Canada has changed and the time has come for our relationship with the Crown to change with it.
No, I don’t mean the estimated £100 million the coronation is expected to cost British taxpayers, nor the nearly $60 million the Crown costs Canadians each year.
Rather, I mean the numbers on King Charles’ popularity here in Canada.
They’re not pretty, nor do I believe they are fleeting. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 60 per cent of respondents opposed recognizing Charles as King of Canada. Only 28 per cent had a favourable view of him. Given that only 9 per cent of Canadians are even looking forward to the greatest show on earth — his coronation — even that spectacle is unlikely to meaningfully improve his popularity.
And so, like any relationship where awkward conversations are delayed, Canadians need to have an adult conversation about the monarchy’s role in our country.
Now, I don’t need to be lectured on the many arguments for retaining our ties with the House of Windsor. In a previous life, I was convinced. I grew up an Anglican. I was an active monarchist. I believed in the important role the Crown played in the history of our young country.
And, I absolutely admired Elizabeth II, truly the greatest exemplar of service before self in recent memory. Her omnipresence, throughout my entire life, was a source of comfort and continuance.
But Canada has changed and the time has come for our relationship with the Crown to change with it. And as we look at that change, there are, of course, parts of the relationship worth preserving, first among them is our relationship with the Commonwealth.
On this matter, Elizabeth was ahead of her time. She understood, innately, that her realm was transforming and that the Commonwealth was the most effective way to “keep the best and change the rest.”
That’s sound advice. And, as Canadians, we ought to apply it to our current circumstance. After all, we’re at an inflection point and there’s plenty worth changing.
First, those damning numbers on Charles’ popularity are only likely to get worse. As we say in politics, there’s no path to victory for Charles. There would seem to be no publicity stunts left for him. No sustainability endeavours. No speeches extolling the advantages of wool. No, there seems to be nothing left that can win over new Canadian hearts, especially the hearts of new Canadians.
And perhaps this truth has already dawned on him. While Charles brags that he’s paid 18 official visits to Canada over 50 years, his first out-of-country trip was not to Canada — or any other Commonwealth country for that matter — but to Germany (after France cancelled).
Which brings me to my second reason.
Since the last coronation in 1953, obviously our nation has fundamentally changed. We’re larger, stronger and more diverse. As a people, we are more committed to, and proud of, being a ‘mosaic and not a melting pot’ than we are our new King.
But can we actually believe that furthering our collective cohesion is best achieved by, among other things, asking millions of new citizens and public servants to swear an oath of allegiance to a 74-year-old white man imbued with mythical powers? Do we really need to be reminded what century we’re living in?
Of course, it will be an enormous challenge for Canada to cast off the monarchy. And a good argument can be made that that time would be better spent fighting inflation, fixing the challenges in our health care system and ensuring we keep our commitments to our allies, who do more to defend us than we do to defend them.
But, again, the same rules apply as in any personal relationship. There is never a good time to leave. Always one more Christmas. One more family event. But the truth is sometimes one party just outgrows the other and it comes time to leave.
That time is now.
This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on April 30, 2023.