Prof to examine role of lieutenant-governor of Quebec

Recently awarded a two-year research grant from the Quebec government under the Research Support Program on Intergovernmental Affairs & Quebec Identity, Glendon political science Professor Radha Persaud will examine the role of the lieutenant-governor of Quebec to determine if it is regarded as a head of state or a political impediment.

“My intention is to focus on the history, appointment, as well as the tensions or problems emanating from the vice-regal role in Quebec, particularly in recent times,” says Persaud. “This topic has to do in large measure with Quebec’s identity, but it also has a strong federal-provincial interface, as the lieutenant-governor is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, a central feature of Canada’s constitutional monarchical system.”

Right: Radha Persaud

Since the lieutenant-governor of Quebec underscores the British monarchical nature of that province, a significant question to look at is whether this institutional feature of Quebec’s governmental system creates tensions or problems that impede the province’s full domestic legitimacy and capacity in the Canadian federation, says Persaud.

“To put it another way, whether the institution of the lieutenant governor is a heritage that enriches or impedes Quebec’s ability for self-determination within the federal system, particularly in the areas where it is supposed to have a relatively large measure of provincial autonomy in a federal system that, arguably, was intended to be asymmetrical in spirit, if not in form.”

His research will contribute to a public discourse on the significance and legitimacy of the head of state for Quebec, a province that was central to the compromises reached by the founding partners in the Canadian system of governance. Persaud argues that this discourse is particularly significant for the governments and societies of Quebec, because the current federal constitutional arrangements deviate in some important respects from the general tenets of federalism, and in effect, the conceptions of Canada, as they were represented in 1867.

Persaud has demonstrated a continued professional interest in the role of lieutenant-governors in his previous research and in his teaching at Glendon. In January David Onley, lieutenant-governor of Ontario was an invited guest and speaker in Persaud’s class on Canadian government. In his address, Onley talked about his vice-regal role and responsibilities, and fielded questions from the students.

Persaud sees his current project as the commencement of a process of formalizing the head of state’s political-legal standing and power in Quebec and, by implication, the rest of Canada – both legitimating the head of state’s power, and formalizing it as a kind of republican move to deal with problems of federalism and the role of the head of state in the parliamentary system.

“Thus, a central question to this study is whether there ought to be a Quebec-based process for selecting a lieutenant governor, or another head of state with residual powers that will give the office more legitimacy for the people of Quebec, rather than the current system of appointment, notwithstanding any process of consultation that may have taken place between the prime minister and the premier before such appointments are made,” he says.

Submitted by Marika Kemeny, Glendon communications officer