Governor General Returns to Canada Due to Political Crisis

Canada’s Governor General doesn’t generally have much to do.

At least, that’s how it appears to the many Canadians who do not fully understand the role.

The symbolic role of the GG appears to consist of little more than attending fancy photo-ops, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and making elaborately mundane, state-sponsored visits to other nations on behalf of Canada and, vicariously, the Queen.

In a time of domestic political turmoil, then, it is fascinating to discover that, in this lone instance, the Governor General is in a position of actual political power — as the GG must decide whether to call an election if the current Conservative government loses next Monday’s vote of confidence.

Is the current Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean up to the challenge? What do you think she should decide?

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is returning home early from a state visit to Europe to deal with the upheaval on Parliament Hill, where she could decide the fate of the government in the next week.

Speaking to CBC News in Prague, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean said she plans to return to Ottawa to give her full attention to the political upheaval back at home.

She was originally scheduled to wrap up a two-week visit to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary on Saturday, but will now return to Ottawa three days early on Wednesday.

“I have decided to return to Canada and I’ll leave tomorrow,” Jean told CBC News Tuesday in Prague.

“The role of the Governor General is to ensure that our governance is on the right path, so as soon as I’m back I will fulfill my duties in total sound judgment.”

Though the position of governor general is largely ceremonial, representing the British head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, it also comes with some extraordinary powers.

In the current case, Jean must decide whether to call an election should the Conservatives lose next Monday’s vote of confidence, allow the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition to govern or allow the Harper government to suspend the current parliamentary session to avoid a political showdown.

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