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Clarkson gets an extra year Facing an unstable Parliament, PM asks her to stay as Governor-General

Facing an unstable Parliament, PM asks her to stay as Governor-General

OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

Adrienne Clarkson, the controversial Governor-General who will mark her fifth anniversary next week, will continue in her post until September, 2005, after being asked to stay on by Prime Minister Paul Martin, sources say.

An announcement is expected to be made as early as tomorrow, as the Liberal government prepares for the return of Parliament next week and a Speech from the Throne to be delivered by Ms. Clarkson.

"It's certain she will have more time" in office, a source said yesterday.

The decision comes amid widespread concern that the next Parliament may be one of the most unstable in decades, requiring an experienced governor-general who could be called upon to adjudicate a potential constitutional crisis.

Recent tradition has been for the governor-general to stay in office roughly five years, but a six-year term would hardly be unusual.

Ms. Clarkson was sworn in Oct. 7, 1999, replacing Romeo LeBlanc, a Trudeau-era cabinet minister who stepped down as governor-general after 4½ years due to ill health.

She has won widespread respect for raising the profile of the ceremonial position, particularly by travelling more widely across Canada than many of her predecessors. But she has also courted controversy for substantial increases in the Rideau Hall budget, which led to a parliamentary committee issuing a report last spring calling for greater oversight of expenditures.

In February, the Martin government scrapped a trip to northern Europe that Ms. Clarkson and an entourage of prominent Canadians were scheduled to take. The decision came after prolonged controversy over the $5.3-million price tag of a similar "circumpolar tour" of Russia, Finland and Iceland a year ago.

The criticism of Ms. Clarkson's high-spending ways was particularly vociferous among the opposition parties, and led to speculation that Mr. Martin, who presides over a minority government, would appoint a new governor-general this month. But he appears to have opted for stability at Rideau Hall.

"The Governor-General's fifth anniversary as the Queen's representative is approaching and an announcement will therefore be made quite soon," Scott Reid, the Prime Minister's communications director, said yesterday. "Until that time, it would be disrespectful in the extreme to speculate on the nature of that announcement."

A six-year term would make Ms. Clarkson the longest-serving Governor-General since Roland Michener, who served for almost seven years from 1967 to 1974. His term was bookended by two minority Parliaments: the last year of Lester Pearson's Liberal government and much of the 1972-1974 period when the New Democrats propped up Pierre Trudeau's Liberals.

Georges Vanier, who preceded Mr. Michener, died in office in 1967 after 7½ years in the post -- much of it spent presiding over minority governments led by John Diefenbaker and Mr. Pearson. Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor-General, also served for 7½ years from 1952 to 1959.

The Martin government is said to have only begun the extensive process of choosing the next governor-general, who would likely be named next summer. Much of the speculation has focused on Marc Garneau, who became the first Canadian in space in 1984 and has served for three years as president of the Canadian Space Agency.

Tradition suggests that the next governor-general would be a francophone, but various aboriginal leaders have also been touted. Canada has never had a governor-general of native origin.

However, one official emphasized yesterday that speculation about Ms. Clarkson's successor is "way, way, way" premature.

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