Taxpayer’s Paying for Queen Jean’s Holidays!

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Why aren’t you outraged at having to pay for the personal travel expenses of Governor General Michaëlle Jean?

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada” is acting like a sovereign and is using our tax dollars to pay the tab.  We, the taxpayers, of Canada are paying for Governor Jean’s (GJ) travel on the the Canadian Government’s private jets to the tune of $11,000 per hour?  She cost us more in her travel expenses than did the Prime Minister!  The Standard reports that GJ spent $834,461 on executive jet travel in the 18- month period from January 2007 to June 2008, compared to $808,136 for Prime Minister Harper and his staff.  If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, then this should.  Governor Jean, or should I say Queen Jean, used the Government’s Challenger aircraft for personal vacation trips to Jamaica and Barbados.  Even more disturbing is the fact that the Challenger was used reportedly a number of times to transport Governor Jean’s husband to France ($75,000 per trip) where they own a home.

If you’re not pumping the blood now then check your pulse, you must be dead.

Governor General Jean represents the Crown in Canada and carries out the duties of head of State.

Here’s the deal.  If you ask most Canadians and virtually every American, who is the Head of State of Canada, no doubt the answer will be Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and that would be wrong.  The Head of State is the Queen of Canada–Elizabeth II, who by the way doesn’t hang around Canada much because she is also the Queen of England, Queen of Australia, and et. al.  So, what we have going on here is that the Queen is the sovereign of Canada and the Governor General (GG) is the representative viceroy for the Queen.  The Queen appoints the GG on the advice of the Prime Minister.   By convention, the GG is the direct liaison to the sovereign.  Apparently, the GG serves at the pleasure of the Queen, but a five year term has become the accepted norm.

The GG website proclaims what the duties of Head of State are to wit: “The governor general presides over the swearing-in of the prime minister, the Chief Justice of Canada and cabinet ministers.”

Here’s one that should make you scratch your head, if not smile.

    One of the governor general’s most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place. In the case of the death of a prime minister, it is the governor general’s responsibility to ensure the continuity of government.

Really, I thought it was the members of a particular political party vis-à-vis elections who made sure a Prime Minister was in place.

If you read the list of responsibilities as denoted at the official Governor General website, you are purposely left with the impression that Canada could not function if it were not but for the office of the Governor General.  More on this later.

So, in Canada we have a real government, and a pretend government as well.

Here in Canada we have the real government i.e., the representatives of the citizens of Canada which sort of resembles a full fledged republic represented by elected officials, and on the other hand we also have the pretend government that sort of runs along beside the real deal.  There is a long somewhat boring history to all of this but suffice to say, Canada is a symbolic Monarchy with a massive bureaucracy that operates along side the real government.  Not only do we have the Governor General’s symbolic office to pay for, there are Lieutenant Governors bureaucracies in each Province and Commissioner offices in the Territories.  It is shocking how much this pretend government costs the taxpayers.  The estimated budget for just the office of the Governor General itself is approximately 19 million dollars.

This does not include the costs of two official residences and total expenditures for travel and monies spent by other departments relating to the Governor General.  For example, the previous Governor General, Clarkson, spent a total of 41 million dollars, which included a 19 million dollar budget during 2003.  We do not know what Governor General Jean’s total expenditures will be, but undoubtedly much more.

For an exhaustive chronicle of the history of the office of the Governor General and some of the related controversy, See Office of the Governor General of Canada, a feature article by Jay Makarenko.

There are two salient issues to focus on here.

  1. Do we need an Office of Governor General?
  2. If so, what costs, if any, should the taxpayers suffer?

There is the overall topic of whether Canadian taxpayers have to spend their hard-earned income to have, support, and hold onto the rather unnecessary parallel and exalted “Monarchy” government at all.  There are many Canadians who come down firmly on the side of abolishing the Monarchy–not without opposition to say the least.  However that question is far beyond the scope of this article.  The first focus here is whether there is a need for an Office of GG.  Many Canadians have taken a hard look at the official responsibilities and duties of the GG and do conclude that we can better spend millions of tax dollars elsewhere.  This is particularly true in today’s economic climate.  The primary duties of the GG, other than those mentioned above, are:

  • Acting on advice of prime minister and cabinet ministers to give royal assent to bills passed in the Senate and House of Commons.
  • Signing state documents.
  • Reading throne speech.
  • Presiding over swearing-in of prime minister, chief justice and cabinet ministers.

Given the true nature of the office and the ceremonial, if not ritualistic, nature of the duties, I say we can use the money elsewhere–how about spending it on rejuvenating of the health care system; lets reopen some hospitals and get more doctors here.  That would work.  Those Canadians in opposition will argue that the GG does far more than I have listed here.  They will argue that the GG visits the helpless, the homeless and our soldiers in combat as well.  Furthermore, the GG does hand out a vast number of awards to deserving citizens and medals to our troops.  Again, the question is one of reality, practicality and economics.  however, if we asked the homeless and the helpless, my bet is that they would rather see the money spent elsewhere.  What say you?

Assuming the people of Canada truly do decide to continue this fictional government as a whole and thus keep the office of the GG, then who should absorb the costs.  Maybe we should ask who is in the best position to pay the costs, and who benefits the most from having the Queens viceroy anyway?  It makes perfect sense to me that if the Queen wants to have a viceroy here in Canada then she should pay the expenses associated with the position.  She definitely can afford it much more than we can.  The Queen’s worth is reported to be $694,577,000.

