, but perhaps earlier, depending on circumstances.