Michaelle Jean:As Lord Byng? I Think Not

August 5, 2005: Michaelle Jean As Lord Byng? I Think Not

Michaelle Jean as Lord Byng? I think not

Bruce Garvey
National Post

Friday, August 05, 2005

It could have been worse, I suppose. Coming from Paul Martin, our new Governor-General might have been Bono.

As it is, the appointment of Michaelle Jean, an obscure Haitian-born TV host from French CBC, is appalling enough.

Let me confess right away that, like the majority of Canadians, I have never heard of Michaelle Jean, never set eyes on her on TV. She may be nothing more than a boob-tube bimbo, or she could be reasonably smart. I really don't know.

What I do know — without a doubt — is that she is unqualified to become Governor-General. This vitally important office has apparently become the political extension of the CBC's ongoing diversity campaign. The two driving forces behind the appointment are politically correct multiculturalism and the lamentable state of the Liberal party in Quebec.

I have never been an admirer of Adrienne Clarkson as a journalist or Governor-General. Having spent long years at the CBC trough, she brought free spending to Rideau Hall, treating her chattering-class Rosedale pals to $5-million circumpolar junkets and other extravagences.

But on the plus side, she obviously took the job seriously and did seem to establish some kind of unlikely rapport with the country's beleaguered military, even if at times she seemed to be acting more like the monarch herself than merely her humble representative.

The G-G's constitutional role is critical — the bulwark of our cultural defence against American republicanism. It therefore requires a figurehead who commands the unqualified trust of most Canadians, a figure of gravitas and diplomatic skills comparable to those of Queen Elizabeth herself, who must surely rate as one of the most accomplished diplomats in the world.

More than that, the job demands someone who lives, breathes and sweats Canada and has devoted years to the cause. Unfortunately, this is not Mme. Jean.

With neither Paul Martin nor Stephen Harper able to command support for a majority government, it could fall to the Governor-General to step into this political impasse in the months ahead, as our G-G's counterpart in Australia was required to do a few years ago.

Wise and tested men, such as revered veteran MP Ed Broadbent or former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, could rise to this enormous challenge and responsibility. But Michaelle Jean as Lord Byng? I think not.

Mme. Jean, 48, came to Montreal as an 11-year-old when her family fled Papa Doc Duvalier's Haiti — though as her subsequent education attests, it wasn't on a raft to Florida. She went to university in Montreal, Florence, Milan and Perugia, Italy — which must have cost a buck or two — and along the way learned French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Haitian Creole.

To Paul Martin, she's no sop to Quebec but the very “story of Canada,” with an extraordinary career in broadcasting. In English Canada, however, that career consists of introducing the foreign-made documentaries featured on The Passionate Eye, and the less-than-flagship Rough Cuts.

In Quebec, she's made a few documentaries and won a few minor awards, like almost everyone in a self-congratulating industry that flings them about like confetti. Such work and accolades is hardly the stuff that qualifies one to be the Governor-General.

Liberal spin doctors were earnestly touting her yesterday as a monumental gesture to Quebec youth and a shining new federal voice in the land of the Bloc (though Jacques Parizeau's pur laine supporters might beg to differ). As for Paul Martin's sacred mission to rid the West of alienation, this appointment provides another nail for the coffin.

Attractive and charming as Mme. Jean and her adopted Haitian daughter might be, Canadians look to Rideau Hall for something a little more substantial than a winning smile and the rare patter of little feet about the place.

National Post 2005