David Lloyd Johnston

OK, so he doesn’t quite have the marquee appeal of a Preston Manning or a Conrad Black, neither of whom appears to be available just now for some reason, but David Lloyd Johnston is pretty much what we would have expected our prime minister to pick for a governor general.

Stephen Harper called Johnston someone who “represents the best of Canada,” and one supposes that from the prime minister’s perspective that is an accurate statement. Johnston is, after all, an old white guy with money, influence and lots of corporate board memberships who has proved capable of making the sort of nice legal distinctions needed to keep a Conservative government afloat.

The case in point being the time the Ontario university president and law professor was given the job of drawing up the terms of reference for the commission of inquiry into the sleazy cash-only business dealings of former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and his oily German pal, Karlheinz Schreiber.

Not surprisingly, Johnston ensured that taking a look into the questionable business of the sale of Airbus jetliners to Air Canada — surely the key to the entire squalid affair — was not going to be part of the job of what came to be known as the Oliphant Inquiry.

Notwithstanding the endless squalling of the mainstream media about how Johnston is a fine fellow, a servant of both Liberal and Conservative governments who doesn’t have a partisan bone in his body, we can take it for granted that if called upon to prorogue Parliament again, establish a rump Parliament or engage in some similar undemocratic maneuver, Johnston would prove to be up to the task. Otherwise, obviously, he wouldn’t have gotten the job.

Our prime minister, pretty clearly, does not have much fondness for our Constitution, especially its inconvenient requirements for regular elections and democratic rights. Who better, then, than a “legal scholar” like Johnston — a trained slicer and dicer of fine legal points — to find the necessary justification for whatever it is this government has in mind next.

At any rate, the Harperista cheerleaders in the gutter press repeat claims about Johnston’s lack of partisanship so assiduously that one cannot avoid the thought the media doth protest too much. After all, these are the same people who shout huzzahs to the prime minister’s frequent calls for an elected Senate — then smile benignly as he packs that august body with grubby Tory pork-barrelers.

Mind you, departing Governor General Michaëlle Jean was up to carrying the can for the PM’s undemocratic impulses as well. However, it seems unlikely that her future reliability could be guaranteed by the prime minister. Anyway, alas, there was the matter of her vice-regal spouse. Thankfully, the media assures us, Johnson’s loyal helpmeet will behave herself as the Conservative scriptures require.

In the end, of course, any hope Jean might have entertained of holding a second five-year term must have abruptly ended back in December 2008 when she made Harper wait longer than he wanted to before allowing him to circumvent the will of a newly elected Parliament.

Anyway, a popular and appealing GG like Jean doesn’t send quite the right symbolic message from the Conservative Party perspective — to wit, that the rich old white guys are in charge, and they’re going to stay that way, no matter what you might think about it!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...