This past week has seen a change at the top, one which has not happened in Canada in nearly three-quarters of a century. All of us involved in local government have worked within a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state. While the impacts of seeing Charles in charge will be felt most considerably at the federal order of government and less so at the provincial/territorial order, there is some impact on local governments as well.
While it’s really minor in the big scheme of things, is there a single council chamber in the country that doesn’t have a picture of the Queen hanging on the wall somewhere? There’s now a new and burgeoning market for updated photos of the new monarch.
We’ve been talking about the lawyers some of us deal with as Queen’s Counsel. That’s got to change of course, as has the name of some of our courts – to the Court of King’s Bench. It’s going to take us a while to make that adjustment, symbolic as it may be.
Same with the words to the anthem ‘God Save the King’ and the term used in some of the oaths we take to the Crown.
As for the work of our local governments, it will continue unabated, perhaps with some moments of silence or some time for reflection. Some will likely place a black drape over pictures. I suspect we will see the name of the late Queen adorn more buildings, parks, and roads over the years as a manner of remembrance.
The monarchy is not without its critics either. Queen Elizabeth II oversaw an expansion of euro-centric culture in her early years, and it was a period that certainly wasn’t equitable, particularly to those who have called this land home for thousands of generations.
What will change with the new King? Probably very little in meaningful ways, except maybe for the face on our currency and our postage stamps.
A topic that might begin to gain more traction is one that has occurred in several former Commonwealth countries. The drive for true independence might pick up steam, seeing Canada evolve from a constitutional monarchy to some other form of government. That move would have its advantages, of course, but it would also have its drawbacks. It’s a decision that must not be taken lightly. Given the toxicity of politics at its most parochial and zero-sum these days, I don’t see agreement being readily reached on some really major topic areas.
It is this potential change that I could see having the biggest impact on municipal governments. While I’m not a lawyer, I imagine that a change like this would require a new Constitution, and that would be an opportunity for the municipal order of government to finally be recognized in our highest-level law. That said, any time a law is opened for revision of any part of it, the hinges on Pandora’s box also begin to creak as the lid is potentially lifted off.
Above all, this change is a family matter for the Windsors. The King lost his mom; Princess Anne lost her mother, and others lost a grandparent or great-grandparent. At 96, the death of a human to natural causes is not really a tragedy, but it is still a loss.
What’s your take on what might happen over the next few years in terms of ripples of the change at the very top of our ship of state? Yes, that’s a pretty terrible mixed metaphor.
As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.