BY IAN PATTISON
As politics go, ours have gone from policy to personality. Many people don’t discuss issues so much as framing those issues in the names of those who are responsible for them. It’s the same in Ottawa as it is in Great Britain, the cradle of our democracy.
Whereas Canadians once talked about “government policy,” things changed around the time of Pierre Trudeau’s administration when opposition parties spoke of “Liberal policy” to further distinguish it from their policy.
Nowadays, of course, government initiatives are framed as Justin Trudeau’s alone as Conservatives, especially, capitalize on the prime minister’s sagging popularity.
It’s doubtful, for instance, that we’ll soon hear the end of Trudeau’s fair to middling rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody'' last weekend, sung in the lobby of the swank Corinthia London.
There, Trudeau and the Canadian delegation took up residence to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. Saturday night, after the day’s official duties were done and two days before the funeral, the PM and others gathered around a piano in the lobby where Quebec musician and Order of Canada recipient Gregory Charles tickled the ivories for a couple of hours.
Trudeau wore a T-shirt in a casual, semi-private setting when someone seized on the idea of a Queen song for the Queen. Trudeau took the lead vocal and someone else, naturally, turned on their cellphone. Oh-oh.
Was it okay to blow off some steam or was it a dumb move? The reaction has been mostly devastating.
"Embarrassing doesn't even begin to cover it," wrote Andrew Coyne, Globe and Mail columnist, on Twitter. "He's the prime minister, in a public place, on the eve of the Queen's funeral. And this is how he behaves?"
Britain’s Daily Mail went bonkers: “‘Drunk’ Canadian PM Trudeau is slammed as ‘tone deaf embarrassment’ for singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at a London hotel before Elizabeth II’s state funeral.”
There is no evidence he’d had too much to drink, or anything to drink. The tabloid press is one media that can definitely be accused of proffering fake news.
Charles, the pianist not the king, likened it to Caribbean funerals in blending sombre moments with those celebrating life. In New Orleans entire orchestras parade for the dead.
Canadian music journalist Adam Feibel may have spoken for Canadians concerned about far more important things: "I don't think that Justin Trudeau singing Bohemian Rhapsody was disrespectful to the queen but I know enough about karaoke to assume it was disrespectful to Queen."
The PMO may have stretched things by calling it “a tribute” to the Queen but it was hardly a deliberate slight to a woman, a monarch whom Trudeau respected and adored.
Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon made a good point: “This wasn’t controversial — it was cathartic. It was sweet. And you know who would have loved it? The Queen.”
Remember her appearance for tea with a cartoon bear?
Paddington: “Happy Jubilee Ma’am. And thank you. For everything.”
Her Majesty: “That’s very kind.”
Or what about her cameo appearance for the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in a skit alongside Daniel Craig in character as James Bond.
The Queen even kept her involvement secret from her family.
As Trudeau and others have recounted in recent days, the Queen loved a cracking good time. “But the Trudeau haters at home and abroad have reached a stage of automaton contempt that blinds them to facts and any situational context,” wrote Menon.
MANY of those same Canadians are anxious to rid Canada of the monarchy that was so well celebrated over 10 days in Britain. The queen was the monarchy which means that her successor son, Charles, is now in charge. That doesn’t sit as well with some Canadians who prefer her personality over his.
An Ipsos poll conducted a week after the Queen’s death found 54 per cent agree that now that her reign has ended, Canada should end its formal ties to the British monarchy. This sentiment is down 5 points from 2021, the year of “the interview” with Prince Harry and Meghan. Conversely, 46 per cent disagree that Canada should sever ties, up 5 points. The trend favours the palace.
“Canadians are clear on one thing,” Ipsos’ report says. “Eight in ten believe Queen Elizabeth II did a good job in her role as monarch . . . However, underscoring the uncertainty of the future of the monarchy in Canada, only a slim majority (56 per cent) agree they are confident that King Charles III will do a good job in his role as monarch.”
Even Charles’ compelling speech on the occasion of his mother’s death has not swayed his detractors.
Adding to the royal personality scenario, six in 10 Canadians agree that the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, will help keep the monarchy relevant to Canadians who watched the Queen’s funeral by the millions.
Indeed, more than half the Earth’s population – 5.1 billion people – tuned in to watch her funeral Monday. One million people are estimated to have attended the public funeral procession in London. Ten miles was the longest length of the queue to see the Queen lying in state, resulting in wait times of more than 24 hours.
As Kelly McParland wrote in the National Post, “No one spends 24 hours in line for a monarchy that doesn't matter.”
Millions of Canadians were up at 5 a.m. to watch the funeral with four Mounties leading the procession and 95 of our soldiers, sailors and air crew marching. Clearly, the British monarchy is alive and well in spite of what some view as King Charles’ odd personality.
THOSE who would do away with the monarchy are basically out of luck. The bar is set very high by design. The House of Commons, the Senate, and all 10 provincial legislatures must agree. Experts say that consultation with Indigenous Peoples would almost certainly be required.
King Charles III is and will remain our head of state. He’s already indicated there will be a “slimmed down” monarchy of seven working Royals besides himself: Queen Consort Camilla; Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex; William and Catherine; and Anne, Princess Royal. More changes are likely.
Right then, let’s get on with it.
Ian Pattison is retired after 50 years of award-winning journalism at The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.