At the 2012 Liberal Biennial Convention, a controversial motion came to the floor. It argued that Canada should be a republic and I found myself offended. I was not sure why and I mentioned this troubling state of mind to a friend. At that point, I found out that that same friend was a republican and he challenged my very notion. At the time, I could not defend myself.
I tried to construct an argument and was left with the typical conservative argument: an argument which is based on stability. Or put differently, when compared to most other places, the United Kingdom has had an unusually stable governmental structure. After the English Civil War (1642–1651), The Succession of the Crown has been very clear and very structured. It is true that a part of the reason was that Parliament took a hand in ensuring the line was clear. Most notably, with the coming of the Glorious Revolution, Parliament instituted legislation, like the 1701 Act of Settlement, to ensure that further bloodshed was limited.
Furthermore, the Monarch increasingly became a person who reigned and did not rule. In other words, the Crown sought to cede power over time rather than relive the chaos that was created when the Lord Protector ruled the British Isles.
This is not a lesson that has been learned by many polities. For example, the Americans had a Civil War 85 years after they were formed; while less than 75 years ago, President Eisenhower had to call in the Federal Army and take control of various state-based militias (known as National Guard Units) to ensure that State Governors did not oppose rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States. Or look at the French. Since 1792, they have gone through two empires, five republics and various provisional states. Each of those changes were marked by a coupe, revolt or some other social chaos. All of these fights could have been solved with the ceding of power; but alas, this was not the case.
English History is full of examples, where the Crown gave up its authority to maintain a greater goal: his or her Kingdom. The creation of the Magna Carta (1215) provided the Crown with a way of maintaining the line of succession without having to go through a Civil War. While the Bill of Rights (1688) removed the ability of the crown to dispense with legislation and statutes. However, each power that was surrendered allowed the Crown to maintain a stability that was not possessed by its rivals. While Spain, France and Portugal expanded their Empire long before the British Crown, those European Imperial polities were unable to deal with the changing demographics of their Empires. In general, the flexibility of the English Crown allowed it to possess a wide variety of holdings from the 1600’s to the 20th Century. Or put differently, the Crown constantly relinquished power so as to increase and maintain their realm.
Now this strategy of slowly seeding powers was not altruistic. For the Kings used this glacial change to reclaim powers for themselves. For example, the Statute of Proclamations of 1539 gave the King wide powers to legislate without reference to, or approval from, parliament. It just happened that our reformist forefathers, our gritty Liberal ancestors, pushed for change and were rewarded. Consequently, unlike the Spanish, the French or the Portuguese, the British Crown only suffered through one successful revolt of a dependency: the American Revolution.
At this point in the argument, most republicans would acknowledge the stability of the Crown. With that being said, they would also argue that our society has evolved beyond the need for a Monarch. The Irish have done without. They did not have any major constitutional dilemmas after the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. The same could be said of the present Irish State. In fact, Israel and Iceland both have Parliamentary Systems and both have largely ceremonial heads of state. So in many ways, it is as if they had our Governor General. So the question remains, in this modern day, do we need a hereditarily based head of state? Today, I argue yes. For a head of state based on birth has an advantage: the Obligation of Service.
The Obligation of Service might seem like an odd argument to make but it has provided the British Commonwealth with exceptional service. To justify their existence, most of the princes who are in line to the Throne have served in combat. For, this is the last way, the Crown can show that they can serve the interests of the nation. Therefore, in spite of their own issues, they have all had to find the courage to lead a country. George VI and his family (including Elizabeth II), for example, proved his worth by staying in Buckingham Palace even though London was being bombed on a regular basis. Consequently, instead of moving to the country, like most of the aristocracy, nobility and well off, the King of England stayed in the middle of bombs – in the middle of a war zone. Prince Charles served in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and eventual became captain of the coastal minesweeper HMS Bronington. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, holds the actual rank of Commander in the Royal Navy and flew multiple missions including anti-surface warfare, Exocet missile decoy and casualty evacuation during the Falklands War. Prince Harry served two tours in Afghanistan, while his brother Prince William served dangerous missions in Afghanistan and the Caribbean. It is hard to find three generations of any family in the modern Western World that have had to deal with wars. However, the Royal Family was there in World War II. They were there in the Falklands and in Afghanistan. They have risked their very lives for England.
Compare that record to the actions of President Clinton, Reagan or either Bush. Think about the security bubble that enveloped Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin or Stephen Harper. Could you imagine Defence Minister Peter McKay being deployed with a regiment on the front lines of Iraq? Or could you imagine a major Canadian politician saying “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country”. But Prince Harry did say that. This was not unlike one of his ancestor’s, Edward I of England (then Prince Edward) who served during the Ninth Crusade. Being a Sovereign means serving the country, in life as well as in death, and I cannot think of a Canadian Politician who would put themselves in harm’s way after holding a powerful office. Consequently, I would argue for the Monarchy because of the bravery one must show as a Royal.
But if that is not good enough for you, one should just look at the economic payback. Economists have argued that the pageantry of the English Royal Family is an economic plus. For even through it costs the British $33 million pounds to operate, Economists have argued that the Royals bring in more than $500+ Million in Tourism Related Spin-Offs to the British Isles.
In the case of Canada, I would remind our republican friends that we too gain from the same benefits. When William and Kate came to Calgary, CBC News reported that the single appearance of the Royals brought 7,000 extra guests and at least $2.3 million dollar boost to the local economy (William and Kate tour gave Calgary $2.3M boost, CBC News , Last Updated: Sep 16, 2011 3:43 PM MT) Furthermore, “As for long-term benefits, Tourism Calgary estimates that $50 million worth of publicity was drummed up for Calgary and Calgary Stampede awareness around the world due to the royal visit.”
Compare that to the cost of the trip. According to the Daniel Proussalidis in the Toronto Sun, the cost of the trip was not fully available; but at a minimum, it ran us $1.2 million. ((High price tag for Will and Kate’s Canadian tour, By Daniel Proussalidis, Toronto Sun, First posted: Tuesday, July 05, 2011 02:02 PM EDT). While, the Citizens for a Canadian Republic (http://canadianrepublic.wordpress.com/) estimated the cost at about “$500,000 to $700,000 per day or roughly $4-6 million in total.” Or put differently, if one appearance at the Calgary Stampede provides $2.3 Million dollars in short term benefit and $50 million dollars in long term benefits and all we had to do is spend $700,000, we are clearly ahead of the game.
Therefore, there is an economic and political gain to having a Monarchy. That is my argument; that is a Liberal Argument. Supporting the Monarchy is not only logical but it is right. For, in the last hundred years, the Royals have shown Canadians that they have courage, strength and character. It is an argument that is based on economic and political grounds and it is an argument that the Royal Family has presented by their actions in the 20th Century. I think that says it all.