Even the most hard-core supporters of a monarchy government should agree the very least the Queen ought to do is pay the GG’s travel expenses, including the personal travel expenses if the GG can not afford to pay her own.

More details on the Governor General’s air travel expenses.

Back to the GG air travel expenses.  There are supposed to be strict rules for government officials being allowed to use the government Challenger aircraft.  The Air Force has four CC-144 Challenger aircraft used for VIP transport.  The Prime Minister’s spokesperson was reported as saying there are rules even for Cabinet Ministers that dictate they take commercial flights unless there are serious extenuating circumstances.  The spokesperson, Kory Teneycke said that ministers must have justification and obtain approval for using a Challenger.  The Prime Minister is required to fly on one of the Challengers because of security reasons.  Teneycke went on to say that the Harper administration is more strict concerning the use of a Challenger because of the expense of operating them.  Furthermore, Teneycke reportedly said that when the Prime Minister travels for Conservative Party business, the party reimburses the cost of the plane.

The GG spokesperson has been reported as saying that the GG is not subject to the rules. The Governor General, according to Marthe Blouin, does not have to get approval to use the Challenger jets because she is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces and her office comes with the privilege.

The notion that the GG is the real Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces is not discussed here.  However, in further justification of the GG use of the Challenger, her spokesperson argued that the RCMP prefers that the GG fly the Challenger.  Back in 2004 the former GG (Clarkson) was embroiled in controversy over her spending.  She was widely criticized for her lavish lifestyle and spent $425,000 using the private jets during the five year term of her appointment.

That is approximately half the amount of taxpayer dollars General Jean has spent in 18 months.  In 2004, Prime Minister Martin was reported as promising a strict scrutiny of Clarkson’s expenses saying:

    No one spending public funds, Martin said, is immune from having their expenses scrutinized.  That includes, obviously, the Governor General’s expenses . . . At this point I think we’ve got to be very, very prudent, very, very frugal with taxpayers’ money.

PM Martin went on to say:

    Having said all of this, I really do believe that part of the line-by-line expenditure examination that treasury board is going through, there is nothing that we aren’t going to question.

Apparently, Martin’s scrutiny didn’t happen or went nowhere.  In the same article, Martin assured the public that the question of the GG’s security issue and having to fly on government private jets would also be the subject of the review of Clarkson’s spending.  As far as the security argument posed by the GG, it is interesting to note that the RCMP’s own documentation states that the GG is under the watchful eye of the Protective Policing members.  Protective Policing is a apart of the Federal Services provided by the RCMP. In 2001 the RCMP entered into an agreement with Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to provide specially trained RCMP officers on select aircraft.  Protective Policing is responsible for deployment of tactical Aircraft Protective Officers (APO’s) on domestic and international flights.  Therefore, there is a strong argument here that even if the “security” of the GG rises to a real level of concern, there is plenty of security available, and arguably mandated if the GG would fly commercial aircraft as opposed to the vastly more expensive use of a Challenger.

In summary, General Jean has spent a shocking amount of money using private jet aircraft instead of using commercial airlines.  We can not ignore the fact that a portion of these expenses Canadians paid for were for family holidays.  Her excuse that she uses a Challenger for security reasons and pursuant to RCMP recommendation, just doesn’t cut it especially in these tough economic times.  Again, shouldn’t Canadians demand that this “sovereign” like behavior stop.  If not, then perhaps it is time for our government to respectfully request Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II foot the bill.  After-all, General Jean is her representative in Canada, not our Ambassador in England.  I’m not sure which, but this is a case of either the tail wagging the dog, or the tail dogging the wag.  As I was well into researching and writing this piece, an additional article was posted today at The London Free Press website: Governor General’s spending can’t fly, by Lorrie Goldstein, wherein she expressed similar sentiment.

Let me know whether you agree or disagree.


  1. Jean outspends Clarkson on use of private jets, Posted By PETER ZIMONJIC, SUN MEDIA
  2. By Kathlen Harris, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF, The Ottawa Sun
  3. Jean outspends Clarkson on use of private jets, Posted By PETER ZIMONJIC, SUN MEDIA
  4. Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  5. Governor General of Canada ,From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  6. See Governor General Role and Responsibilities at www.gg.ca/gg/rr/index_e.asp
  7. See Governor General Role and Responsibilities at http://www.gg.ca/gg/rr/index_e.asp
  8. Who Runs This Country, Anyway?, A Guide to Canadian Government, Stanbridge, Joanne.
  9. Canada for Americans: The Maple Crown: It Takes a Lot of People to Be the Queen, by Owen Black.
  10. http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/est-pre/20082009/me-bd/pub/ME-001_e.PDF
  11. Queen Elizabeth’s rich list Royal Watch News, £349 million, Aug 22, 2008, 11:05 GMT
  12. By Kathlen Harris, NATIONAL BUREAU CHIEF, The Ottawa Sun
  13. http://stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1265801
  14. Jean outspends Clarkson on use of private jets, Posted By PETER ZIMONJIC, SUN MEDIA
  15. http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20040313/clarkson_expenses040312?hub=Toronto
  16. http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20040313/clarkson_expenses040312?hub=Toronto

About Roland
Founder and managing editor of Balloun Post. Roland earned his business administration degree with honours from the University of Missouri @ Kansas City and his law degree from Tulane. Roland is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada

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