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'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'

Many Canadians like U.S. republic but majority favour Queen, Constitution

Source: Ipsos-Reid


he eve of the Queen's 50th anniversary on the throne, a new poll shows that nearly half of Canadians would choose an U.S.-style republic over our constitutional monarchy.

And most Canadians polled think England's scandal-ridden Royal Family are mere celebrities who should not be allowed any formal power in Canada, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV.

Despite our antipathy toward the Royal Family, most Canadians don't want changes to our current form of government, the poll showed: It may be a flawed system, but at least its our flawed system, one that sets us apart from the United States.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is what Canadians seem to be saying, said John Wright, vice-president of public affairs at Ipsos-Reid.

While not exactly a ringing endorsement of Canada's constitutional monarchy, Mr. Wright said the poll reveals a pragmatic understanding of our system of government.

For Canadians, the monarchy has a symbolic resonance, Mr. Wright said. "It holds the framework together and it makes us unlike the United States. It gives us our own sense of character and culture."

According to the poll, almost half (48 per cent) of Canadians said they would prefer a republican system of government with an elected head of state, similar to the system in the United States.

In addition, two-thirds of people polled agreed with the statement that the Royal Family are simply celebrity figures and should have no formal role in Canadian society.

However, eight out of 10 Canadians said they supported Canada's current constitutional monarchy.

Monarchists said the poll results confirm a mindset that Canadians have always held toward the monarchy, which is benign indifference mixed with an unwillingness to tinker with a system that has never caused any harm.

Journalist John Fraser said he doesn't believe that the eight out of 10 Canadians who voiced support for a constitutional monarchy understand how it functions in Canada.

"It's not really pushed in the schools anymore," said Mr. Fraser, who is also master of the University of Toronto's Massey College. "If asked, they'll say any sort of thing, but it's usually an uninformed opinion, because it's so clouded, most people don't understand what's at stake."

John Aimers, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said the poll shows that Canadians have no stomach to abandon the monarchy.

"Mature countries . . . don't spend much time tinkering with their form of government," Mr. Aimers said. "They more or less say: 'This is our heritage; this is all we have known. It works pretty well.' "

The poll was conducted between Jan. 29 and 31. It is based on a sample of 1,001 adult Canadians and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The poll coincides with celebrations around the Commonwealth to commemorate the Queen's 50th anniversary as a monarch.

But despite the tributes, the perception of the monarchy, even in Britain, has grown jaded.

A 1964 opinion poll in Britain found 30 per cent of the public believed the monarch was specially chosen by God. That contrasts with a poll conducted last year, which found that 34 per cent believed Britain would be better off without a monarchy.
A question of monarchy
Currently, the Queen is the constitutional head of state for Canada's parliamentary system of government, with the Governor-General acting as her representative in Canada, but with the Parliament and the Prime Minister making the ultimate decisions for Canadians. One thousand Canadians were asked if they agreed with the following statements.
I support the constitutional monarchy as Canada's current form of government where we elect governments whose leader becomes the Prime Minister
Strongly/somewhat agree...79%
The constitutional monarchy is outmoded and I would prefer a republic system of government with an elected head of state, like they do in the United States.
Strongly/somewhat agree...48%
The constitutional monarchy helps to define Canadian identity, and should continue to be our form of government.
Strongly/somewhat agree...62%
The issue of the monarchy and our form of government isn't important to me so why go through the fuss of changing something that seems to work okay.
Strongly/somewhat agree...58%
The Queen and the Royal Family should not have any formal role in Canadian society. The Royals are simply celebrities and nothing more.
Strongly/somewhat agree...65%

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