By DREW FAGAN
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
Friday, October 1, 2004
Adrienne Clarkson has known for about three weeks that she will be spending an extra year in Rideau Hall beyond the governor-general's traditional five-year term. Her problem since that meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin is that she's been doing a little less at Rideau Hall than she would like.
The rotating strikes by members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents cooks, waiters and cleaners at Rideau Hall, forced the Governor-General's office to cancel a dinner on Sunday night, one held annually to kick off a two-day gathering of provincial and territorial lieutenant-governors.
Instead, Ms. Clarkson took everyone out for a meal at an Ottawa restaurant.
Her office will decide today, officials say, whether to cancel a reception for MPs scheduled for Tuesday night, hours after Ms. Clarkson is to read the Speech from the Throne on Parliament Hill. The problem is that there's no way to know whether the date of the event may end up coinciding with a one-day walkout by local PSAC members.
"She [the Governor-General] is not being targeted any more than any other government operation in town," a PSAC official said yesterday.
Two days after the opening of Parliament, Ms. Clarkson is scheduled to begin a six-day tour of northern British Columbia, where she will visit the four main Nisga'a communities.
Yesterday, hours after the Queen signed a document extending Ms. Clarkson's term until September of 2005, Mr. Martin referred obliquely to the Governor-General's heavy schedule when he announced that she would be staying on in the post.
"In addition to her ceremonial functions, she has reached out to Canadians in communities throughout the country," he said in a news release.
But it is her experience in the post, in terms of her constitutional duties, that persuaded Mr. Martin to ask her to stay on. Ms. Clarkson, officials say, has boned up on the potential imbroglios she might face during a minority Parliament. She was doing so last spring when it appeared, toward the end of the election campaign, as if the vote might turn out to be something close to a draw between the Liberals and Conservatives.
One other factor served in her favour, sources say. Not only did she represent a steady hand at a time of instability, but the Liberal government feared that any successor they appointed might be perceived by the opposition as beholden to them.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper hinted as much yesterday, saying: "I think it would be problematic to have a governor-general appointed by [Mr. Martin] who may have to rule on difficult situations in a minority Parliament."
A spokesman for Mr. Martin said yesterday that there were no consultations with Mr. Harper or other federal party leaders about the decision, because the official protocol is that the Queen makes the appointment of a governor-general -- or, in this case, an extension of the term -- solely on the advice of the prime minister.
With a report from Canadian Press