The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Travel expenses

I could just state that the budget of the governor-general is set, not by her, but by an elected federal government: but that would be sidestepping the real question here.

Instead I point out that, in a world where money is supposed to reflect value, one can't bring more public focus and accessibility to the job without expecting it to cost more money. Representatives of countries, when travelling abroad, are expected to travel in a style befitting their office. Should we choose to undercut her here, we will be telling others exactly how much we value the office ... and, consequently, how much we value the countries visited by the governor-general rather than by the prime minister.

More relevantly, this governor-general has done more than any of her predecessors -- more, indeed, than many prime ministers -- to demonstrate both to the military and to far northern communities that they not only remain part of Canada, but are valued by their country. Her post 9/11, post-Afghanistan invasion Christmas trips to Kabul -- a trip no prime minister seems willing to risk -- reminded soldiers that someone in a position of authority in Canada remembered that they were there, and why. As every MP from a territory knows, far northern travel is neither simple nor cheap; yet two-thirds of the northern communities she has visited had never before seen a senior representative of the government to which they hold their allegiance, let alone one willing actually to listen to them and learn about their ways of life: more of value, far, than an empty gesture of sovereignty over an unoccupied rock.

Easy enough, for so many of us, to forget that Canada -- our Canada -- extends beyond the cities, beyond the magic 200 km border territories. For all our vaunted social consciousness, we seem to resent things that don't distill into a tangible benefit for us. I can't help but wonder whether at least a part of the current budget protests might be rooted in resentment: that the money diverted for these trips ought to have been better spent ... on us. We can never say it, but our political choices show continually that, even if all Canadians are to be deemed equal, some are definitely more equal than others.

So lay off Adrienne Clarkson, already!


Post a Comment

<< Home